Protecting your remote workforce during a crisis

Nothing worries us more than health threats to those we love, and when everybody is at risk, nothing feels normal. Still, as part of an interconnected globe, we all want to do our jobs. The coming months will challenge us to adopt new ways of working, and we’ll need to manage new risks to our businesses and our data.

Challenges of a pandemic

Health crises create a unique type of personal and professional stress. Not only do we worry about the health of loved ones, but we question every decision that could affect them. Then, while we’re already struggling to focus on our jobs, the pandemic breaks our routines. Our kids’ schools close. We’re sent to work from home. Nothing feels stable.

In addition to our personal stress, we feel a responsibility to keep working. In this interdependent global infrastructure, everything we do makes a difference. We know that if a supply chain in one part of the world breaks down, people everywhere could suffer. Whether we’re providing health care, supplying the necessities of life, or keeping people connected, we all want to do our part. Given the turmoil, however, how can we keep doing our jobs?

Learning to work differently

As entire organizations shift to working remotely, we will learn to work differently. Online communication will replace hallway conversations, virtual connections will displace face-to-face interaction, and anything that requires physical human action (e.g. adding/changing systems in a data center) will take even longer.

Given the need for remote deployment, online collaboration, and self-service, cloud will become even more important to most businesses. It is accessible virtually anywhere, offers a vast array of functionality, and is available on-demand. To get our jobs done, we will both adopt new cloud-based products and dramatically increase our usage of existing cloud tools.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be the further blurring of the boundary between our personal and professional lives. Without a clear line of demarcation between work and home, both will suffer. It was already difficult for many of us to disconnect after work; as a remote employee it’s not even clear what “after work” means. Finding balance will take time.

Understanding data risks when working differently

Wholesale changes in the work environment create new business risks. With millions of us learning to work remotely and use new technology, we will make mistakes. Some, in a heroic effort to do their jobs, will take risks they do not understand. Despite most people coming together, there will still be bad actors who probe for and exploit exposed data. Unfortunately, there will not be enough experts in your company to detect and fix the problems before the wrong party takes advantage of them.

While the threats can come from anywhere, our experience is that organizations will be most exposed in three areas:

  1. SaaS applications – People will use SaaS applications – from messaging to documents – to replace what used to happen in person. Sensitive communication must comply with all regulations and be retained as business-critical information.
  2. Cloud native applications – Cloud platforms allocate new infrastructure quickly and easily. Without experience with the platform, however, users can also quickly expose private data, overrun budgets, and lose data. Cloud environments need oversight.
  3. Endpoints – With the blurred lines between personal and professional environments, people can download ransomware on their laptop and infect their organization. They can also download and unintentionally expose private data. Endpoint devices must be secured and protected.

During crises, we are all willing to take extraordinary steps to help our customers, companies and co-workers. However, with so much in flux, we can make mistakes that expose the organization to compliance violations or bad actors.