Employers are increasingly concerned about the risks to their data security posed by telecommuting employees. As a telecommuter, your ability to discuss and address those concerns is important, to make sure that you’re allowed to continue telecommuting, or to convince an employer to let you start telecommuting in the first place.
Data Security Basics
The biggest concern for many employers is just how safe their data is. An employer can put some very specific safeguards in place in an office environment, controlling just who has access to specific computers, and so on. But it’s reasonable for an employer to be a little worried about just who has access to their information at your home.
Wireless networks are often a concern. Many telecommuters take advantage of unsecured Wi-Fi to do their work, whether they’re at home or at the local coffee shop. For many businesses, this situation is the start of a nightmare: What if someone malicious manages to get your passwords through one of those unsecured networks, or just copies all of the company data on your laptop? While that sort of scenario may not seem particularly likely to an experienced web worker — especially one who knows to take a few precautions — it remains a concern for employers.
Some companies provide computer equipment to their telecommuting employees as a matter of course. Along with your laptop or other equipment, you’ll likely get a training manual or other guidelines setting out how your employer expects you to use this machine. They pretty much boil down to the fact that this is a work computer and should be treated as such.
But you may also find that you’re doing work for an employer on your own computer. While an employer can’t require you to use your computer in any specific way, they will feel more comfortable with a telecommuter who takes a few precautions. Letting your kids use your computer can be a big concern from an employer’s point of view — they’re worried that a child could download a virus or some spyware that endangers not only your data but even your ability to work.
Reassure Your Employer
These sorts of worries aren’t insurmountable, though. Just taking the time to discuss the issue with your employer offers you a chance to demonstrate that you won’t place company information at risk and that you are aware of potential issues. If you can tell your employer about the precautions you take, you may even be able to skip a lecture from the IT department. The precautions many employers care about, whether or not they’re providing you with hardware and software, can include several different expectations. They can vary depending on the company and the sensitivity of the data involved, but taking the following steps can help to ease a manager’s worries:
- Maintaining up-to-date virus protection
- Connecting to the Internet through a secure network
- Limiting the people who have physical access to your computer
- Only using applications that have built-in security measures, such as using SSL
What measures have you taken to reassure your employer that its data is safe?
Image by Flickr user Steve Garfield