Workplace safety is an issue that extends beyond office walls, especially with the increasing number of off-site employees. Companies and remote workers alike need to take precautionary measures from the get-go in order to avoid dangerous situations.
Here, we look at two main safety concerns—technology/information security and physical well-being—and offer suggestions for staying safe while working remotely:
Credit card and social security numbers, health records, legal correspondence: businesses owe it to themselves and their customers to protect information. Yes, this concern must be addressed in-office too, but controlling risk factors becomes trickier when remote workers perform in various environments.
1. Companies can create remote work safety policies. Use specific, easy-to-understand language so employees don’t get confused by jargon. For example, you may demand that no work be performed on a public Internet connection or on non-company equipment.
2. Pay attention to password safety. For employers, measures might include setting parameters for password strength and limiting the length of time for which a password can be used without being changed. Remote workers need to be aware of where their passwords are written or stored so that they don’t get lost, stolen, or used by an unauthorized party—especially when outside of one’s home office.
3. Make the installation of company-approved firewalls and antivirus software mandatory.
4. Commit to cloud-based data backup, which can be a lifesaver when theft or loss of information occurs.
5. Watch where phone conversations get held. Remote team members should make and take calls at home or in their parked car rather than in a café or other location where others can overhear.
While remote workers don’t need to sign in at a building’s front desk or use a key to get into the bathroom, they still need to take measures to avoid potentially harmful situations.
1. Don’t meet clients alone. Select a public area such as the library. If you choose to let others into your home office, do so at a time when a roommate or spouse will be present.
2. Take the same precautions at a coworking space that you would in an office. Avoid empty stairwells or sharing an elevator with just one person. Lock your car doors, park in a well-lit area, be aware of your surroundings, and perhaps ask security to walk you out if you leave after dark. If you plan on working at off times, such as on the weekend, investigate what internal security measures are in place (such as a guard, entry code, or video surveillance).
3. Realize that harassment happens to remote workers, too. Intimidation may be virtual or during face-to-face interaction with clients/vendors. Companies need procedures in place for complaints to be addressed and action taken.
4. Maintain functioning fire and carbon monoxide alarms in or near your home office.
5. Take responsibility for safety. Lock front, back, and screen doors while you’re working to prevent intruders. In rooms you can’t monitor, close windows that are accessible to outsiders. Answer doorbells with care; strangers may observe your patterns and realize you work alone during the day. At day’s end, do a once-over of the office to eliminate potential hazards, such as a space heater or fan left on.
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