Holding Your Business Together, While Keeping Your Employees Apart
COVID-19 has impacted everyone across the globe in a major way. For most organizations, team members have been separated, offices have been left empty and people have been forced to embrace a day-by-day mentality as the new normal.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume your mind has probably been consumed with questions like:
- “Are my network connectivity and makeshift office at home going to cut it?”
- “How am I going to stay efficient with all the added distractions?”
- “Are my video conference calls in jeopardy of being hacked?”
- “Is our Business Continuity Plan built to support a pandemic like this?”
- “When will we be back to business as usual and what will that return look like?”
Although we are in stressful and uncertain times right now, there are some proven tips that I’d like to share to help you maintain business operations and security. As I dive into some of the best practices myself and my company, LightEdge, have adopted, remember one thing … you are not in this alone.
Maintaining Employee Productivity + Unity
With over 75 million people working remotely, how do we ensure productivity and make working from home as normal as possible?
The first step I always recommend is issuing the proper company-owned equipment. This typically includes a laptop, a headset and maybe a secondary monitor. It’s crucial to remember that each employee’s role and responsibilities differ, so people will have unique needs. An easy way to collect this data and prepare for demand is to make each department head responsible for syncing up with their team on what they will need. Hold periodic check-ins to make sure everything is functioning as planned.
To keep your employees engaged and collaborating, providing virtual access tools and investing in the right applications is key. Video conferencing and chat applications like Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, and Zoom are all great options to maintain a sense of normalcy and teamwork. I encourage leaders in each department to do regular check-ins throughout the week over a variety of mediums from phone calls to IMs to video chats to keep communication personal.
One key thing to be wary of when it comes to tools like Zoom is that you’re downloading the app from the known reputable source (ex: zoom.us). You should also follow the security setting recommendations provided in their help center and make sure there is a password on any meetings you join. Tools like this are great. It’s just important to stay on your toes as hackers are doubling down.
Ensuring the Security of Your Data
Now that you’re issuing equipment, rolling out new applications and having staff login on Wi-Fi, you’re probably consumed with concerns around the safety of your employees and private data. Although working from home is typically not as secure as the office, there are a number of ways you can put some enhanced safety measures in place. According to Gartner, some of the best ways to secure your remote access are VPNs, multi-factor authentication and, of course, your common sense.
VPNs should always be used when working from home. Not using one will put you and your company at risk. With most of the working population logging in at home, malicious actors are roaming around for weak networks to hack. There is also the massive exposure that comes along with the Internet of Things (IoT) and all of the smart devices in your home sharing your same Wi-Fi network. It’s critical to be aware.
Although we are warned all the time about spammers, they are especially on the hunt right now and are coming up with more creative ways to fool people with phishing scams around COVID-19. Whenever you receive an email from someone you may not know, the first thing you need to do is look at the sender’s email domain to verify. The next step is to read the email and look for any red flags like typos and never click links or open attachments. When in doubt, alert your Security Team to investigate.
Building a Business Continuity Checklist
Disasters and crises rarely give us a forewarning, and with them come disruptions. Many organizations are being hit hard right now by a lack of disaster recovery testing and business continuity planning. In order for your business to survive and be setup for future success, having a proven business continuity plan is essential.
Business continuity planning is the process of creating prevention and recovery controls to combat any risks or threats an organization could face. The goal is for this plan to be created in advance of any incident. It should involve input from key stakeholders and personnel across a variety of departments. The time to start developing one is never too late, and it’s good to revisit it periodically for any updates.
Here are eight boxes to check from a CISO’s perspective when building or enhancing your BCP to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Create a Business Impact Analysis
- Identify Essential Services & Functions
- Pinpoint Skill & Staff Requirements
- Flag any Potential Issues with Your Plan
- Identify Recovery Steps
- Communicate and Train Employees
- Review Your Preparedness Checklist
- Test, Test, Test
Holding it Together for Yourself
Now that we’ve discussed some ways to keep you operating securely and efficiently, I want to emphasize the importance of making time for yourself still. It’s easy for the days to blend together while being isolated at home. I highly recommend developing a daily schedule that includes items that will help you reset, like taking a walk, reading a book, exercising or even drawing. Whatever you enjoy!
One of the most challenging parts of this social distancing is often separating your “work life” from your “personal life.” Especially right now, when these two worlds seem like they are combined. Making a daily schedule that includes some downtime will help.
Is Your Organization in Need of Some Pandemic Guidance?
LightEdge can help. We offer a comprehensive set of disaster recovery and data protections solutions to ensure uninterrupted performance of IT operations and mission-critical systems in the event of a disaster (or pandemic). I’m also available to meet with customers to assist with security best practices, audit readiness, business continuity planning and compliance as a service. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as time goes on. See more on COVID-19 here.
Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.
Michael Hannan has 11 years of information systems, IT, consulting and compliance experience. His expertise includes identifying and implementing general IT systems, applications and business controls in conjunction with external compliance audits. Michael is Director of Compliance at LightEdge, helping to establish, maintain and enforce information security policies and procedures.