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More employees are working remotely from home than ever before. We’ve discussed the challenges of keeping remote staff engaged, but have you considered the unique hazards for employees working from home? They may not be as obvious, but there are several potential hazards and risks that remote employees should be aware of when working from home.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your online privacy. This software was created to encrypt your internet traffic and make you anonymous to hackers by masking your IP address. Instead of hackers seeing your IP address, they see the VPN provider’s IP address which prevents them from knowing your location or obtaining your passwords and other sensitive information. VPN’s are especially helpful when you are working over a Wi-Fi network.
- If you use video software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other online meeting programs be aware of the associated security risks. Some of the security risks with Microsoft Teams include screen sharing sensitive data, unmanaged devices, or uploaded files containing malware that can infect your work or personal device. With Zoom, there have been instances where meetings have been “bombed” by uninvited participants who crash the meeting with the intention of disruption and phishing scams. To help protect against these threats make sure any Zoom meeting you attend requires a password to enter the meeting.
- It’s important to keep work devices in a secure location within the home. By securing your dedicated office space from anyone not authorized to be there, including children, employees can reduce the likeliness of mishaps. If your office has a door, lock it when you are not around. Use a strong password for any work devices and make sure your company phone and computer are logged off at the end of the day. Paper documents should be secured in a locking file cabinet and anything sensitive that needs to be discarded should be properly shredded.
Information security is a subject you will constantly need to stay on top of. There is no magic list of steps that guarantees security; however, the above information will go a long way towards keeping your home office as protected as possible. Discuss your specific needs with an Information Technology (IT) professional.
At-Home Positive Work Environment
While being away from co-workers when working from home may leave you feeling lonely, there are a few things that can help you manage these feelings.
- Intermittent breaks result in a higher more sustainable work performance by decreasing burnout and fostering a sense of increased energy.
- Implement a ‘sit less, move more’ attitude where you maintain scheduled stretching and walking breaks throughout the workday. Schedule an activity or workout a few times per week; attend a gym, swim, lift weights, do yoga or other class to increase muscle usage and aerobic activity. Be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider and select activities that are appropriate for you.
Read these helpful tips on the benefits of stretching.
- Ergonomics is the study of how humans interact with man-made objects with the goal of creating an environment that is well suited to a user’s physical needs. For example, an ergonomic chair may help support your lower back and prevent you from slouching. In a home office environment, make sure that the workplace is fit to your needs. In addition to proper chair and adjustment you want to think about your reach and wrist angle to the keyboard. Is the height of your computer monitor correct? Make sure your head and eyes are at the proper angle. Is the height of your desk what it should be? These are the things you need to consider when setting up your home office. Proper office ergonomics will prevent a variety of injuries from carpal tunnel syndrome to lower back injuries.
- Creating a work-life balance is extremely important. This balance means less stress in our lives. Studies have shown that a balanced lifestyle improves mental and physical health, improves relationships and increases creative thinking. All of this combined brings a happier life and a sense of fulfillment which makes a person more productive. So once you have put in a good day’s work, get out of your chair and turn off your computer and phone. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the time with family, friends and activities that we all cherish.
Home Infrastructure & Natural Disasters
With so many employees working from different locations, it is also important to think about business continuity plans in the event of a disruption. This can be caused by a variety of issues, including a power outage, tornado, chemical spill, earthquake or other disasters.
Preparation is key. There are four steps a business can take in preparing a disaster response plan.
Step 1: Analysis
Step 2: Design
Step 3: Implementation
Step 4: Validation
Obviously, the business must identify the impact that various disasters will have on providing services to customers and employees. Then, develop a written recovery plan which provides steps showing the quickest most effective way to get the business back up and running. Once these steps are identified the plan must be communicated and tested to see if it will work and to make sure employees understand what to do in the event of a disaster or disruption. This should include protocols for situations like a home accident or natural disaster that may interrupt the ability of remote employees to be productive.
Read our series on Disaster Recovery and Planning.
Promoting Safety Culture at Home
Staying safe and efficient while working at home can be challenging from a number of perspectives. Remember to guard your private work information for your benefit and the benefit of your employer. Set up an ergonomic workstation that gives you proper postures and keeps you healthy. Set break times throughout the day and use this time to stretch and walk which will help keep your muscles strong and your mind clear. Pay attention to and read your employer’s business continuation plan so you can be prepared for the unexpected.
Finally, as an employer, provide good communication early and often, reinforcing that you care about everyone’s well-being. Be sure to provide timely resources to help your employees improve their safety culture while working remotely at home.