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The Risks of Working from Home

While lockdown restrictions have begun to ease across the UK, a number of new health and safety provisions to protect employee health, and the planning and introduction of a safe office environment are forcing many employers to extend their working from home policy for the foreseeable future.

However, whilst business leaders consider what role the office has in their ongoing operations, how much thought has been given to the risks involved in a continued period of home working; both for their employees and their own data security? To investigate this further, we asked 2,500 UK employees who moved to a home working model (following the national lockdown) to tell us more about how their employer supported them, and what information they were provided with. We have used this insight to evaluate just how prepared the country’s businesses are for the ‘new normal’; with a higher proportion of employees working from home.

Individual workspaces

When the lockdown and social distancing measures were announced back in March, many businesses were forced to change their working practices overnight. With such short notice in its implementation, employees were left to find an area in their home where they could continue to work safely, no matter what their living situation was.

As little time was given to plan after the announcement of the lockdown measures, combined with the challenge of a variety of home-life situations, it was vital that businesses evaluated the risks involved for employees through a risk assessment questionnaire exploring each employee’s new working environment. However, our research indicates that almost half of UK employees (48%) who moved to home working during the national lockdown were not provided with such an assessment.

Through our analysis, certain industries were discovered to be at greater risk by not having a full understanding of their employees’ new working environments.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those working in human resources were shown to have been the best prepared for the move to home working, with 78% of respondents surveyed having received a risk assessment for their home working space, followed by 60% of IT professionals.

However, the research shows that business owners in the marketing industry should consider introducing a risk assessment policy sooner rather than later, with the vast majority (63%) of employees stating they had not received any kind of risk assessment communication. Surprisingly, considering their knowledge of the legal implications of poor risk assessment practice, more than half of those surveyed from the legal sector (58%) also stated that they had received no risk assessment communication from their employers for their new workspace.

Cyber risks

Our study also indicates that many employees were not briefed on potential cyber security risks associated with working from home.

Over a third of employees (38%) had not received any communication from their employer on these risks, with workers in marketing (63%) and legal (50%) the least likely to be have been briefed at all. Those in human resources were again the most informed on issues relating to working from home, with 76% of respondents stating they had received specific guidance on the cyber security risks of remote working.

While businesses can ensure their employees are best prepared for cyber security risks through clear communications, they should also take steps to secure their data security infrastructure and review their resilience and recovery measures. Our Cyber Security Handbook can help guide businesses on the appropriate steps to make sure that everything is in place should a cyber-attack occur.

Supporting your employees

Despite the discrepancies in the information and equipment provided to employees across industry sectors, it seems that the majority have felt supported by their employers since the shift to working from home.

The vast majority of employees (81%) said they have been offered enough support by their employers during lockdown, with over a third (35%) feeling ‘very supported’. Those working in education felt the most supported by their employer during lockdown, with 91% stating this.

However, half (50%) of those working in marketing stated they did not feel supported by their employers during lockdown.

Whether it is through providing relevant information or putting steps in place for a secure, digital working environment, businesses need to consider their approach during these challenging times.

Our employee-focused Work From Home Guide covers everything from the basics to the finer details, enabling employees to optimise their productivity whilst getting used to this new dynamic.