| Nov 5, 2020

How to Build a Remote-Ready Workforce That Is Prepared for Any Working Condition

The pandemic quickly demonstrated that it is crucial to have your employees ready and able to work from anywhere -- the home, the office, or on the go. This is how we made it go right at my business.
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Thanks to COVID-19, today’s workers are facing dramatically different working conditions than they did in the past — a March survey from Gartner of 800 global HR executives found that roughly 88 percent of organizations have encouraged or required staff to work at home. Since this shift will have long-lasting effects, the challenge for leaders across industries has been how to build a remote-ready staff the right way — one that’s prepared not just for this and other pandemics but any working condition.

KnowBe4 faced this problem head-on, and we learned a ton through the process of shifting our staff to a work-from-home setup. Here’s what helped us move about 900 people to their homes in just 48 hours:

Focus on Flexibility First

When you have hundreds or even thousands of employees that quickly need to shift to working from home, you don’t necessarily need to have a technological infrastructure that is 100 percent homogenous. What you do need to have is an updatable technological infrastructure that works consistently for whatever tasks your team has to do. Allowing some flexibility can allow you to meet higher demands while still getting set up fast.

At KnowBe4, this meant that some employees took their Chromebooks, box, or monitor from their desks, while we scrambled to get more of those items for the rest of our employees. We put other workers on laptops. We also expanded our Zoom subscription and had the IT team work overtime to get the VPN set up for a lot more bandwidth. We needed to tie up a bunch of loose ends afterward, but by letting workers use more than one secured option and pulling tools from more than one place, we were able to move our entire office-based workforce remote fast.


Rethink Your Security

Unless you’re a larger company that already had plenty of workers at home prior to COVID-19, you probably ran into some big security issues for the first time. The biggest concerns have been:

  • Distracted thinking — Employees who are thrust into a WFH (work from home) setup are learning new digital workplace platforms, applications, and processes, sometimes even before they’ve had a chance to hit the shower for the day. They’re also trying to balance online meetings and helping their kids with distance learning. As they try to work all these elements out, they’re simply not thinking about organizational security.
  • Cyberattacks — Phishing has always been one of the main ways criminals try to get direct access to your organization’s endpoints, credentials, applications, and other data. But the amount of pandemic-related phishing attacks ballooned up 600% in just one month, and criminals are specifically targeting WFH employees. What’s more, they’re doing it at all levels, rather than just focusing on executives. If your existing security measures don’t pick up on these attacks, your employees will likely be your last line of defense.
  • Scams customized to remote work — Cybercriminals have been molding their attacks specifically to the current work circumstances. For instance, as Zoom has shot up in popularity, we’ve seen a massive uptick in attacks that are Zoom-related.

Finding ways to help workers compartmentalize their day and offering as much education and support as possible (e.g., online tutorials, links to programs or experts, etc.) can help workers address the concerns that can pull their attention away from proper security processes or recognition. Offer simulated or other awareness training and guidance on how to recognize cyberattacks, and make sure to update employees on tactics cybercriminals are using. Lastly, try to limit the number of remote-work tools employees need to use, and keep employees connected with developers that can offer news, updates, and security support within specific functionalities or steps.

Account for human error and prepare for stuff to break.

Even if you have great tools and protocols available to your workers, it’s inevitable that people are going to make some mistakes in their setup. That sometimes might just mean a brief inconvenience or stutter in productivity. But other times, it can create real vulnerabilities — for example, if certain security tools (e.g., firewalls) aren’t working. To demonstrate how widespread this problem can be, 62 percent of employees have had one of their online accounts compromised as of June 2020, despite multi-factor authentication. So make sure that the instructions you offer are clear and that workers have a way to verify they’ve followed all the precautions necessary for a secure, efficient workspace and network. Make sure your IT team can monitor and correct setups as necessary.

COVID-19 has shown leaders around the world that the office can require reimagining in almost the blink of an eye. But by making sure that you build a diverse, scalable infrastructure, pay attention to security challenges unique to the WFH atmosphere, and acknowledge that people aren’t going to be perfect as they transition, you’ll have a foundation to provide the support necessary for employees to keep working no matter what life might throw at us. If you can also work collaboratively and transparently through these goals, you’ll be in terrific shape.

Stu Sjouwerman
Executive Author

CEO, KnowBe4

Stu is a serial technology entrepreneur and the CEO of KnowBe4, an InfoSec Unicorn and three-time Leader in Gartner's Magic Quadrant view profile


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