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As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, working from home is the new normal for many American workers. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a mandate, effective on Friday, March 20, 2020, that requires all non-essential employers to reduce their on-site workforce to no more than 25% of the workforce. Certain essential businesses are exempt from this order, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions.
For many organizations this situation may be challenging. This article will provide employers with information they need to ensure their remote work is as secure as possible. Additionally, we will give tips for employees on how to best to stay productive and manage working from home.
Create a Policy
Remote work carries several risks and challenges for an organization. Employers need to review their information security policies to determine if they have established security guidelines for remote work and remote access to organization information systems. If your organization does not have a remote work policy, now is the time to establish one to address remote access to information systems.
The policy needs to outline the expectations of employees during remote work. Provide the plan for how remote work will be conducted, including any security measures that must be put into place. Explain that the organization is not responsible for any operating costs, such as utilities, that the employee incurs as a result of working from home. Also, clarify that all work that the employee conducts while at home is considered organization business and must be safeguarded. Be explicit in informing employees that they will only be covered under Worker’s Compensation for work performed for the organization. If an employee needs to go see a doctor or take care of something outside of the home for an extended period of time during the day, encourage them to notify their managers. If you need assistance in drafting a policy, please contact us.
Management needs to familiarize themselves with the organization’s security guidelines and plans. It is essential that this information is then communicated to employees. Remember, most employees are not security experts and may be unfamiliar with what is expected. Providing direction to employees that they can understand is critical.
Organizations need to review response plans for data breaches to ensure they are prepared to respond to a security incident. If necessary, the plans should be updated to reflect the current environment.
During this pandemic, many employees are working at home while other family members are doing the same. Make clear that employees are not to share work computers or any devices that contain organization confidential information. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access to protected information.
Keep in mind that HIPAA and other privacy laws are still in effect.
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (“VPNs”) ensure that internet traffic is encrypted. Organizations that utilize VPNs need to make sure that employees are exclusively using the VPN when working and remotely accessing organization information systems.
Track Non-Exempt Time
Organizations that have non-exempt employees working remotely need to ensure they are accurately tracking those employees’ time in order to avoid potential wage and hour issues.
Non-exempt hourly employees need to have their time tracked in order to properly pay them and account for overtime. There are several applications that provide time tracking capabilities for remote employees.
Have a Routine
For many people, the idea of working from home is appealing because it means they can roll out of bed and work in pajamas all day. But experts say that sticking to your morning routine by showering and getting dressed will improve your mind state and psychologically prepare you to start your workday.
Keep your Working Hours
Most employees who are working remotely have set schedules and hours of work. It is important to keep these hours when you are working from home. Start your day at the same time you would enter the workplace and finish your day at the time your workday ends.
Working from home requires greater trust between employees and employers. If you are taking an unscheduled break for any reason, make sure to inform your colleagues and supervisors of the time period you will be unavailable.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
At this point, it is possible that you have a full house including roommates, significant others, or spouses and children. Potential distractions are everywhere. If space allows, ensure that you have a desk and comfortable chair in a private location where you can work peacefully.
While social distancing is being advised for the foreseeable future, and several states including New York have closed gyms, it is crucial that you get exercise. Whether it is a walk to get fresh air or an exercise app on your phone, exercise plays an important role in mental health and productivity and is something that needs to be emphasized during this difficult time.
While routine is important, if work is becoming monotonous and your productivity is slipping, take a break. It is important to take breaks from the computer screen and get up and move around.
Many experts recommend the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management method that breaks work periods into 25-minute intervals which are followed by short, typically five-minute breaks.
Make it a point to get out of the house – even if it is just for a walk around the block – at some time each day.
Learn from your Experience
As mentioned, working remotely is a new experience for many workers. Keep that in mind as you are beginning and pay attention to what works and does not work for you. Over time, implement the methods that lead to your most productive self. Remember that this is a process, and work on improving your efficiency each day.
In the days of social distancing and self-isolation, many workers may feel anxiety or depression with such limited personal interaction. This can lead to a negative impact on morale and productivity.
Even if you cannot get together in person, make sure to regularly call your colleagues and use videoconferencing or FaceTime. This visual interaction with others can be a therapeutic during this crisis.
Due to the pandemic, remote work is more prevalent than it has ever been. While this experience is new to many, workers need to take steps to maintain structure and discipline to their day and take steps to minimize the isolation issues that can arise.