Strategies To Maintain Strong Security Practices in a Distributed Workforce 

Talk of a workforce model that has been around for more than three decades – the distributed workforce. The term has often been used to describe a flexible workforce model. 

According to a 2023 report by Owl Labs, 56% of global organisations allow for a distributed workforce. They believe it helps eliminate the costs and requirements that come with getting an office space. 

Other factors such as increased productivity have contributed to the adoption of this workforce model. Studies show that employees that work from home invest more hours when compared with co-located employees.

A distributed workforce incorporates other terms such as remote and home working, working abroad, teleworking, and telecommuting. These terms have been used interchangeably since the 1970s. 

The advent of the covid 19′ pandemic, which necessitated organisations and individuals alike to carry out their activities from different locations worldwide, further popularised the distributed workforce model. 

The distributed workforce is efficient for your business growth. With its implementation, your business tends to have better employee engagement. With it, employees have greater chances of focusing on their work. 

Moreso, a 2023 survey by goco.io reveals that 80% of workers believe a distributed or remote work model enhances their mental health. They have greater autonomyand independence by working from home or in a more preferred environment. This has been shown to produce a more satisfied workforce with improved mental health, a productive state of mind, and a genuine love for the job. 

how Distributed Workforce works

Simply put, if you’ve got to work in a team where all team members operate from multiple locations such as homes, co-working spaces, or satellite offices, that’s a distributed workforce there. 

Unlike a co-located workforce where employees work from a dedicated location, a modern distributed workforce engages a wide range of software and connectivity tools.

These tools enable the remote team to collaborate on projects, participate in virtual meetings, and share work-related documents without hiccups. 

Have you ever thought about how remote work would have survived without the intervention of collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, WebEx, and many more?

The global pandemic in 2020 further quickened the distributed workforce model, which has been propagated from different quarters to be the future of work. The future of work came so fast that even after the pandemic, it has gone mainstream. It’s the talk of the town. 

For instance, a recent survey by Buffer titled “State of remote work” had 71 percent of respondents say their organisations allow some amount of remote work. Moreover, in another recent survey by Owl Labs, 16% of organisations now operate remotely. 

While these figures are expected to rise in the coming years, especially with the introduction of artificial intelligence, and other sophisticated collaboration tools, it is no gainsaying that the distributed workforce model has its own benefits for organisations and employees alike. 

Part of the perks that tops the list is the potential to save organisational costs and a better work-life balance for employees. Organisations may only need a central office space if they consider it necessary. 

Moreso, employees would not be concerned about food or car maintenance costs that arise if they were to report to a central office. That way, there is more time to work and rest, which improves work-life balance. 

flexibility at its peak

One significant advantage of the distributed workforce is the freedom for organisations to hire from different geographical locations and time zones. 

With a distributed workforce, you can have a large pool of talent worldwide to hire from. Guess what? You get to enjoy all the perks global hiring offers.

A distributed workforce helps organisations expand their hiring options through diverse geographical landscapes. Since talents can work from anywhere, employers can get the best across wider geographical locations. Also, a better work-life balance, reduced transportation expenses, and reduced wear and tear on vehicles are part of the perks of a distributed workforce.

5 security Strategies in a Distributed Workforce

And that brings us to the issue of security. Security is paramount to a distributed workforce, and IT security risks have taken a new turn. Today, since employees no longer work within the secured walls of their organisations with protected servers and firewalls, there are severe threats to organisations’ security and data privacy. 

Workplace information is accessed with personal computers and through different networks with a wide range of collaboration tools. This poses some security challenges as bad actors can tamper with them in seconds in the case of a security breach.

Quite a number of distributed workforces have incorporated AI technology into their system. No doubt, AI is efficient and makes work easier, however, there has also been perceptions around using generative AIs like chatbots.

Some security experts believe an organisation’s privacy and data could be compromised by heavily relying on them. These concerns have also made security in a distributed workforce a top priority. 

So you’d ask–what are the best strategies to maintain strong security practices in a distributed workforce? Let’s discuss this further. 

talk to your solution providers.

An efficient solutions provider knows other low-cost or no-cost tools you need to utilise i.e., some adaptive authentication approaches you need to learn. 

The knowledge of these tools can be beneficial to your new work environment. Your organisation could just need additional security control. This prompt lets you know an external person is attempting to access your database from a specific IP address.

You may want to question your solutions provider about the value they bring to the business. It’s also good to know if they’re able to:

  • Support zero trust network access for secure remote access.
  • Support, secure, and optimise network performance. 
  • Monitor on-network and off-network endpoint behaviour for continuous security.

In the event your solutions provider might need to be more responsive and up-to-date with newer security tools, it may be the right time to consider a change.

review and implement new security policies.

Every distributed workforce should be a part of this as often as possible. Employees need to comply with data protection laws, and they would need to be reminded about the in-practice security policies. 

