Managing Security in a Changing Workforce

06/18/2015 04:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

One of the fastest growing trends in the workforce today is telecommuting. According to the United States Census Bureau, 35% or 13.4 million workers worked from home in 2010. The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) reported an increase of over 4 million people between 1999 and 2010.

This number continues to grow as corporations recognize the many associated benefits. Global workforce analytics lists improved employee satisfaction, reduced absenteeism, cost reduction and increased productivity as benefits to this alternative work option. As a result many corporations are promoting a balance between work and life and trusting employees to complete tasks efficiently.

Yet one major concern ensues. A growing number of data breaches, including a recent breach within the United States government, leave many at odds. IT departments are tasked with securing vital resources, while granting access to authorized workers with speed and agility. The good news is that there are ways to allow telecommuting while minimizing risk. Here are five best practices to consider.

1 - Begin with Policy
If your organization is contemplating the adoption of a work from home option for employees, the first consideration is policy. Executives can define and prioritize the security of sensitive data, personally identifiable information and financial information. Define acceptable applications, recommended devices, encryption requirements, records management strategies and network standards. How will employees' access email accounts, software and documents without compromising the security of the organization as a whole?

2 - Be Proactive
Although proper planning can help to prevent mishaps, companies should prepare for extenuating circumstances. Many corporations are enabling remote wipe and geo tracking software to prepare for such cases. In the event of a lost or stolen device, information can be remotely deleted or monitored to prevent further damage.

3 - Encourage Collaboration
Efficient collaboration tools are essential for virtual workers. Go To Meeting, Ready Talk and Skype are just a few options that allow employees to conduct virtual meetings with ease. Employees can simply share their screen, view live visual presentations and communicate just as they would in person. Documents can also be managed and shared throughout organizations utilizing efficient collaboration tools like SharePoint, One Drive or Google Drive.

4 - Involve your Employees
Another method of ensuring the success of your telecommunication efforts is involving the end users. Make employees accountable by implementing an acceptable use agreement and privacy rules. Make sure that employees understand sensitive data and content. Many employees simply do not know what information should and should not be shared. Send regular updates regarding malware alerts and security breach prevention tips.

5 - And Repeat
Lastly, review and update policies regularly. Security standards and risks are ever changing. Hire and retain proactive information technology professionals who stay abreast of telework and security trends.