Life After Lockdown What’s the Future for Working from Home?

Life After Lockdown – What’s the Future for Working from Home?

It’s estimated that over two thirds of the active workforce in the UK has been working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic. But what happens when social distancing requirements are relaxed, and people are allowed back in the workplace? Will this unprecedented period of empty desks result in longer term changes for office-based businesses?

In the hours and days after the Coronavirus lockdown measures were first announced by the UK government, businesses all over the country scrambled to get their employers out of the office and working from home. Sales of notebooks and laptops surged during February and March, with IT resellers describing people buying tech in a similar way to panic-buying toilet roll. With many organisations not having a defined Working from Home (WFH) policy, they had no choice but to simply react to the extraordinary circumstances and figure out the details later.

With many businesses plunged into survival mode, maintaining cyber security protocol was probably the last thing on their minds. The important thing was to get people set up and working as quickly as possible, and previously stringent procedures for things like data storage were not seen as a priority. Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, with many businesses making plans to get ‘back to normal’ by the summer. But what do organisations need to consider in the coming weeks and months before that happens?

Will working from home really work for your business?

It’s one thing to allow employees to WFH on a short-term basis when it’s government mandated, but how would it work successfully on a long-term basis? Naturally, businesses are questioning whether to maintain expensive office space when it appears that teams are just as productive at home, but there’s more to consider than just saving on rent. Now is the time to weigh up all of the pros and cons and decide what’s possible and practical.

Review current cyber security policies for remote workers

The pandemic lockdown has unwittingly given us the perfect test environment for how cyber security can be maintained when people are working remotely. What has gone well and what has been challenging? Consider what changes you will need to make on a more long-term basis if you allow people to continue working from home. Can you be confident of the security of your data without the visibility of having people in the office?

Planning for compliance, auditing, and penetration testing

Another long-term consideration to make is how employees working remotely will affect your future compliance, auditing, and penetration testing plans. If you do have to carry out an audit, how will that include devices outside of the office? Is it possible to achieve the same level of penetration testing on remote machines?

Licenses, software, and anti-virus protection on remote machines

To ensure good cyber hygiene in your organisation, it’s important that all machines and devices are running the latest versions of software, and that they have adequate anti-virus protection installed. It’s also important that any software is correctly licensed – if people were using desktop machines in the office then switched to a laptop at home, any licenses need to be moved too. If employees are using their own laptops when working from home, this needs to be closely monitored so that they’re not using out of date software or applications that could be vulnerable to malware.

Insider threat outside the office

One of the biggest challenges to cyber security is always ‘insider threat’ i.e. people in your organisation facilitating malware or downloading viruses without malice or understanding. The challenge becomes even greater when people are working from home; being outside of the office environment can lead to dangerous levels of complacency. It only takes one click on a suspicious link in an email to open up your entire system to a cyber-attack, and the only way to counter act the threat is end user education. Reiterate best practices and review any training needs in your organisation and plan for some online courses or seminars if necessary.

When the dust finally settles, will we see the end of crowded office blocks and tedious commutes? Or will the WFH bubble be burst by the excitement of being allowed out again? It will be fascinating to see how businesses adapt to the ‘new normal’ once lockdown is over.