Telecommuting During COVID-19
For the past month, there has been a boom in people working from home because of the COVID-19. Some businesses were prepared for it. The prepared companies may have already had contingency plans that detailed the logistics of employees working home. It could have also been that policies were already in place, and employees may previously have spent some of their work time in their own home. In large companies with enterprise-sized networks, their plans likely consisted of Virtual Private Networks. Virtual Private Networks insured hackers could not easily steal, alter, or manipulate critical information. But what about smaller businesses? Or maybe (most likely) most companies do not plan for the shut-down condition that America now finds itself in.
For companies starting from scratch, there are various steps you can take at this point. This will help to mitigate the effects of a data breach while having to move your operations to people’s homes.
Depending on other responsibilities that you may have at home that you would not have at work, your operating hours may need to change. You should always be available for online meetings that will take place during regular business hours. But for the rest of the time, you may have to work in 1 or two-hour bursts. Responsibilities such as taking care of children or preparing food can break up your workday into chunks of productivity and unproductivity.
There are a lot of variables that determine the effectiveness of working from home. Sometimes work can be a better place to complete a work task. This is because, at home, there may be children to consider or other distractions. As far as using personal or company computers, it is never a good idea to use personal computers for business work. Home computers may not have all of the software needed, and depending on your job, those home computers may not have the processing power required to get the task done.
Additionally, there could be data that is stored on your work computer but is not on your home computer. The most important reason for not using a home computer is the security settings on the home computer, versus the security settings on the work computer. On most enterprise computers, the security settings on a work computer, as a general rule, should be are likely more robust. For large companies, there may be an IT department that hardens their networks to meet the minimum standards for best practices in the industry. It is doubtful that a regular home computer will have the type of security that an enterprise system has. Small companies sometimes use computers that have little or no security, but that would vary widely between businesses.
First, using your own computer to do company work is not a good idea. However, the steps that I will outline should be done on any computer that you will use for work. The first thing you should do while preparing to work from home is to find a quiet place in your home where you can have privacy. The type of site varies widely; it could be a kitchen table, a basement, a home office, a laundry room. Any of these places would be suitable depending on the dynamics of your living conditions. Whatever place it is, you must have the ability to control access.
On your computer, check for all updates for the Operating System (OS) you are using. Check the firewalls and see if they are on at all. Make changes as needed. This is also an excellent time to go over your passwords. Passwords should meet complexity requirements as required by the OS in use. Change the passwords of your work applications as needed. Install or update the latest anti-malware software. I cannot emphasize how important this is. If it is already installed, make sure it is updated. I would run this program before you put your computer to use.
Everything mentioned above is the bare minimum that should be done. But checking and correcting these items will put you in a better place than if you did not do it. During this time of the COVID-19 virus, many things can seem trivial compared to a potentially existential threat. However, sometimes doing the mundane can give us a sense of normalcy. We need that normalcy to bridge us from where we are right now, to the enviable time when we’ll be able to communicate face-to-face.