It’s been just over a year since the arrival of COVID-19. Over the last twelve months, many employees have start to work from home (WFH), pushing IT departments to develop creative, secure processes to enable the transition from an office-based workplace to a world where employees are dispersed in hundreds of locations.
However, Even as the global pandemic seems to be ebbing, there are signs that employees intend to continue working from the home rather than the office. In December the World Economic Forum reported that most Americans want to continue working from home at least part time after the pandemic. Surveys in Australia, India, and other countries indicate a similar desire to work from home even after it is safe to return to work.
We’ve spent a lot of time over the last year analyzing the way IT is adjusting to having their employees working from home. The trend is challenging, but we’ve seen some best practices that IT teams are implementing to support the trend.
Formalize Work From Home Policies
Many businesses have spent the last year developing their own effective work from home policies. The policy needs to outline the security dangers inherent in working from home, steps to take if the employee is concerned about security and spell out security steps that employees need to take.
Your work from home policy should start with digital security while working from home. Decide whether employees can use their own device, and if they do, whether they will need to use secure wi-fi, connect by VPN, with encrypted drives, anti-virus software and full endpoint protection.
You’ll also want to cover physical security. Set policies about securing laptops in locked rooms and avoid using random thumb drives from around the house. In some industries such as healthcare, losing a laptop with sensitive data could result in heavy fines.
Define your policies in a WFH handbook, so that everyone knows what the expectations are when working outside the office.
Establish and Implement Security Standards
When the vast majority of employees were located in a single location, IT teams had more control over the perimeter surrounding the company’s IT footprint. Firewalls and up-to-date configurations protected against network-based attacks, while security policies helped ensure that employees didn’t use unsecured devices or enter the network over public wi-fi.
However, with employees working from home, the perimeter has changed, and the number of vulnerabilities has increased.
Policies need to cover everything from router password and patching policies, to the hardware being used at home, and the places where employees are authorized to work.
Employees may enjoy spending the morning at a coffee shop doing work, but the public wi-fi and the public display of work materials on the computer screen both represent risks. A strong security standard is vital to helping employees understand the responsibility they have in protecting company data.
Establish Help Desk and Tech Support Protocols
When computers break down, employees need to know that their help desk is available to them and can provide support. Help desks need to establish remote service capabilities, which should involve the option of remotely taking over a computer to fix it and the possibility of shipping or bringing the faulty computer back to the office for repairs.
Explain to employees how that can utilize IT support, how to reach IT, and the times when that support is available.
Support protocols should include things like loaner computers, a replacement mouse, and second screens.
The protocols will be most effective when defined by your IT team, who understand your employees, the type of hardware you are using, and your company’s unique needs.
Chatbots are an important tool for streamlining communication when employees are working from home. Chatbots can be used in a number of different ways, all of which help employees save time and find the information that they need.
You can use chatbots to let employees know whether they need to come into the office, answer questions about company policies, and provide guide self-service problem resolution if your employees are experiencing technical issues.
When questions are too advanced for the chatbot, they can send an notification to the right address, letting them know that an employee needs their help.
Best Practices Training
For your work for home IT policy to be effective, create some type of training session to support the ideas in the policy. Include interactive elements, such as questions that need to be answered, which requires your team members to actually read and understand the policy.
Create an IT infrastructure that supports employees working from home.