For the typical office-based employee, working from home or working from elsewhere has become a common sight.

Over the past few years, employees have an increasing expectation on organisations to offer flexible work arrangements or remote working to help improve their work-life balance. These employee benefits improve the overall employee experience, which would help with talent attraction and retention efforts.

However, COVID-19 has changed the narrative for many employers. Working from home is now a regulated measure and this means that in some households, there are multiple people working or studying at the same time.

When a majority of the population is working or studying from home as they play their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19, a new set of challenges is starting to come to light.

By allowing people, even family members, who are not part of the business to overhear confidential conversations and gain access to private information and documentation, you’re inherently breaching your company’s data privacy policies.

data protection working from home
data protection working from home

3 security tips for working from home

1. protect your data

Understand that you’re at risk of exposing company information once you leave the safety and security of your dedicated workplace. If you live on your own, this isn’t so much of a problem. However, it’s always advisable to adhere to personal data privacy best practices just to be safe.

Before COVID-19, individuals may choose to break up their day by heading to the local library or cafe for a change of work environment. In these cases, devices must be protected against data and hardware theft.

In order to ensure you’re safe, follow below data protection guidelines;

  • Ensure your computer is encrypted. Check that your employer has set up adequate safety measures to allow you to log on privately. This could be done through a security token or a two-step verification process that is linked to your mobile phone. This ensures that the company’s data is inaccessible even if the device falls into the wrong hands.
  • Don’t forget to log out. Make it a habit to lock your devices when they are not by your side, both at home and in public places. You never know what could happen. A child might accidentally send an email or change a setting that you could never find out about. It’s also about limiting the opportunity for someone to access the device while your back is turned in the cafe or local library.
  • create a strong password. Not so strong that you’ll never remember it, but try and make it unique to yourself. Try not to pen down your new password on a post-it that can be found easily or on the front page of your notebook. It’s best to keep the new password in your personal smartphone, as only you have access to it. Just remember to delete it once you’ve memorised your new password.
  • Don’t tempt thieves. Always stow your device away after work. If you’re on the road, lock it in the boot of your car. Keep it safe and close to you. You won’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation with your manager or the IT department about the need to procure a new laptop because of your carelessness.

2. avoid work conversations

When you’re in the office, conversations, unsurprisingly, are mostly about work. However, in a relaxed home environment, it can sometimes feel natural to chat about work to loved ones or housemates. After all, they are the same people whom you rant to about a bad day at work or celebrated your job promotion with.

In a rare, but entirely possible situation, two people can live under the same roof and be working for competitors. It is not uncommon to have housemates who used to be your ex-colleagues or schoolmates. But this can get a bit messy during a period when everyone has to work from home.

Although it’s not likely that one person could take private information and pass them on to others in their business intentionally, it does have the ability to come out in an informal chat. This can lead to others passing such confidential information into the wrong hands.

Furthermore, we already know from “The Telephone Game” that these messages can lose their original context and meaning along the way, which could put the business or an individual’s reputation at risk.

To be safe, try and stick to neutral subjects and limit the work chat. Don’t elevate your stress by talking about work after you’ve already logged off for the day. Instead, choose to watch a movie or prepare dinner together. If there are more than three of you, invest in a good board game or spend a night on an adventurous game of Dungeons & Dragons.

3. have confidential conversations in a separate room

When you’re in the office, confidential conversations are happening all around you. Whether it’s one colleague talking to another, someone taking a phone call from their desk, or a team update where it’s strictly business chat, it’s going on all the time.

When working from home, it’s critical that these conversations do not happen as freely as someone else could pick up sentences and keywords and form their own narrative. For example, HR managers are responsible for handling confidential matters such as salary and workplace scheduling; accountants are dealing with sensitive financial matters; and investor relations officers may be discussing details about the next annual general meeting.

If you have a call or meeting coming up where you know confidential matters will be discussed, try to take the meeting somewhere else in your home that will provide you some privacy. If that’s not possible, plug in your earphones, and avoid repeating what others are saying unless vital.

the best scenario is to work from your own room

If you don’t live with dependents and have your own room, that’s where you should set up your workspace. Make sure you have a dedicated workspace that has adequate natural lighting and is not near your bed.

If you’re a parent whose kid is on home-based learning, you’ll have to make adjustments to your work-from-home routine to accommodate them. And if you’re living with an elderly member of your family, please practice social distancing during this period and take the initiative to buy essential goods for the household.

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