Employees should know how long they can go when dealing with work-related devices, documents, and data. You’d want to ensure data is encrypted and permissions are set on who get to access the organisation’s information.

If your organisation operates a ‘bring your own device’ policy, you’d want to be sure your employees are not using the device for other non-work related purposes to prevent the company’s database from being compromised. 

Perhaps, your organisation has a porous system, which give hackers leverage to capitalise on it, and tamper with sensitive data. You’d need to know how smart data discovery works to combat these threats. 

Moreso, there will be a need to adjust your corporate policies so that validation and authorisation can be given before completing any request.

create strong passwords, and enable multi-factor authentication.

If an employee does not use a strong password, an external source can gain easy access, putting both the employee’s personal data and the company’s sensitive data at risk. 

Employees should know that passwords like “123456” fall within the category of weak passwords and, as such, should not be used. A strong password should typically contain eight characters, including letters, numbers, and symbols. 

Essentially, avoid using your name, children’s names, or your pet names. You’d also want to update your passwords every one to three months. These steps can help prevent your account from being hacked. 

For security purposes, members of a distributed workforce should also use multi-factor authentication. This entails combining two or more independent credentials to access an account or data. 

This could be the employee’s name, password, and another layer of verification like a verification code sent to the employee’s phone, fingerprints verifications, or security questions. MFA ensures hackers do not break into the organisation’s system and database. 

When there is a multi-layered authentication verification, and one layer is compromised, there is at least another verification hurdle to be crossed by the hacker which may very well end up becoming unsuccessful.

utilise the cloud to manage and back-up security systems.

There is no better place to store your organisation’s valuable data than in the cloud. Keeping your trade secrets, employee and customer personal data, and confidential documents in the cloud helps to protect them from external threats.

Typically, a cloud system comprises servers accessed over the internet, with software and databases running on the servers. In the past, security leaks have disrupted business operations. Just a significant breach of security or data loss can completely shut down activities in an organisation. 

Usually, organisations tend to back up their computer to a local or external hard drive. Companies that can afford a centralised data backup also provide one to their employees. 

However, it’s been discovered that more than these backup options are needed, as they’re still prone to system failure and hacking. 

The best option is to utilise an enterprise-grade cloud backup solution. Several SaaS providers offer cloud backup and recovery solutions for a distributed workforce team like yours.

use end-to-end encryption communication solutions to prevent leaks and hacks.

Big brands like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and so on have undoubtedly experienced communication leaks. This enables external sources to have access to the company’s valuable information.

Quite a number of these breaches happen when employees send confidential information or data via communication channels that are not secured.

Here is the crux of the matter–when you use unencrypted communication platforms to send emails, engage calls, and for video conferencing, there is a high tendency to expose private information, which makes the company vulnerable to hacks. 

When engaging a communication provider, security should top the list of things to watch out for. Engage a provider with a track record of safeguarding clients’ data and offers the latest security technology, such as end-to-end encryption.  

End-to-end encryption is a secure communication channel among users. It helps to block third parties from accessing the information shared amongst members. End-to-end encrypted data ensures privacy between a sender and a recipient is secured. 

Why these Security Strategies are essential

A report by Cybersecurity Ventures puts the cost of cybercrimes to increase by 15% every year for the next five years. Interestingly, by 2025, it is expected to hit 10.5 trillion dollars globally.  

The figures above speak volumes, and it means only one thing – cyberattacks can cost your organisation a lot if the proper security strategies are not in place. This is in terms of money, reputation, and productivity.

What’s more? Hybrid and remote workforces are usually the most vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hackers know remote workers utilise fewer cybersecurity tools, making their systems susceptible to attacks. 

In March 2021, Acer, a technology company, had a REvil ransomware attack in which the hackers requested $50 million. You don’t want that to be your organisation, right? These are more than enough reasons to implement sound security strategies with immediate effect to protect your distributed workforce from cyberattacks. 

in conclusion…

The importance of educating and training your distributed workforce on security practices cannot be underestimated. Hackers do not relent on new ways to hack into organisations’ databases. They often upgrade their methods of operations.

In the same vein, there is a need for members of a distributed team to stay on top of their game in terms of knowing new ways hackers operate. It is therefore essential to train employees to identify these unscrupulous activities.

And that’s not all. Constant security education helps staff stay up-to-date with technological changes and trends in their industry, as they can stay updated with such things as ethics, quality standards, and safety. 

What’s more? Every few week, a new technological innovation comes to town, with artificial intelligence being the latest subject of discussion at tech events and workplaces. Continuous security education teaches employees to use these technologies to their advantage.

It presents the employees with newer ways of thinking while informing them about the cybersecurity threats posed by these latest technologies.

In essence, when you incorporate a training method that is continuous and engaging, your distributed workforce will have the best systems in place to prevent and be prepared in the eventuality of security threats and hacks. 

Author: Ale Oluwatobi Emmanuel – Freelance SEO Content Writer.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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