Working from home was not always as common as it is today. The past year brought about quite a few changes to the world as we knew it, but one thing, in particular, is likely to be here to stay: remote work. Countless studies have been done on the topic of remote work covering topics such as how remote work impacts employee happiness, how it affects employee retention, and what the future workforce will look like.
While the idea of working remotely sounds ideal, the reality is that it can take a toll on employees who forget to prioritize self-care. Having the proper tools and techniques to create a healthy work-life balance can drastically improve the remote workflow. Here are a few tips to consider if you are, or will be, working remotely in the future as a cybersecurity professional:
When creating your work environment at home, choosing a good quality desk chair can make a big impact on not only your physical comfort but overall productivity. Ergonomic desk chairs are known to reduce the aches and pains that come with being seated for long periods of time. Additionally, a supportive chair can help prevent bad posture and neck pain that results from spending hours leaning over a desk. To maximize your comfort one step further, add an adjustable footrest under your desk to elevate your feet and promote circulation. The more comfortable you are while you’re working remotely, the less you’ll have to stand up to stretch out throughout the day, and your productivity will likely benefit as well.
From a young age, many people are taught to wear sunglasses while outdoors to protect their eyes. Just as too much sun exposure to your eyes can cause damage, too much exposure to blue light can do the same. Blue light exposure from laptops and phone screens while working remotely is inevitable. A comfortable pair of blue light glasses worn throughout the day can make a lasting impact on your vision both short and long term. Short term, you won’t have to worry about the bothersome headache or eye strain at the end of a long day. Long term, you’re preventing damage to your retina and potential loss of vision. In other words, it’s a win-win!
When you’re working remotely, it can be difficult to manage a healthy work-life balance. It’s all too easy to keep responding to emails for an extra hour after the workday is complete or work late because your kids need you during the day. Work often takes precedence over personal life, and the desire to succeed professionally can alter overall wellbeing. All of this is normal and very common, but setting little boundaries for yourself is never a bad idea. Many laptops and phones have access to apps that set email boundaries, letting you take control of when you can send and receive emails. Enabling features that prevent you from over-checking your email can boost productivity and reduce stress. Don’t be afraid to unplug for the day and enjoy your personal life; work will always be there tomorrow!
Remote work, especially throughout the past year, has shown to have a massive impact on mental health. A recent study shows that 33% of remote employees are worried about their mental health. Many employers are taking this issue into consideration and making changes to their company, such as more PTO or flexible schedules, encouraging your days off to truly be off. However, there are also steps you can take to impact your daily routine. When the to-do list becomes overwhelming, or you feel buried in work-related stress, take a few minutes to unwind and meditate. It’s as simple as downloading a meditation app on your phone to remind yourself to intentionally pause and take time for yourself and your mental headspace.
These tips are beneficial to all aspects of life: physical, mental, and emotional. Even incorporating one or two of these self-care tactics can make a difference in your day-to-day life. If someday remote work becomes more prevalent than it is today, you will be more than prepared to tackle it head-on.
While many companies are today working from home, at some point, the workforce will return to the office. It’s not clear what this will look like; it may be a small portion of workers heading back in phases or everyone at once. There is also the possibility that working from home will remain the norm and working in an office becomes a scheduled routine. Regardless of the when, how or how many, managing cybersecurity risks during an office homecoming after adapting to remote work can be challenging. Establishing a post-COVID cyber baseline as devices and people return to the office can minimize the cyber threats.
When organizations quickly pivoted to work-from-home, they adapted quickly to facilitate work with new software, tools, and reduced availability of people in critical roles. During that period of rapid transition, people could have potentially shared passwords to critical business systems with co-workers. This could include sharing passwords to laptops and video conferencing services used at home by family members.
Baseline: Reset passwords to laptops and essential accounts. Ensure multi-factor is enabled.
In the rush to get people working remotely, not every employee was able to take a company laptop home. In some cases, the company laptop failed during the stay-at-home. This forces employees to use personal devices to connect to the company network. New research from Bitsite found that almost half of companies had malware on their corporate-associated home networks, compared to 13% of corporate networks.
"Use of personal devices creates problems around document preservation matters and adds increased risk," wrote Brenda R. Sharton, a litigation partner and global chair of Goodwin's Privacy + Cybersecurity practice, in an article for the Harvard Business Review. "In addition, the software powering some home equipment can be months or even years out of date."
Baseline: Scan the network to identify new or unknown devices.
People across the organization have been tasked with getting things done, sometimes putting aside security because of urgency. Sending emails on mobile devices could result in accidental sends from personal emails, and online storage and USB devices could have been used for downloading or printing documents. These activities mean confidential information or PII data may be everywhere.
Baseline: Use SIEM alerting on common file storage services and personal emails with attachments.
Many organizations are susceptible to lost hardware during times of rapid change. Furloughed employees may still have their company-issued laptop, while others took advantage of the swift deployment of working from home to grab a device from the office. Lingering devices put you at risk of data loss or a network breach.
Baseline: Update laptop and mobile device inventory and disable missing devices.
Working from home likely required software installs, whether for office productivity, video conferencing, PDF-converters, or electronic signatures. Some software even supported virtual happy hours and entertainment to keep teams connected. By one estimate, 62% of people have signed up for new tools and platforms during the COVID-19 crisis. Some of this new software may not meet company requirements, or could have vulnerabilities that put your company at risk.
Baseline: Scan for laptops for unauthorized software and potential shadow IT.
Application and operating system updates were likely part of your work-from-home cyber strategy. But this may not have included infrastructure devices supporting the physical office and changes to firewall policies, cloud security groups, and other security software that is just as essential to update to keep the organization protected.
Baseline: Scan, prioritize, and update infrastructure devices and policy rules.
