SA Law's Guide to Working from Home

Use our handy guide for both employers and employees to staying productive and secure when working from home.

New to working from home? Use our handy guide to staying productive and secure

How to keep your organisation working when more colleagues are working from home

Home working can be testing if you haven’t done it before. Less contact with colleagues, more distractions, interruptions from family members and flatmates, and that’s before we consider the current challenges of coronavirus. Here are our top tips for getting a day’s work done when you’re not at work. Share it with your teams to help everyone get through this difficult period.

Create a workstation

Try to find a quiet area on your own, ideally where you can sit at a desk. Maintaining good posture can be harder if you don’t have a proper office chair at home, but try to position yourself so that your upper arms are parallel to your torso when typing. Consider adding some lower back support to your chair, such as a cushion or rolled-up towel. Where possible, use an external keyboard and mouse so you can raise your laptop screen to a comfortable height. Thick books can be good for this if you don’t have a laptop stand. Finally, watch out for electrical cables, particularly if you have small people running around! Where possible, set up your work station near a window so you have some access to natural light and ventilation as the weather improves and you can open a window.

Get into a healthy working mindset

Some people find home working difficult because of the interruptions, particularly if there are children at home as a result of schools being closed. Others can suffer from too few interruptions, and suddenly find they have a splitting headache from staring at a screen for four hours without a break. Try to maintain a healthy balance. Start work at the usual time, and take a five-minute break every 45 to 60 minutes to rest your eyes and refresh. Stop for lunch, and finish work at the usual time if possible. If you live with others, encourage them to respect your work periods.

Stay in touch

Feelings of disconnection and isolation can also be an issue when home working. A regular morning conference call with team members can alleviate this, as can video calls for smaller meetings. You could also consider using a team productivity app like Slack to keep everyone connected. These enable you to message colleagues, hold conference calls, and share screens and documents. If that’s a bit over the top for what you need, why not set up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch. However, most organisations don’t permit employees to install unapproved software or apps as this can compromise the security of work devices. Talk to your manager or IT team before you download and install anything.

Check your connection

Any work undertaken outside the office puts sensitive information at greater risk. If you work with personal data, the chance of a data breach also increases, which could result in a costly fine for the organisation. Make sure your home network is protected with a strong password for both wireless and admin access. All passwords should be at least eight characters long, and use a complex mix of letters, numbers and symbols. If your organisation provides a VPN (virtual private network), then always use it when connecting to your work network. And bear in mind that using personally owned computers and mobile devices is usually prohibited for undertaking work, but check with your manager.

Protect equipment

In a home environment, it can be tempting to treat your work laptop more like one you own, which can lead to compromised security that puts information at risk. You might also fall foul of malicious software such as ransomware, which locks your device or files, and demands a payment to unlock them. To prevent this, maintain a clear division between doing work activities on a work device, and personal activities on a personally owned device. As mentioned earlier, don’t install unapproved software or apps on your work devices, and continue to keep a close eye out for phishing emails. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of our heightened fears about health to get us to click on malicious website links and file attachments. If you do, contact your IT team immediately. You can find lots of advice on how to protect yourself at getsafeonline.org

Work securely

As much as you trust them, family members and friends are not permitted to know work information, or use your work laptop and mobile devices. Make sure they can’t see sensitive information on your screen or documents as you work on them, and use a headset or try to find an empty room if you need to discuss sensitive information on a call. Set a complex password on your laptop and mobile phone, and lock the screens whenever you leave them unattended. This prevents people seeing information they shouldn’t see, and also stops them being tempted to use your devices while you’re out of the room.

Minimise the risk of theft

If you need to leave the house, ideally lock away your laptop and any sensitive documents and portable storage media, or hide them out of sight. Disposing of sensitive printed documents can also be tricky, as waste and recycling bins can be targeted by information thieves looking for sensitive information that helps them to commit identity fraud. Use a cross-cut shredder if you have one, or store sensitive documents securely until you can use a confidential waste bin back at the office.

Manage expectations

Bear in mind that home working can be very different to working in an office, and you may not be able to do everything you tend to do, or as quickly as you tend to do it. You may need to manage people’s expectations about what you can achieve, and in what timeframe. This may include making customers aware of the situation as well. 

We hope you found this guide useful. If you wish to contact the team please contact Chris Cook on 01727 798017 or email him at Chris.Cook@salaw.com or Christine Caffrey on 01727 798021 or email her at Christine.Caffrey@salaw.com

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Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.