On Monday 23rd March, the UK Government’s unprecedented broadcast instructed all UK residents to stay at home to protect the NHS and the growing threat of Coronavirus. This will have led many businesses across the country to quickly mobilise their workforces with the ability for home working if they hadn’t already done so.
For many, this will have been sudden and in haste and for most businesses, unprecedented to have such a high proportion of their workforce to be working remotely.
As we settle into our newfound routines and work practices, employers will now need to consider the implications on their business of a remote-working workforce if they haven’t already done so.
CCRS have put together a list of key considerations for employers from system access and work practices to cybersecurity and employee wellbeing.
We have also created a useful ‘CCRS Employee Working From Home Guide’ that you can issue to employees to help guide them through this transition.
If you would prefer to add your own company logo to the document before sending to your employees, please use this template: CCRS Employee Working From Home Guide – Template
System Access and Resilience
With such a significant increase in your workforce now working remotely, how well does your remote access and work-critical systems function? Can your employees access the servers and relevant systems from their devices in order to carry out their roles effectively? Do you have enough licences for certain software packages for the relevant employees to access? If you do not know the answers to these questions, it is advisable to find out. Identify each employees’ requirements and consider work-arounds to ensure continuity of service.
Process and Procedures for Home Working
Do you have a policy around home working? If not, you should consider creating a comprehensive and clear policy and issue employees with summary guidelines that highlight key requirements to make it easier for them to follow.
This should include issues such as ways of working, rules on taking hard copy files and documents out of the office, security precautions and protocols for telephone calls and video conferencing.
Cyber Security and Data Protection
Unfortunately, in times like these, opportunists look to take advantage of the most vulnerable and to catch people off guard by taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty people face from Coronavirus. As more people work from home, there has been an increase in reports of scam callers and phishing emails. Scammers posing as banks and health organisations have been contacting people to trick them into sharing personal data. It is important to make your employees aware of the problem and urge them to be more vigilant.
With many people potentially working from personal devices, security controls may not be as strong as in the office. Accessing databases and servers remotely also increase the potential of these being hacked. It is important to review your cybersecurity measures.
The National Cyber Security Centre have released some comprehensive guidance on how businesses can prepare for an increase in home working and how they can help employees spot scam emails.
Here are their top recommendations to support secure home-working:
- Remote users may need to use different software (or use familiar applications in a different way) compared to what they do when in the office. You should produce written guides for these features, and test that the software works as described.
- Depending on the experience of your staff (and the applications you provide), you should consider producing a series of ‘How do I?’ guides. For example, you might produce a ‘How to log into and use an online collaboration tool’.
- Staff are more likely to have their devices stolen (or lose them) when they are away from the office or home. Make sure devices encrypt data whilst at rest, which will protect data on the device if it is lost or stolen. Most modern devices have encryption built-in, but encryption may still need to be turned on and configured.
- Fortunately, the majority of devices include tools that can be used to remotely lock access to the device, erase the data stored on it, or retrieve a backup of this data. You can use mobile device management software to set up devices with a standard configuration.
- Make sure staff know how to report any problems. This is especially important for security issues (see looking after devices below).
- Your staff might feel more exposed to cyber threats when working outside the office environment, so now is a great time for them to work through the NCSC’s Top Tips for Staffe-learning package.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have also addressed issues some organisations may have in maintaining good data protection
Supervision and Employee Communications
Employee supervision is clearly limited in remote working conditions, therefore it is important to ensure that there are regular updates and review meetings between managers and their teams. This can be done individually or as a team either over the phone or using video-messaging facilities such as MS Teams, Skype or Zoom.
Working from home can be isolating for some people and can create anxiety especially in these testing times. Regular contact between colleagues and teams can help people feel reassured, keep up team moral and spirit and give employees the opportunity to offload concerns or work problems.
With children at home and not at school and other household members around, the levels of distraction will be at an all-time high not to mention the increased levels of sickness and absence. This can add stress to employees who are worried about completing their workload. Stay connected and look for ways to support employees and colleagues through this time while maintaining continuity of service for your business.
Employee Mental Health
This is a challenging and uncertain time for everyone. Many people’s lives and work arrangements have completely changed for the time being and it is important to keep that in mind as your employees adjust to this new way of life. Some may feel more anxious and concerned than others.
The mental health foundation have provided some useful guidance in this area. You can find more details here:
Some of the tips they provide for employers are:
- Share information from reputable sources – such as Public Health England, Public Health Scotland and Public Health Wales
- Consider who needs information and when – if you have a group planning how your workplace will manage during the outbreak, consider who needs to be involved and when to avoid gossip and anxiety
- Talk to your people – You should keep regular if not daily contact with all employees and managers. Be honest, authentic and sincere in what you say.
- Everyone has mental health – consider the impact of this across the board – We all have mental health, and whatever our circumstance this outbreak is going to have an impact on how we think and feel about ourselves and the world we live in. Good work is great for our mental health and it’s important that we preserve the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of work wherever we can. Some people are at greater risk of poor mental health. When you plan your response, consider how it affects staff with protected characteristics(sex, age, disability, race, sexual orientation etc.) or other challenges (e.g. how people from Asian or Italian backgrounds may be facing discriminatory behaviours) – and adjust accordingly. Try to act in a way that protects the physical and mental health of staff – starting with those who are at greatest need
- Remember vulnerability has many faces – There is a lot of talk of physical vulnerabilities in relation to the Coronavirus. But senior managers will feel vulnerable too in demonstrating leadership in unusual circumstances. Help each other stay composed by encouraging and reminding how good a job they’re doing. These circumstances might lead people to disclose mental health problems they have previously not discussed at work. Treat new disclosures with respect and compassion and make adjustments.
- Promote access to support – You may provide access to support services through your workplace – if you do, make sure these are advertised well and find out whether there are specific resources relating to the outbreak. Make sure people also know where they go and who they talk to internally