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Protect Your Home

Risks of working from home - not only cyber[1]!

Coping with the spread of the covid-19 pandemic is still at its peak, and it seems that we have just moved on to a new phase - "Living along with Coronavirus". This new routine has forced many organizations to adapt their operations in different ways, in light of the Israeli Ministry of Health's guidelines and the market situation, including customer preferences, suppliers and stakeholders in Israel and abroad. One way in which organizations and businesses can adapt to the situation, is by working/remain working from home - fully or partially, as has been the case in recent weeks.

Until now, working from home has been necessary as Business Continuity Plan, but after experiencing the advantages that come along with it, companies and businesses might choose to continue working remotely as a routine. Therefore, it is important to recognize the risks involved in working from home, aside the opportunities and benefits. The first risk of working from home is the cyber security risk, but apparently, it is not the only one. There are other risks of high prevalence and critical impact such as: human mistakes, wrong business judgment, conducting an operation (e.g. executing a transaction) without obtaining approval, failure to meet deadlines, non-cooperation / synchronization between members of the workforce, reputational risk, and even embezzlement and fraud risks from exploiting the chaos to perform prohibited actions.

In order to map the risks of working from home, we should examine the employee's environment:

Work Environment

The workspace landscape consists of both personal and general workspace:

Personal Workspace - The personal / private workspace is also called the ergonomic environment. The employee is accustomed to his/her "physical" working conditions in their daily work environment, such as desk height, chair type, mouse pad and keyboard type etc. By making the transition to working from home, the personal workspace completely changes, and the employee might find him/herself in a new environment (such as a room in the house) which would not necessarily be adapted to his/her needs and / or similar to the previous working environment he/she was used to. Imagine a person is used to driving his/her own private car (a small family car with automatic gearbox) and suddenly, they are asked to drive a commercial car (a large car with manual gear), these changes could affect the driver's performance and even cause an accident.

General Workspace - General workspace refers to environmental parameters that the employee is accustomed to, such as: room size and personal space - crowded / open space / private office, temperature and lighting, a quiet working environment / noisy etc. For example, in trading rooms, dealers shouting at one another as part of the normal business behavior which they are accustomed to.

Social environment

When an employee arrives at the office / workplace, he/she would normally meet their colleagues at the cafeteria and / or in the conference rooms where they would usually have informal conversation, "chit-chats" etc. An employee would also be able to drop by their boss' office to ask and consult about anything with regards to professional issues or perhaps to consult with a colleague to whom they are sitting next. All of these are used for refreshing, exchanging opinions and even finding solutions to professional issues. When an employee works solely from his/her home, their social environment almost entirely disappears and reappears only through targeted phone/video calls.

Mental environment

Current conditions place great uncertainty about the future alongside a health / financial threat to the employee or to their family, as well as the intensive stay at home with other family members (or alone when it comes to working in isolation or living with older family members). This stress and uncertainty may affect the ability to concentrate and perform, which could eventually lead to emotional disconnection, restlessness and nervousness. Not only will there be delays in meeting deadlines, but it might also lead employees to be making mistakes or making inaccurate transactions, obtaining wrong business judgment, treating clients / suppliers inappropriately, while the clients / suppliers might be in a bad mental state themselves. These scenarios may lead to losses and reputational risk (for example, an inappropriate response recorded by the customer) and even to embezzlements.

Performance environment

The transition from working in the office as part of the normal routine, to working from home in an emergency state, can also result in transformation in the workflow such as: using different systems, changing in obtaining approvals processes, different means of communication with customers, etc.

Changing each environment individually or combining the changes in several environments all together creates an effect where the risk and chance of making mistakes and experiencing losses are higher.

I understand the risk and its consequences ... What should I do?

Simulate as much as possible the work environment at home to the one at work. It is important to feel just as comfortable at home, as you did in the office. It is recommended to take the electronic devices from the office such as big screen, mouse, headset, etc. It is also important to find a quiet corner in the house (preferably a room in which the door can be closed) to work in, so that you can concentrate on working and avoid making mistakes. In a situation where there are young children in the house, it is recommended (as far as the situation allows it), to take shifts with the spouse in childcare. It is also important to separate the work environment at home from the rest of the living space (for example, avoid working in the kitchen or living room).

Remember to lock the computer when leaving your workstation. This will prevent accidental operation by a family member. furthermore, at the end of the day work equipment must be kept in a non-accessible place.

Before you make conversation with a client, ensure that you have the conditions to concentrate on the conversation continuously and without external interference (children/pets entering the room etc.). It is important to minimize such interruptions as much as possible before the call begins. It is also advisable to make proper disclosures about being a home-based employee, for example: "Since I work from home, there may be some delays and certain transactions might take longer" .These disclosures can reduce potential friction with the customer. Be patient in your conversation with the customer and remember, these days are very difficult for them as well. Discovering empathy for their condition is important along with professional and sensitive answer. It's essential to remember that we live in a virtual-digital world and that every call might be recorded by the customer.

Remember to have refreshments, drinking, eating and getting your blood flow going, in order to reduce body tension. It is especially important these days as in a normal routine, employees would move around between conference rooms, whereas at home it is easier to neglect physical movement.

The Secret of Magic: Empathy .As managers, empathy and understanding must be revealed to employees and harnessed, doing it out of commitment and not out of necessity. It is recommended to monitor employees' personal and family status: Do they have older parents who need assistance? Are there any family members in isolation? The goal is to make sure the employee is mentally capable of working. It is recommended to offer employees external professional mental hotline of assistance[2]. Not only does direct assistance make an impact on the employee's performance, but it also contributes to the important relationship between the employee and the organization.

"Togetherness" Creating a Positive Social Atmosphere -Make sure to host virtual staff meetings and / or "one on one" meetings on a regular basis, in order to overcome challenges and provide suggestions for solutions, professional brainstorming and even "discharge" employees' emotions related to the uncertainty state. Conversations on social basis (not just work matters) of the teams are essential for the employee, so that they feel the togetherness, going through these rough times, experiencing similar difficulties and being able to remotely support one another.

Stability and Transparency. Building a routine these days will help employees feel stable and create clarity and transparency about what is expected of them. For example: defining work hours, work processes, reporting chain, fixed hours for team calls, one-on-one and dispatch times for deliveries.

The risk must be managed accordingly, for example: Update permissions and authority according to the seniority of the employee: An employee with seniority of less than a year will not be authorized to carry out operations of a larger scope and / or high complexity. Keep in mind that the colleges having indirect relationship, where a junior employee can consult with an experienced one or a manager does not exist in the new business routine.

As managers, make sure your instructions are clear and accurate, communication in this form of work is challenging and new, devoid of nonverbal cues and body language, and employees are not used to it. Therefore, you should not assume that employees understand, make sure the guidelines are clear and understandable.

In summary, working from home is not trivial. Apart from the need to create a comfortable and customized general and personal environment, there is a need to maintain employees' social and mental environments, enabling them to cope well with the frequent changes and uncertainties due to concerns and fears of the pandemic. Therefore, risk management in the current period begins with taking into consideration that the employee's working environments has changed and has affect their performance.

[1] The article presents a wide range of actions that can be taken to reduce risks when adjusting to each organization according to the nature of its activity, organizational culture and risk appetite. The recommendations in this article are strictly for recommendation purposes.

[2] It is important that assistance is external, in order for employees to feel completely comfortable seeking help without fearing of stigma or any work-related consequences.


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