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5 Ways to Improve Work from Home

Networks and Connectivity

The Covid-19 pandemic proved that work from home and remote work was viable and productive for more employees than previously believed or acknowledged.  Necessity is a great motivator. Our businesses, employees, and customers responded, adapted, moved forward.  In the process, we have identified new benefits and pitfalls with remote work. Looking forward, our emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic is not a clear as hoped or predicted. The virus is here to stay and the impact on our lives is yet to be fully understood.  Our normal is not necessary “new”, but continues to evolve.

While we cannot predict the full extent of the shift, remote work, hybrid work, and work from home will be the norm. 

Business need to continue to assess, plan, and adapt.  Here are 5 ways we can improve work from home and hybrid remote/in-office work environments.

1 Device-as-a-Service

Device-as-a-Service, particularly remote desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, have clear benefits for new office norms. You can:

  • Provide a secure access to applications and systems with consistency regardless of where your employees are working
  • Better manage the computing environment, separating your business’ computing from the local device
  • Use existing, older laptops and desktops, thereby reducing hardware upgrade costs driven by operating system and application upgrades
  • Leverage Chromebooks as end user devices, lowering your total cost of ownership

2 Pick a Video Conferencing Service

Picking a standard video conferencing service lets you manage how you communicate internally and with customers. The right choice can also save you hundreds of dollars per year per employee while giving you and your team the features and functions they need to manage meetings and work efficiently.  By selecting a preferred service, you can invest the time and effort to integrate the service with your productivity and collaboration suites. An small investment in teaching employees how to fully use the solution also pays dividends.

3 Improve Employees’ Internet

You would never allow your Internet service to slow down work at the office. You should not allow home Internet speeds to slow down your remote employees. Reimbursing employees for increasing their Internet speeds improves productivity and morale. Providing employees with better WiFi routers and access points ensures their connections are available and reliable. Note: a few states require employers to reimburse home Internet services based on the percentage used for work.

4 Secure Your Remote Workers

Unless you provide the equipment and services, you cannot control your employees’ home networks and systems. At the same time, you want and need to secure your applications, data, and network. To do so:

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible to control network, system, and application access.  MFA and 2FA are the simplest means of preventing hackers from using compromised user identities or credentials.
  • Upgrade home computers with additional, advanced threat protection services.  Many of the next-gen solutions offer greater protection from modern attacks and are designed to work with existing anti-virus solutions that may be installed on the device. Some of these solutions also provide tools for remote support.
  • Consider using physical security keys that provide authentication codes without the need for a smartphone or other device.

5[/av_dropcap1 Protect Your Remote Resources

Whether using a company provided laptop or a personal computer, problems at home are disruptive and take longer to diagnose and repair than in-office problems. While Device-as-a Service solutions separate the risk from the physical device, employees using their local machines are at risk.  At a minimum, ensure that you are backing up and can recover applications and data on remote laptops and desktops. If an employee performs critical or time-sensitive tasks, consider a continuity solution that enable the employee to return to work within minutes rather than hours.

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Whether work from home, remote work, or hybrid work will be strategic or tactical for your business, you can improve the security and employee experience with minimal cost.  We are here to help you assess, plan, and update your IT services to best meet your needs — and budget.  Contact us for an initial consultation.

 

need to continue to assess, plan, and adapt.  Here are 5 ways we can improve work from home and hybrid remote/in-office work environments.

[av_dropcap1]1 Device-as-a-Service

Device-as-a-Service, particularly remote desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, have clear benefits for new office norms. You can:

  • Provide a secure access to applications and systems with consistency regardless of where your employees are working
  • Better manage the computing environment, separating your business’ computing from the local device
  • Use existing, older laptops and desktops, thereby reducing hardware upgrade costs driven by operating system and application upgrades
  • Leverage Chromebooks as end user devices, lowering your total cost of ownership

2 Pick a Video Conferencing Service

Picking a standard video conferencing service lets you manage how you communicate internally and with customers. The right choice can also save you hundreds of dollars per year per employee while giving you and your team the features and functions they need to manage meetings and work efficiently.  By selecting a preferred service, you can invest the time and effort to integrate the service with your productivity and collaboration suites. A small investment in teaching employees how to fully use the solution also pays dividends.

3 Improve Employees’ Internet

You would never allow your Internet service to slow down work at the office. You should not allow home Internet speeds to slow down your remote employees. Reimbursing employees for increasing their Internet speeds improves productivity and morale. Providing employees with better WiFi routers and access points ensures their connections are available and reliable. Note: a few states require employers to reimburse home Internet services based on the percentage used for work.

