Pagoda Blog

Setting Up a Secure and Productive Home Office for the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 19, 2020

Whether or not we wanted to test out teleworking, the current outbreak of COVID-19 has forced many of us to shut down our offices and begin working from home. Across the world, governments are asking their citizens to help slow the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and staying home as much as possible. This means that those businesses that can operate remotely should definitely do so, resulting in impromptu home office setups worldwide. 


While some may welcome this opportunity to avoid the daily commute, it presents a challenge for employers—how do you ensure that your newly remote workforce can accomplish everything they did at the office without weakening your cybersecurity? In times of crisis, bad actors take advantage of people’s increased vulnerability, and this is especially true when it comes to a spike in inexperienced teleworkers. The shift can also negatively impact productivity as workers adjust to working in the same space as their spouse, children, or other housemates and to collaborating via video conference or online messaging. We have several tips to help you set up a home office that not only protects you from cyber threats, but also keeps up productivity and maintains collaboration and connection amongst your team. 


Rearranging the furniture and securing the equipment 

As you begin rearranging furniture in the spare bedroom or clearing off the dining room table to make room for your new home office, there are a few cybersecurity practices to take into account.


Require the use of a Virtual Private Network

When your employees are each working from their own home office, the Wi-Fi connection is a critical point of weakness. If a team member is accessing company files using an unsecured connection or one that’s easily hacked, it puts you at risk of a data breach. To avoid this risk, require that employees always use a Virtual Private Network or VPN when using Wi-Fi outside the office. A VPN encrypts the connection between your company server and the employee’s device, meaning that any data sent over a VPN is scrambled, rendering it unreadable to eavesdroppers.      


Secure your Wi-FI router 

You and your employees should all take the time to check the security of your home Wi-Fi router when setting up a home office. Your router, like any piece of equipment connected to the internet, is a potential entry point for hackers looking to gain access to your online data. Check out our blog post covering this topic for a detailed list of all the steps required to secure your Wi-Fi router.  


Implement 2FA for company account access

Requiring 2FA is an easy and highly effective way to protect company data. 2FA or two-factor authentication requires two pieces of information to log-in to an account. This extra step means that anyone trying to access your account would need your username and password plus access to your smartphone or a token or security key. Check out our post, What is Two-Factor Authentication and Why You Need It, for more information. 


Be on the lookout for phishing emails

During times of crisis, phishing scams often spike. Bad actors use creative social engineering tactics to take advantage of people who are desperate for information or simply in a vulnerable state. The COVID-19 outbreak is no exception, and people have been reporting phishing emails that mimic reputable organizations such as the CDC, WHO, Cigna, and Canada Air. 


Maintaining collaboration and productivity  

A secure workplace is only half the battle when transitioning your team from a shared office to the privacy of their own home. Some people thrive in this setup, but others struggle with the loss of in-person daily collaboration and community. The constant distractions at home, from laundry to a walk with the dog, can also take a toll on productivity. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the feeling of isolation and help your workers regain their focus. 


We highly recommend investing in Microsoft’s Office 365 Business or G Suite for Business to gain access to online communication tools like video conferencing and online messaging, as well as the ability to collaborate in real-time on documents. There are also simple tricks to help you improve your productivity online, like limiting your email time and creating a virtual to-do list. 


Depending on your company culture, it may be a good idea to schedule a set time each day for a team check-in so colleagues still feel like part of a team. These check-ins should be a time for both items of business and personal wellness checks as everyone grapples with the new reality of life during a pandemic. Lastly, you might consider trying out a meditation app in this time of stress and uncertainty. Meditation or even a basic mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and increase focus. We reviewed a couple popular apps in this past post


And don’t forget to cut yourself some slack 

While we understand that the circumstances may require some policy changes after teleworking is already taking place, it’s still better to implement these practices late than not at all. Try your best to cut yourself some slack during this period of uncertainty and stress. As you take the time to safeguard your company, productivity and morale may take a temporary hit, and that’s to be expected. If you can, hire an IT Managed Service Provider to help you implement the above practices, this can help save time and reduce slowing down your business.  


Related posts: 

Why You Need a BYOD Policy and How to Create It

How to Leverage Cybersecurity as a Competitive Edge for Your Business


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