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Securing the future of work

The digital economy, coupled with the coronavirus lockdown, is bringing profound changes to how we work, says Mark Richer, chief executive of StarLeaf

As organisations around the world grapple with the new normal, one trend is clear: more of us are working remotely for at least part of the time.

It is a trend that has existed for a while; the number of people remote working grew by almost three-quarters to 1.54 million in the decade to 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Though many organisations were bounced into a greater level of home working by recent events, there are longer-term uncertainties surrounding the use of public transport or the advisability of having all employees in the office at the same time.

Now is the time to build strong remote-working practices that integrate seamlessly with office-based systems as staff gradually return to full-time work.

There are also sound commercial reasons to do so. Remote working is popular with staff, so can attract and keep talent wherever they are based. It can cut overheads; remote working may mean you can reduce office space. It may even improve productivity.

But it needs to be a considered part of your working practices, rather than a random addition, using the right tools to achieve your objectives.

Companies need to plan the policies, technology and apps that make remote working a practical, productive and, critically, secure part of business. It is not enough to hand employees a laptop and let them head for the dining room table; organisations need to understand the dangers inherent in modern working practices, from accidentally tweeting a video meeting ID to unwittingly exposing confidential information.

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StarLeaf, the UK-based global video meetings provider, is well positioned to help.

A starting point in drawing up a home-working policy may be to draw a distinction between remote and flexible working. Be clear about when you expect staff to be available; technology can mean an “always on” mentality that can quickly lead to employee burnout. Make sure jobs are evaluated on the basis of outcomes rather than presenteeism.

Staff need to understand where remote working can take place; a crowded café or an overlooked back garden are not the right place for sensitive conversations. There needs to be a level of self-awareness that can be difficult to monitor; you might want to check where staff are before discussing confidential matters or, better still, provide clear guidelines.

Make sure employees understand their equipment and how it links to any personal technology; home computers may have different capabilities and settings, so tools that worked well in the office may not translate well to home working.

Best practice, as recommended by European cybersecurity agency ENISA, is not to mix work and leisure on the same device, but it’s not always possible. If staff are working on shared equipment at home, can you be sure data won’t be accidentally deleted by a gaming teenager? If a messaging app has been installed on an individual’s own device, do you know how to make sure any data is removed if the employee leaves? Is the data secure if the device is lost or stolen?

It is worth spending a little extra time to set up remote workers properly with appropriate tools. If people struggle with new processes, they will find their own solutions and revert to the communication apps they use in their personal lives. But this poses a critical security danger to businesses as these consumer-grade apps do not provide the required security and control.

To minimise the risks of such shadow IT, businesses should warn users of the dangers of sharing sensitive company data over popular apps. IT decision-makers should make sure to select business-grade solutions which offer both the ease of use that users look for as well as the security and control the business requires.

StarLeaf is one of the very few video meeting providers to have achieved the internationally recognised ISO/IEC 27001 security certification.

As organisations start to plan for a phased return to the office, they will need to make sure all employees can work effectively and securely across both home and office environments. This includes video-enabling meeting rooms with secure and reliable solutions to connect with remote colleagues easily.

Without proper security, organisations are vulnerable to malicious attacks. Meetings could be hijacked by pranksters or worse. One video conferencing app recently came under scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office after attackers exploited security weaknesses.

In a crisis, organisations can be forgiven for choosing the quickest answer to a problem. But it is those companies that now look to the best, rather than the most obvious, solution which will thrive.

For more information please visit starleaf.com/times