As more employees demand more flexibility, firms are learning how to adapt to the telecommuting trend.
Is it wise to allow employees to telecommute?
“If implemented correctly and thoughtfully, I believe it’s wise for law firms to allow their employees to telecommute”, says Caroline Cantelon, Sales Manager for Speech Processing Solutions Canada. “Many firms understand that telecommuting increases productivity, and can be leveraged as a perk in the hiring process. Telecommuting can also be more efficient and cost effective, saving money and time on travel, while lowering overhead costs for firms who no longer have to maintain an office space for those employees.
Having said that, many firms have historically not put enough emphasis on security during the telecommuting process, which can lead to a plethora of issues for the firm. Security protocols are a must for firms looking to implement telecommuting.”
What are some safety rules to set up? How about a telecommuting policy?
It is the responsibility of both the firm and its employees to be aware of their data safety. To ensure the highest level of security, firms should implement educational programs to ensure employees are using their technology wisely from home, and are using best-practices when it comes to data and file access.
Devices and computers should be authorized for a single-user only, and passwords stored in a secure manner to protect against hacks and attacks. Firms and employees need to be conscientious of where they are entering sensitive data into an application, since apps may not be secure.
Cantelon mentions: “Attorneys often tell me that they will dictate an email via Siri or their phone’s digital assistant, and have the dictation automatically sent to the recipient, but they don’t realize that this information is not secure and is stored in the cloud, leaving it vulnerable to attacks.”
Law firms should consider implementing an approved list of applications that utilize additional security features – like PIN access and encryption – to help manage what applications can be used for business on their personal device. It’s also important to note that employees need to be cognizant that they are using a safe and secure Wi-Fi connection away from the office.
Along with education, firms may want to implement more formal policies that allow employees across all levels to operate with the same understanding of secure technology practices, providing measures to ensure a safe and efficient work environment, regardless if an official office space is being used. When creating a policy, firms should consider all aspects of the telecommuting process, including: How will employees access files? Will there be protocols for paper copies of files? Will employees be able to store paper files in their home or remote offices? What processes should be put in place for file sharing and reviewing?
How do you protect sensitive information when employees are telecommuting?
In order for employees to take proactive measures to protect sensitive information, organizations must provide the tools for telecommuters to form safe technology practices. Encryption is a key component to comprehensive data security. Firms should ensure that all their technology uses encryption, from cloud services to local email servers, in order to keep data as secure as possible. Even smartphone applications, if downloaded for business use, should use encryption.
Additionally, organizations can require two-step authentication, pin numbers and tokens that change each time one requests access to a VPN, which will keep data secure if a device is stolen or if the firm is hacked by a third party.
Are there any technologies you recommend for telecommuting?
Cloud services are a wonderful asset to firms where employees telecommute. Cloud-based services grant individuals access to applications, services, documents and resources via a secure internet connection. Cloud services allow employees to maintain a high-level of efficiency and security while working outside of the office. Before implementing any cloud solutions, firms must review the service’s security protocols to be sure that their sensitive data will be protected.
Finally, telecommuters need mobile devices to work on the go and stay connected outside the office. It’s not common for firms to provide personal devices to their employees, so it’s imperative that organizations provide education on secure mobile devices, or provide specific devices with added security features to protect employees and firm data. Making sure mobile devices and applications offer additional security features, such as encryption, will help to increase data security in case a device is lost or stolen.
Getting started step by step
Firms that want to start their own telecommuting programs should begin by further educating themselves on security risks, assessing said risks, coming up with policies and deciding who they will allow to work from home.
After weighing the pros and cons, they can determine if telecommuting is going to work to their advantage and contribute to their overall success.
We’d like to thank Caroline Cantelon for this interview and her insights on this topic.
Some sections and quotes from this post were originally published in the article, “How to Make Telecommuting Work for Your Firm,” written by Kylie Ora Lobell for Legal Management magazine.