While most workplaces would by now have ironed out any issues with their remote working capability, accessing these systems from home might have been a challenge – not least because of the network pressures and outages reported by some internet and mobile network providers in the first week of nationwide remote working.
With many employees owning smartphones or tablets for personal use rather than laptops or desktop computers, the switch to remote working where company-provided IT was not available would have left some employees unable to work. Due to a surge in demand for laptops, one major insurance company eventually had to let staff take their desktop PCs home with them.
Suff says employers are under no obligation to provide technology to enable employees to work from home, but most employers would have needed to do so in such an unprecedented situation.
“There’s been very little time to put in place adequate technology and support for technology, which is really important. It’s a major stressor for people if technology fails,” she says.
“Some of these systems people will be using for the first time, so it’s really important where you’re having large-scale shifts to homeworking that the IT department really make sure that people have the tools they need to do the job. Can they print at home, for example? A lot of people don’t have a printer.”
She said there would have been little time for employers to “audit” what staff had at home, so most employers would have had to “make do” with what people had – a less than ideal situation.
It’s really important where you’re having large-scale shifts to homeworking that the IT department really make sure that people have the tools they need to do the job. Can they print at home, for example?” – Rachel Suff, CIPD
Having little control over what condition employees’ personal IT equipment is in could also present cyber security risks for businesses. Ben Griffin, director at cyber security firm Computer Disposals, says employers need reliable tools to keep workers’ productive and company data safe.
“First, you’ll need to assess your technology infrastructure. Are things like bandwidth and storage capacity at levels that can handle regular remote operations?” he says. “Security is crucial too. VPNs can be used to establish secure connections and communications between remote employees and the company’s IT computer network, while multi-factor authentication strengthens the stronghold you have over your remote security.”
Finally, Griffin notes that remote working policies need to be defined and procedures put in place to ensure smooth operation if there are technical difficulties.
Employers still have the opportunity to put simple controls and guidance in place to help support workers’ physical health, and to assess whether they can provide more equipment, to make home working comfortable and effective.
Source: Personnel today