Remote Work during Covid-19

By Jing Ertl-Yang

Social contact restrictions due to the global Covid-19 epidemic has led to millions of employees working from home and this in turn has had a huge impact on the management of companies’ internal communication processes.

According to a recent survey conducted by the German newspaper Zeit , among1,000 surveyed respondents every second employee now works from home due to the pandemic. Furthermore, 41% of those interviewed mentioned that their work from home is impossible. Companies also have adopted more flexible working models for their employees: 45% of staff members are replacing face-to-face meetings with telephone calls or web conferences.

Beyond this temporary home-office measure, remote working is set to become a long-term trend as many companies in pursuit of successful Millennials promote the opportunity to work from home as one of their employee benefits.

Despite all of the advantages and flexibility of remote work, certain drawbacks may occur. One of the heightened risks may be vulnerability of company data while using personal computers or public networks. Based on the insights from Jones Day law firm increased cyber risks are:

  • Raised incidence of phishing attacks using coronavirus references.
  • Enhanced risk of cyberattacks on company networks due to reduced IT staffing and/or need to focus on supporting remote access at the expense of security.
  • Potential lack of system and connectivity resources to handle surge in remote work.

The main measure that can protect the company from cyber risks is to train and make employees aware of organisation’s information security rules, such as restrictions to download company information onto personal devices or email accounts or unauthorised cloud, avoid using public or unsecured home networks, protect personal computer against unauthorized third parties accessing company data.

USA’s federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency(CISA) encourages organizations to adopt a heightened state of cybersecurity.They have introduced cybersecurity factors that could improve remote work options and protect companies using an enterprise virtual private network (VPN):

  • To reduce the increased risk of being attacked by malicious cyber actors, companies should regularly update VPNs and network infrastructure devices with the latest software patches and security configurations.
  • IT Departments should test major remote access cybersecurity challenges and be prepared for the problems that arise in time: log review, attack detection, and incident response and recover.
  • It is desirable to implement multi-factor authentication on all VPN connections, if this is not possible - ask employees using strong and complex passwords.
  • Massive use of VPN can lead to system failures therefore IT-security staff could implement modifications by prioritizing users according to their needs in higher bandwidths.

Besides the cyber risks, remote work and permanent communication with colleagues through Skype videocalls and Slack will not replace in-person conversation or constructive  face-to-face  dialogue. Social contacts increase trust between  one another thus allowing to influence favorably the speed and correctness of information transfer between colleagues, creation of new ideas and creativity in teams, sharing experience between people. This is also important for Executive Board Members and IT Managers who take care of their team and in live communication can understand how busy their employees are, who currently need to be supported or detect ineffective employees who are "shirking" from work.