4 Secure Your Remote Workers

Unless you provide the equipment and services, you cannot control your employees’ home networks and systems. At the same time, you want and need to secure your applications, data, and network. To do so:

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible to control network, system, and application access.  MFA and 2FA are the simplest means of preventing hackers from using compromised user identities or credentials.
  • Upgrade home computers with additional, advanced threat protection services.  Many of the next-gen solutions offer greater protection from modern attacks and are designed to work with existing anti-virus solutions that may be installed on the device. Some of these solutions also provide tools for remote support.
  • Consider using physical security keys that provide authentication codes without the need for a smartphone or other device.

5[/av_dropcap1 Protect Your Remote Resources

Whether using a company laptop or a personal computer, problems at home are disruptive and take longer to diagnose and repair than in-office problems. While Device-as-a Service solutions separate the risk from the physical device, employees using their local machines are at risk.  At a minimum, ensure that you are backing up and can recover applications and data on remote laptops and desktops. If an employee performs critical or time-sensitive tasks, consider a continuity solution that enables the employee to return to work within minutes rather than hours.

Whether work from home, remote work, or hybrid work will be strategic or tactical for your business, you can improve the security and employee experience with minimal cost.  We are here to help you assess, plan, and update your IT services to best meet your needs — and budget.  Contact us for an initial consultation.

 

Work From Home – Office Ergonomic Checklist

Even with the pandemic and the shift to work from home (“WFH”), business owners remain responsible for making sure employees’ home work spaces are safe, comfortable, and effective.  For employees working at a computer most of the day, bad ergonomics can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sciatica.  MSDs can be uncomfortable or painful for employees.  Beyond the impact on productivity and job satisfaction, MSDs often require medical treatment and can result in longer term disabilities.

When employees work from home, the are unlikely to have the same chair and workstation options as they do at the office.  Businesses should do what they can to help employees maintain good posture and relieve strain.

This short checklist can help you evaluate work from home environments. Have employees answer these questions to determine if any changes are needed and appropriate. Often, small adjustments to the work space can improve ergonomics and reduce the risk of injury.

General

  • Are items that you frequently use located close by?
  • Are items positioned equally on both sides, i.e., not all on the dominant side of your body?

Chair

  • Are feet resting flat on the floor, with hips slightly higher than knees?
  • Does the chair fit the contour of your back? If you can, adjust the back rest up or down to fit the
    natural curve of your lower back with the curve of the chair.
  • Is there a two-finger gap between the back of your lower legs and the seat of your chair? If
    possible, adjust the seat pan forward or backward to correctly fit it to the length of your legs.
  • Are both chair arms are at the same height to prevent you from leaning one way throughout the
    day?
  • Can you use your keyboard and mouse without twisting or reaching? Note: If you can’t get the
    keyboard or monitor low enough for your body type then raise your chair and use a footrest to
    obtain the ideal height for the chair, keyboard, and monitor.

Keyboard

  • Is the keyboard close to elbow level to help keep the wrists straight? Note: Don’t use high force to
    type on your keyboard as force can put strain on your muscles and ligaments.
  • Is the mouse located right next to the keyboard so it can be operated without reaching?
  • Can you move your mouse cursor from one end of your screen(s) to the other without picking it
    up? (Adjust mouse/pointer settings as needed in your software)

Computer monitor(s)

  • Can you see the display of both monitors without looking downward or to either side?
  • Does the distance from your monitor(s) to your eyes allow you to read the screen without leaning
    your head, neck, or trunk forward or backward?
  • Is the monitor positioned so the top line of the screen is no higher than eye level? Note: If you
    wear bifocals and you feel like you’re always looking down, you should adjust your monitors lower
    than the normal height to use the bifocal part of your glasses.

Varying positions

  • When possible, do you make small adjustments to your chair or backrest to keep from staying in
    the same posture for long periods of time?
  • Do you stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and torso throughout the day?
  • At least hourly, do you stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically?
  • If possible, do you perform some of your tasks in a standing position? Note: When adjusting height of your
    desk or monitor, ensure it is on a sturdy surface with proper adjustment of your mouse also.

If you cannot answer “Yes” to most, if not all, of these questions, we can help.  Cumulus Global can provide ergonomic aids — from keyboards and wrist supports to monitor arms and sit/stand desks. Email us or complete our contact form for information and solutions.

 

Lessons Learned: Remote Workforce Security

As part of its Global Year in Breach – 2021 report, security firm ID Agent found that remote workforce security is more difficult than generally thought. With many of the changes in how we work expected to continue, as business leaders we need to embrace hybrid work as the way of the future.

Pandemic Triggers Panic

2020 and the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges. The biggest challenge was cybercrime. The mix of understaffed IT departments, maintenance failures, unpreparedness, record-breaking cybercrime, and employee stress taxed IT teams and services. Cybercriminals took advantage of this golden opportunity, and businesses were hit hard.

