We all work from home; the benefits of it make it quite appealing to many of us. At the same time however, there are risks associated with doing so. Statistics show that there is a continuing growth of telecommuting, or associates working outside of the office so it is important to be aware of these risks.
According to, “Telecommuting Trends and Stats in the 2009 Economy and Beyond” published by BrightHub.com, “The estimates for the number of telecommuting employment opportunities are continuing to rise, year after year. Gartner Dataquest reported in 2008 that 25% of workers telecommuted in 2007, and in their recent 2009 projections, they estimate that number to hit 27.5%.” It is expected that this number is even higher in 2011.
What’s driving these numbers? From an employer’s perspective, the benefits are numerous. In a report, “Wired Working as a Lifestyle” by the Telework Coalition, a company can save quite a bit of money per employee that works from home – an average of $20,000 per year. The study also found that employees are 22% more productive when working remotely. Finally, there is a direct correlation between decreased employee absenteeism in a work-from-home model, and employee turnover was lowered by a whopping 50%.
Employees benefit from telecommuting, as well. The lack of a commute and dress code certainly helps employees maximize their productive work hours without necessarily adding hours to the workday. It also improves employee satisfaction by granting a certain measure of autonomy, which helps achieve a better balance between work and personal life.
With all of these benefits, employers and employees may be very interested to adopt telecommuting. Yet, such a transition needs to be carefully planned for reasons that extend beyond the obvious questions of workflow, accountability and communication. A successful transition into a work-from-home model must also take into account a comprehensive security policy because telecommuting introduces new security risks such as:
- Equipment. Although some companies provide laptops for employees working remotely, many do not. If a computer doesn’t have current anti-virus software, data encryption and firewalls, it may be vulnerable to an attack.
- Wireless connections. Even the most secure computer hardware can be exposed if it is operating on an unsecured wireless connection. From improperly configured home networks to public coffee shops, laptops operating on an unsecure connection create an attractive target.
- Weak/duplicate passwords. Most people know they should use unique passwords and mix both capitalized and lower-case letters with numbers. Yet, breaches continue to occur when usernames/passwords are hacked from a minimally-secured site, and then used to gain entry to more secure portals.
- Improper document disposal. From sensitive corporate information to private customer and prospect lists, employees may need to print confidential information as part of their job duties. Most home offices are not properly equipped to destroy such paperwork securely.
While these risk factors may have the leadership team fearful of telecommuting, there are many commonsense and relatively low-tech ways to reduce the chances of such a security breach.
- First, a company needs to create telecommuting security and privacy guidelines so employees have a clear understanding of what constitutes risky behavior and how to minimize such risks.
- Additionally, a company should consider providing its employees with laptops so it can control the levels of security and encryption on each machine, plus mandate regular password changes.
- Finally, a third-party document shredding company can provide secure locked containers for confidential paperwork disposal and schedule regular pick-ups to destroy such materials.
By being aware of the risk factors and then taking preventative measures, employers can feel confident about exploring a work-from-home model while their associates can reap the benefits of a more flexible working relationship.