The 3 Keys for Balancing Remote Work Security & Productivity

December 15th, 2020 | IT Security, Security Culture

Modern connectivity has given us the ability to work outside the office, and this year the COVID crisis forced many companies to go remote earlier than expected. If your company has a technology stack that includes video conferencing, screen sharing, cloud-based email, and other remote productivity tools, you’re already ahead of the game. 

Multiple studies have shown that when given an appropriate toolset, worker productivity doesn’t need to decrease at all when working remotely. In certain job roles, productivity can even increase.

Managing Remote Work Productivity

To capture those productivity gains, successful companies don’t just throw remote work tools at their employees and hope for the best. They have a structured plan in place to set expectations and distribute best practices. 

One example is how teams conduct everyday meetings. Companies that schedule large Zoom or Teams meetings or overuse video conferencing often find these tools less effective due to employee fatigue. Instead, embrace team chat tools and 15-minute “micro-meetings” to keep the momentum high and cut down on “video conference fatigue”. 

Management style is another example – instead of trying to translate time-based management (which works fine in an office environment) into remote work, embrace goal-based management instead. This demonstrates greater trust for your employees and ultimately will lead to enhanced productivity.

“With a remote workforce, trust is one of the most important factors for achieving good results. To gain employee trust quickly, demonstrate trust in them every day through your management practices and policies.” -Eric Sheline, E2Remote

Balancing Productivity and IT Security Across a Remote Workforce

Unfortunately, there is one major downside risk to the explosion of remote work. Technology and remote connectivity are a double-edged sword – while they unlock enhanced worker productivity, when not managed appropriately, they can expose a business to major security risks. After all, the same linkages and paths that connect your employees to each other and to company data can also enable malicious actors to gain access to your data and exploit it. 

The race to shift to a remote workforce culture has exponentially increased the risk of a breach. Today, it’s not a question of “if” your business gets hit by a cyberattack, but “when.” Organizations are now faced with the additional challenge of implementing, maintaining, and making improvements to these efforts across remote teams with several new vulnerabilities and network access points in play. This is great news for hackers, but bad news for businesses without the right IT consulting and support resources to do so effectively. 

IT security technology is only one piece of strong cybersecurity defense. Employee security awareness training combined with clear IT security policies and procedures are often overlooked but are essential to mitigating risk. 

The Human Element of an IT Security Incident Prevention & Response Plan

Hackers are evolving their strategies to target individuals’ emotions and fears, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, companies have seen an increase in Covid-19-related phishing emails and scams disguising malicious links behind department layoff lists, pandemic protocol documents, and much more. 

Your people can be your strongest IT security defense or your weakest link. Without the right knowledge and training, your employees can unintentionally open the door for hackers to walk right into your business network where they often remain undetected for months as they identify additional vulnerabilities to exploit. 

3 Key Components of a Strong Remote Work Security Defense

Whether you’re managing a team working in the office or remotely, a complete IT security solution requires your business to have both a strong cybersecurity defense and a clear security incident response plan in place. Both of which require your business to proactively implement and refine three key cybersecurity initiatives: 

  1. Employee cybersecurity awareness education, training, and testing
  2. IT security policies, procedures, and protocols  
  3. IT security software and tools 

These three security measures rely on the support of your IT team to keep your staff informed, aware, and engaged so that IT security awareness stays top-of-mind in everything they do. The following sections explore what it takes from your IT team and your business to execute each piece successfully. 

1.Employee IT Security Awareness Education, Training, & Testing

Your team needs to know what an attack looks like, what to do if they come across something suspicious, and how to respond when a security incident occurs. 

Cybersecurity Awareness Culture and Ongoing Employee Education

Your IT team should provide your staff with education around the latest IT security threats and best practices. But they should also be working with your leadership team to implement an efficient method for enabling your employees to practice their cybersecurity awareness skills in real-life. 

Interactive IT Security Training & Risk Management 

Training should cover how to recognize and respond to IT security risks while following the best-practices established by your organization. Tools like simulated phishing attacks can help your business assess which members of your team pose a risk to your organization’s security and roll-out continuing education programs to help them improve.

Routine Employee Testing & Proactive Education

Regular employee testing will highlight areas where additional instruction is needed to reduce business risk via targeted education and training initiatives. Training and testing help keep employees informed, as well as help hold them accountable for prioritizing security awareness, especially when they work from home. View our infographic to learn more about Employee IT Security Awareness Training and Best Practices. 

2. Clear Company IT Security Policies, Procedures, & Protocols

Clear IT security policies combined with the best-fit procedures and protocols are key to reinforcing your organization’s security awareness training efforts. These procedures should address a variety of predictable scenarios and minimize the impact of a breach by enabling your employees and IT team to respond as quickly and effectively as possible. In other words, your IT security policies should set clear expectations around business operations that establish an accepted norm for everyday and emergency protocols such as remote access security controls, sharing sensitive information to a personal device, executing financial requests across remote work environments, and what to do if your business gets hit with a malware attack. 

3. IT Security Software, Apps, and Tools

While employee training and best-practices are important, IT security technology is still a key piece of your defense. Your IT team should work with your business to build a best-fit solution that balances security, functionality, and productivity. Common IT security tools such as email link and attachment scanning, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and restricted file access controls serve as an initial barrier against threat actors and unintentional employee mistakes that can put your sensitive data and core systems at risk. For more detailed information on this topic, read our blog: How to Protect Your Business from Social Engineering Attacks. As more companies embrace remote work either by choice or after being forced to by an external crisis, technology and software are key to getting work done effectively. To maximize the use of these remote work tools, E2Remote are consultants focused on helping companies enhance remote worker productivity. The security side of the equation can be a lot to handle in-house as well. In an ever-evolving IT landscape, our cybersecurity team stays on top of the latest developments to ensure your technology tools and IT strategy are positioned to enhance employee productivity and protect your business from potential threats.