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The absolute effectiveness of Home Working?

Forty-eight per cent of office workers have admitted they are less likely to follow GDPR practices when working from home, according to new research.

The State of Data Loss Prevention report reveals findings from a global survey of 2,000 office workers and 250 IT decision-makers in the UK and the US.

The research shows that 52 per cent of office workers feel they can get away with riskier behaviour when working from home, such as sharing confidential files via email and using personal devices to conduct company business.

The top reasons for not following safe data practices included not working on their usual devices (50 per cent), not being watched by IT (48 per cent) and being distracted (47 per cent).

Additionally, over half (51 per cent) of office workers say they feel their company’s security policies impede their productivity. A further 54 per cent of staffers admitted to finding a workaround for security policies that stop them from getting their jobs done; suggesting that employees place efficiency and ease-of-access, above the safety and protection of data. When asked about security practices, 58 per cent of office workers say information is less secure when working from home but, at the same time, 78 per cent of office workers say their company ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’ trusts them to stay secure when working remotely.

In addition to this, the survey reveals 84 per cent of global IT leaders say that data loss prevention is more challenging when a workforce is working remotely. Data loss over email is particularly challenging for IT leaders to control, due to lack of visibility of the threat.

Given that background it is not surprising that the UK is one of the least prepared countries to weather a mass home-working strategy.

A recent survey of 139,778 UK workers, revealed 55 per cent said they have little or no experience working from home.

With Covid-19 elevated to pandemic status by the World Health Organisation, major corporations including Apple, Starbucks, Twitter, and Facebook advised employees to work from home in a bid to curb the outbreak and protect their workforce. Many British businesses released Covid-19 contingency plans including compulsory home-working policies, and others closed sites and banned external visitors.

It was understandable that the UK government asked even mildly sick people to stay home, and those British workers who could work from home should do so, regardless of whether they are symptomatic, to reduce their risk of contracting coronavirus and fuelling the outbreak by spreading it to others.

That said, data also suggests that businesses must brace themselves for reduced productivity and innovation. Of the employees who do work from home occasionally, 79 per cent typically do so for just one day a week or less, and only one per cent work from home for more than four days per week. What’s more, only 41 per cent of sporadic home workers have a dedicated room to work from, and 39 per cent don’t even have a designated workstation or desk.

The main risks with homeworking include a notable reduction in sense of community (-11.8 per cent), social interaction (-10.3 per cent), knowledge transfer (-10.0 per cent), learning from others (-13.0 per cent) and informal collaboration (-5.4 per cent).

Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO, said: “Home-working will undoubtedly prove pivotal in limiting the impact of the coronavirus crisis. But the data suggests that many employers and employees will be out of their depth should British businesses be forced into lockdown for prolonged periods. Our advice is for organisations to quickly quantify where their main obstacles will be and seek support. We know how and why corporate offices impact employee sentiment but have significantly less understanding of even the short-term impact of dispersing teams into environments designed for living, not working. Global business must brace themselves, but the UK perhaps more so.”

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