Hybrid work comes with many upsides. It gives employees the flexibility they crave—without sacrificing the in-person time in the office that leads to meaningful relationships and improved collaboration. 

However, there are new downsides to be aware of as well. Specifically, privacy risks. When your workforce starts splitting its time between the office and their own homes, it introduces cybersecurity concerns that are important to start addressing immediately. 

If you’re not sure what this means and how to get started, don’t worry. In this blog post, we’ll explore what privacy in the world of hybrid work looks like and share tips to help you start protecting your organization. 

Why hybrid work creates more privacy risks 

What exactly is it about the nature of the hybrid work model that introduces new privacy risks, compared to a fully in-office setup? 

The short answer is that your organization no longer has full control over the working environment.

In the office, your IT team works hard to ensure all your networks are protected and your computers have the right software installed. Even just by nature of working in a secured building, you’re mitigating your cybersecurity risk. 

However, when people have the option to work from home, your company no longer has control over the workspace. Your employee may have family members, guests, and contractors coming in and out of their house all day. Or they may choose to work at a coffee shop, where strangers can easily see what’s on their laptops or where their device may be left unattended for short periods of time.

All of these factors lead to increased privacy risks. 

What are the top 4 security challenges of hybrid work? 

Let’s get more specific and explore the top five privacy challenges your hybrid workforce may be facing right now: 

1. Your employees aren’t aware of cybersecurity concerns

Most people aren’t aware of the privacy risks associated with working outside the office. This is a security challenge in itself. Why? If your employees aren’t aware of the potential dangers, they won’t behave in a way that keeps themselves protected. 

Let’s say, for instance, your employee is at a co-working space and needs to use the restroom. Someone who isn’t aware of the potential security risks may leave their laptop open and leave it unattended for several minutes. This may give a bad actor time to steal the computer or peek at sensitive information on the screen.

On the other hand, if your employee is aware of the security issues, they may choose to pack up their laptop and bring it with them to the restroom. This difference in mindset can make all the difference when it comes to privacy. 

2. Public spaces lack visual privacy

According to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute, an average of 40% of organizations’ hybrid and remote workers spend time in coffee shops and shared workspaces.

The problem with these public workspaces is that they lack visual privacy. In other words, it’s easy for people to see what your employees are working on—including sensitive company information, passwords, and more. This can then lead to potential breaches in security. 

3. Transporting devices creates risk

Another risk is the transportation of company phones and laptops. When your employees have to physically move their devices from one location to another, it increases the chance of these items getting lost or stolen. This, of course, has many negative implications from a privacy perspective.

4. Secure networks aren’t guaranteed

Another challenge you’re likely facing is the fact that you can’t control the networks your employees use.

This means that if they’re working on an unsecured WiFi network, for example, they may be vulnerable to attacks that allow the bad actor to gain access to sensitive information—including passwords, key identifiers (like social security numbers), and company data. 

How to address privacy risks created by hybrid work

Thankfully, there are steps your organization can take to mitigate the privacy risks introduced by hybrid work. Here are a few ways you can get started: 

1. Invest in educating your employees

The first step is to make your workforce aware of privacy issues. As we mentioned before, most people aren’t aware of the risks that come with working outside of the office. By simply raising visibility about the potential risks, your employees can adjust their behaviors accordingly. 

How exactly do you educate your employees about this topic? There are a variety of tactics you can turn to, such as:

  • A mandatory in-person or virtual security training session.
  • A question and answer session with the IT team. 
  • Printed and digital materials that share guidelines on how employees can protect themselves from cyber attacks in public settings. 
  • Email or Slack reminders that contain helpful tips on how to maintain privacy outside of the office.

2. Craft comprehensive (but realistic) policies

Education is a great start. But we encourage companies to take things one step further by crafting an actual policy around privacy.

The benefit of crafting a company policy is that it creates clear guidelines and expectations for your employees. This makes it much more likely that people will actually follow what you propose. Your policy should cover: 

  • The company’s expectations for employees when doing work outside of the office.
  • The technologies, software, or tools that everyone is expected to use or have downloaded on their devices. 
  • Guidelines on how to take precautions in public workspaces.
  • What to do if someone experiences a breach, attack, or leak. 
  • Who to turn to with privacy-related questions, concerns, or incidences.

However, remember to keep your policies reasonable. It’s not realistic, for example, to ask employees to always keep their laptops with them while they’re at home. Or to demand that employees never work out of a coffee shop or co-working space. 

While these rules would certainly mitigate the risk of a cyberattack, they’re unrealistic and won’t be followed by the majority of your workforce. 

3. Provide all laptops with privacy filters

Even though you can’t control the environment your employees work in, you can still offer some forms of protection.

If you’re concerned about visual security, for instance, provide everyone with a privacy filter for their laptops. These filters blacken out the angled view of onlookers, while providing an undisturbed viewing experience for the person using the device.

Similarly, you can make sure that all company-provided laptops have the proper software pre-installed on them so you don’t have to put that burden on employees. 

These small investments can give you more peace of mind about potential security issues. 

4. Introduce the right technologies

According to the same Ponemon study, IT managers believe these five technologies are the most effective for protecting privacy and security in a remote or hybrid work environment: 

  • Incident response platforms. This is software that guides, assists and automates incident response. So if there’s a security incident, this technology will help your IT team collect all the necessary information, identify trends, and find a solution to the problem. 
  • Anti-virus/anti-malware software. This type of program helps prevent, detect, and protect IT systems and individual computers from malicious software, which is also referred to as malware. 
  • Big data analytics for cybersecurity. This technology helps your IT team collect, visualize, and analyze data to predict and prepare for potential cyber attacks. 
  • Identity management and authentication. This is a common tool  that’s used to authenticate the identity of a person so they can have access to your company’s applications, systems, and networks.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems. This software monitors the events occurring in your network for signs of possible incidents, violations, or imminent threats to your security policies—and stops the detected incidents when they occur.

Tip: In addition to your tool stack, try Krisp noise cancelling app. It acts as an online meeting insurance, protecting you and your team from distracting background noise.

Having these various technologies in place can help your company keep your network access secure, detect possible threats, and handle security incidents more smoothly. 

Mitigate your cybersecurity risk by introducing these changes today

You don’t have to sacrifice the benefits of hybrid work out of fear of cybersecurity issues. By taking a few steps in the right direction, you can significantly minimize the chances of any breaches, leaks, or attacks.

If you’re curious to learn more about other tools that can support your transition to hybrid work, check out our article about the must-have tools for hybrid teams