As people return to the office, the pace and focus will be on connecting and restoring the workload. People will be busy playing catch-up and not necessarily focused on cyber threats. With six out of 10 people reporting they have fallen victim to a phishing scam before the rise in attacks during the COVID crisis, it stands to reason phishing and ransomware will continue.
Baseline: Include cybersecurity awareness into the return to the office messaging.
While another major shift in the work environment may seem daunting, the investment in work-from home security sets companies up well for a return to the office. Keeping track of what was done as people shift to work-from-home will give organizations a solid baseline. Track what worked well and use the things that didn’t work as well to make security modifications and tighten access restrictions. These lessons learned will only enhance your organization’s ability to be agile if any major disruption happens again.
“The Three Little Pigs” is a children's story about being prepared for when you need something, even if you have to make a few short-term sacrifices along the way. It’s a lesson we should heed right now as we look toward uncertainty about what work will look like in the weeks ahead. Although not always fun, being prepared will pay off when you need it the most.
COVID-19 has proven remote cybersecurity jobs can be highly efficient from those who work from home. In many ways, it’s been better because it provides the same point of view as an attacker—a view from outside the company. If you want to work from home for the rest of your life, you better be prepared with strong arguments that show it’s value, or work for Twitter. That company just announced all of their employees can work from home...forever. Here’s how you can do the same.
A Salesforce Research survey found that the COVID-19 work environment has caused only a 1% reduction in productivity, but some managers may need convincing that sustained productivity from home is possible. You should keep a diary of everything you do each day, with accurate start and end times. It can be as simple as a legal pad or as detailed as Evernote. This will help you answer any productivity questions that managers might have. Record when you begin your day, any breaks you take, and when you end your day. Also note any “extra” time you put in. This will give you concrete data if you need to present your case.
Logs, in my mind, are more detailed than a diary. They are the detailed record of why some tasks took longer than others. Was something particularly difficult? Was it a wild goose chase? Was it a one-off event that sent your day sideways and nothing on your to-do list was completed? The more detail the better. Justify why you took the action and why it took so long.
Remote workers can definitely feel disconnected because the office chatter is cut off. You are probably thinking ”I’m a cybersecurity professional. I don’t have time for chatter.” Having multiple touch point meetings with the team each week will ensure relationships don’t atrophy.
Adopt the habit of managing up. Communicate with your boss and send them a list in writing each Friday of what you have accomplished, what you did not do and intended to, and what you are planning to accomplish next week. You already have a diary and detailed logs. Condense and summarize. Even if they do not read it, it will be appreciated that you did it. And now you have a written record to refer to if necessary.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Take those large projects and break them down into mini or micro tasks. It will make you more organized and prove you are getting things done. It will also give you a sense of accomplishment and some instant gratification.
Create a great work-at-home space and show it off. Let people know you have everything you need at home and that your home working environment is conducive to productivity—perhaps even better than when you worked in an office.
Make sure to share your calendar when you are busy or available. This will make it much easier and efficient for people who require your assistance to offer meeting times that fit with your schedule. Scheduling internal meetings can be quite frustrating without some minimal insight into other’s calendars.
Open your meeting five minutes early and have a little chit chat before you get started. This way you will have a personal connection without it impacting your meeting productivity.
Are you sleeping better without having to wake up as early? Or slogging through a horrible commute? Can you now work out in the morning? Make sure your boss knows how working remotely has allowed you to be in a better mental state to make better decisions and has resulted in a greater sense of loyalty to your company for this privilege.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced companies to make a major shift in how they operate for the time being, but for many employees, this change is long overdue. A Glassdoor survey found that 67% of employees would support working from home indefinitely. Remote work may be more accepted now that so many have experienced it, but some managers still insist on facetime. Being prepared to argue for full work-from-home status with hard evidence is going to help you make the case that permanent remote work is not only the best fit for you, but also for your company.
I have a question for you: What do you think about love in the workplace?
What did your brain first think when you read the above question? My gut tells me that one of these three responses went through your head:
Well, more and more people are looking for “love” to be a framework for the cultures they work in, yet the actual word “love” throws us off. Why? Do we hear “love,” and automatically think romance and/or sex? There are many people whom we love and don’t have romantic or sexual relationships with, so why not have love in the workplace?
Let’s look at the definition of love.
Wikipedia includes the following, among other statements, in its definition of the word love: “Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection (“I love my mother”) to pleasure (“I loved that meal”). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment.”
“…Strong attraction and personal attachment.” This is love and thus love is exactly what all organizations want in the workplace—do they know it? If leaders want their teams to have “strong attraction” and “personal attachment” to their work, they must want their teams (and themselves) to love their jobs!
Consider the statement, “I love my boss.” Why would someone love his or her boss? Most likely, because their boss is kind, supportive, gives them clear expectations, helps them when they make mistakes, tells them the truth, gives them opportunities, and more (listed below as operational actions that create love in the workplace.)
These behaviors (being kind, showing support, helping someone learn from mistakes, clear career growth models, etc.) make up the exact culture I have had the pleasure of experiencing since I joined the tech workforce in January 1994. For 20 years, I worked for the same people in three different tech companies, achieving growth and success in each move. Why would I stay for 21 years working for the same people? Because of love!
Let’s specifically define how love shows up in the workplace. In my experience of building organizations, it is the following operational actions that allowed for constant development of skills, consistent financial growth and love in the workplace:
When implemented, all of these operational business actions create cultures that perform at high levels—meaning people are inspired, happy and LOVE their jobs! The wonderful feeling of love makes for explosive performance and results in long-term retention of talent. This is win/win employment.
Let’s not get caught up thinking that the word “love” means romance or sex. It’s time to get on the “love in the workforce” train if you want to keep talent and have high performance! For further proof, check out some research on the subject.
Love to you all, Deidre