Businesses needed to rapidly shift to remote operations. For those with older technology, this shift was especially difficult. Everybody became a remote worker. IT teams needed to become instant experts in remote workforce security. For too many businesses, it was a mad scramble to to get their teams remotely or face shutting down entirely. Many employees lacked training in remote work; many IT teams had never managed remote security at scale. A barrage of unintentional, insider threats assaulted IT teams daily.

Stress Creates Vulnerabilities

Why was the massive shift to Work from Home such a boon to cybercrime?

IT departments were unprepared and understaffed.  Only 39% of IT executives polled felt they have adequate IT expertise on staff to assist with remote work issues. Only 45% of organizations reported having and adequate budget to support remote work.

At the same time, employees were dealing with unexpected stress at home and more likely to make cybersecurity mistakes. Over 50% of respondents admitted they were more error-prone while stressed. 40% said they made more mistakes when tired or distracted. Altogether, 43% of workers surveyed acknowledged mistakes resulting in cybersecurity repercussions for themselves or their company while working remotely.

Cybercrime Complications

Chaos and confusion created opportunities for cybercriminals. Experts estimate that overall cybercrime was up by 80% in 2020. Much of that increase was from phishing attacks. Cybercriminals took advantage distracted, stressed workers, with limited IT support, and immense numbers of email. In 2020, phishing attacks skyrocketed by more than 650%. Attacks hit 75% of companies and accounted for almost 80% of all cybercrime.

Successful ransomware also jumped more than 145%. In 2020, 51% of all businesses and 40% of small and midsize businesses experienced a ransomware attack. 50% of attacks on SMBs used vicious double extortion ransomware. Ransomware will continue to top the list of cybercrime trends in 2021.

Next Steps to Stay Ahead of Remote & Hybrid Workforce Risk

Stopping ransomware and decreasing your company’s risk of a successful cyberattack against remote and hybrid workers starts with stopping phishing and its destructive effects. We have tools that help your IT team support and protect your people and your business, while also protecting your budget.

To learn more about you cyber risks, and solutions to fit your needs and budget, contact us and schedule a complimentary Cloud Advisor Session.

 

Ensure Your Team is Working from Home Safely

(Published 4/21/20)


The rush to get your employees setup and working from home is over; now is the time to take a step back and make sure your team is working effectively and that you are protecting your data and that of your customers.

Here is a simple checklist:

Give Employees Business Software

If you have MS Office licensed through an Office 365 subscription, you have the ability to install each user’s license on multiple computers and devices. Use this licensing to make sure your team does not run into version compatibility issues.  If you have an Office 365 subscription, you can also ensure employees are logged into your domain/tenant and files are automatically backed up to OneDrive or SharePoint file systems.

Give Employees Endpoint Protection

If employees are using home computers for work, the non-work activity on that machine poses a malware and ransomware risk to your business.  Even if your employee has a consumer antivirus tool in place, you should layer next-gen, advanced threat protection.  Solutions like Webroot are designed to coexist with local protections. The solution also gives you control over the security footprint of machines accessing your systems and data.

Give Employees Web Filtering / DNS Protection

Between 20% and 35% of malware attacks originate from infected websites and DNS attacks.  Adding web filtering/DNS protection allows your employees and their families to safely surf without putting your business at risk.

Properly Configure Desktop File Sync Utilities

Whether using Office 365 or G Suite, enabling a desktop sync tool gives your employees seamless access to your cloud-based files. Rather than syncing, configure the agent to serve as a mapping tool. Files cache locally while in use for performance; data remains securely in your cloud; users have easy and familiar access.

Put a Policy in Place

Make sure you have an appropriate policy in place, to protect your employees and your business. We are sharing a simple draft policy you can use and adapt to your needs.

Webcasts

Next Normal: WFH and Remote

3T@3 Webcast Series: Tuesday, April 20th at 3:00 PM

COVID-19 and the events of the past year have, and continue, to change the way we run our businesses.  While some of these changes are temporary, many will become part of our next normal.

Now part of the norm, Work From Home and remote work changes your IT service needs.

This month’s 3T@3 Webcast, is the third in our “Next Normal” series looking at how we adapt, prepare, and respond to economic, social, and business changes. To some extent — small or large — employees working remotely and from home will continue to be part of how we run our businesses.

With “WFH and Remote”, we explore how Work From Home and remote workers alters your IT service needs.  Taking a holistic view, we look beyond using apps and accessing files. In this session we look at factors that protect your business and support productivity.  We use our PARS model (performance, availability, reliability, and security) as a framework to explore how to effectively create, manage, and support your team — wherever they may be working.

Watch the recording on-demand



Data Protection & Security