Updated: Apr 27, 2021
For many employees, the 9 to 5 - five days a week working practice has always meant there has been a boundary between the workplace and the home space and as such security measures implemented are primarily focused on home security. However, with the prevalence of WFH on a full time or hybrid basis increasing, this boundary has changed and with the home space now also providing the work space, there is a need to reconsider or at the very least ‘refresh’ security measures, so they reflect the needs of the ‘premises’ as opposed to just the home.
Is There a WFH Security Problem?
From a security perspective when WFH, in theory not much is likely to change except that the property owner will be present more often and subject to their WFH patterns, potentially ‘in and out’ of the property more frequently. At first glance, these two changes may not seem to pose much of a threat to the security of the property but if considered in a little more detail, it is clear that due consideration should be given to implementing robust security measures.
Ignoring the movements of other family members going about their daily routines, previously an employee would exit the home in the morning to commute to work, go for lunch, perhaps have an after work social event or gym visit and return home of an evening – equivalent of two ‘home’ movements. When WFH, a healthy and productive routine could include a morning walk or jog, a coffee break in the garden, a walk to the local shops or park at lunch and a social catch up or gym visit after work – equivalent to eight ‘property’ movements. With an increase in property exits and entries of 400%, the chances of leaving a window or door unlocked or an alarm not set are clearly increased significantly.
In respect of the first point, with the property owner being present for longer periods of the day and week, they are at far higher risk of being there during an attempted break in. Figures from the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) published last year highlighted that 58% of burglaries happen when someone is at home, with most taking place between 10am and 3pm, although it is possible that these figures could change markedly due to the WFH increase. Only time will tell.
So what impact would a break-in really have? Of course, some personal belongings like TV’s, sound systems and cash are replaceable but others like jewellery and family heirlooms have sentimental value and are irreplaceable. Similarly work-related items like laptops and phones are replaceable but their content may not be, and their theft could have a significant detrimental impact on the employee and the employer. For many people however, the theft of these items pale into insignificance when compared to the emotional and mental distress a break-in can have on not just the person directly affected but also on other family members.
WFH Security Fact:
The average associated cost of a domestic burglary is estimated to be around £5,930 when considering, property stolen and damaged (£1,400) and all other associated costs like lost out-put or productivity, police costs and physical and emotional harm.
(The Office for National Statistics (ONS))
What Security Measures to Take When WFH?
For employees needing to adopt an element of WFH, steps need to be taken to assess the properties current security measures and where necessary, enhance them to make them fit for the property in its new capacity as also a place of work. Aspects to consider may include:
Lighting The installation of appropriate time or movement sensitive security lighting around all external doors, gates, pathways, garages and workshops as a deterrent. The lighting would also help improve image quality where cameras are installed. In addition to this, a similar approach to internal lighting should also be considered with time sensitive units fitted
External Doors Checking of all external door locks to establish if they meet the recommended minimum security specifications and replacing where necessary. When obtaining house insurance, most comparison sites or providers ask what type of door locks are fitted on all external doors and so this can also have a positive financial baring too. A useful guide to establish what type of locks are currently installed and what options are available can be found in this useful guide.
Windows Similarly to external doors, ensuring the most appropriate security locks are installed on windows is a fundamental security measure. Even windows that do have reasonable manufacturers proprietary locks fitted, can be enhanced with extra aftermarket locks at minimal cost.
Security Cameras The installation of strategically placed external security cameras which act as a deterrent and can include features like motion detection, night vision, Wi-Fi capability, HD video recording and 2-way talk. Where a break-in does occur and there is no sign of forced entry (for example a door or window has been left unlocked), the use of security cameras can also provide vital evidence for the police or home insurance provider that a theft offence has taken place.
Video Doorbell The fitting of a hard wired or battery operated video doorbell. Packed with smart tech, these use a combination of a camera, a motion sensor, a speaker and a microphone and enable the property owner to see who is at the door (whether they ring the bell or not), talk to the visitor via their smartphone and record the conversation. When WFH, this not only provides a degree of security but also practicality, when it comes to deliveries and unplanned visitors. Units can be purchased outright or via a monthly subscription fee
Home Security System If WFH in an upstairs room or in a Garden Office, it is likely that the homeowner and employee could be blissfully unaware of intruders and vice versa. If implemented well, the introduction of a simple security system with room sensors could provide the ideal solution. With the significant advancements in smart technology, the implementation of a ‘smart’ home security system that can provide protection for every window, room and door in the property could be a consideration. These systems provide significant flexibility and can protect against not only intruders but also the presence of fires and flooding. Significant added advantages of smart systems is the ability to have them linked to a smart phone where the user can be notified of security lapses when they are away from the office, such as if a window has been left open. Systems can be purchased outright or via a monthly subscription fee
Wi-Fi Network Personal and work Wi-Fi networks if poorly protected provide a direct link to sensitive data and if linked to a home security system, could make the property extremely vulnerable to break-ins. Using a mix of the following simple measures will help in avoiding such issues: - Secure the Wireless router - Enable WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) or WPA2 encryption - Rename and ‘hide’ the home network - Use a firewall - Install antivirus and anti-malware protection - Create strong passwords
Safes With personal identity data theft being high on the crime list, installing a security safe for the storage of key items such as jewellery, passports, driver licences, bank cards and personal documentation, is an effective way of keeping such items secure. An appropriately selected security safe will slow determined burglars down and deter the opportunistic ones
Car Key Hacking Increasingly common is the practice of car key hacking. Thieves use electronic car key relay boxes to receive signals through walls or windows from a car’s key fob. By storing fobs away from front doors and windows may help but most effective at keeping keys safe, is the use of car key signal blockers which are metal-lined key wallets or special bags, also known as Faraday bags
IT Cyber Security This has rightly been a much debated topic since WFH became the only way for many to work over the past year and has far reaching implications for employees and employers which go beyond this article. Should you require further details on this subject matter, please do contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Garden Hiding Places Trees and large shrubs around the premises give burglars ideal cover during both day and night and so keeping them trimmed will eliminate this advantage
Habits Some of the simplest and most obvious security measures that can be implemented for nothing, are the changing of bad habits which are typically founded on a subconscious thought of ‘it will never happen to me’. Employees WFH should be reminded: - Not to leave external doors and windows open when WFH in a separate part of the property - Not to leave mobile phones or laptops unattended when working from the patio - Not to leave door and window keys in locks (they can be stollen and copied) - Not to leave car keys close to doors or windows (they can be hacked) - Not to post about general travel arrangements on social media - To lock all garden tools away (most burglars do not carry equipment) - To lock garages and sheds at all times - To lock garden offices when going into the main house - To close and lock doors and windows properly when leaving the premises. A very obvious one but shockingly, 31% of all burglars gain access through open or unlocked doors and windows!
Organisations often overlook security as an issue for their employees WFH but when they do, the key focus is typically related to that of cybercrime. Seldom if at all is the same level of attention given to the physical security requirements of their employee’s home working zone. Failure to consider this key element could have equally if not greater damaging repercussions and so guidance and good practice should be promoted and discussions had on how employees can best protect themselves and therefore the organisation
In summary, there are clearly some low hanging fruits when it comes to improving WFH security measures and employees should be encouraged to adopt these as a minimum. But in addition, there is a discussion to be had with regards to how an organisation can assist with additional property security relating to the WFH Zone and how they could be funded. After all, organisations typically spend significant sums annually on security measures within the conventional office environment and so it seems reasonable that they may contribute to employee’s home working security needs.
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