Even though the weather might be telling a different story, summer is well and truly here. And as droves of people leave the office on annual leave, some are opting to take their work away with them.
Working from home has become a popular year-round option, with many businesses realising the benefits it has for productivity, morale and flexibility around other responsibilities. And while holidays are primarily for relaxing and taking time out of the office, our busy lives sometimes make it necessary to log on every now and then to keep things ticking over.
So, whether you’re intending to catch up with emails from your back garden or sneak your laptop into your carry-on bag, we’ve put together our top ten tips for working from home or away:
It’s important to make a plan for what you want to achieve while you’re away. This shouldn’t be too ambitious or unrealistic – especially if you’re taking your work on holiday with you – so define clear, achievable targets that you know you can hit. Splitting bigger jobs up into smaller steps is helpful, as it means you can tick them off throughout the period you’re away, rather than having to tackle a huge task in one go.
Sign in and sync your software
Once you have a plan in place, you’ll need to ensure that the device you’ll be working from is ready to go. So, sign into the machine and make sure the necessary programmes are all installed and have the correct permissions, while you’re still in the office. Similarly, check that your email is set up and fully synced on the machine before you go – this way, if you do have any internet connection issues while you’re away, you’ll still be able to access any old messages that you need for work.
Check your security systems
Whether you’re intending to work offline or as you would in the office, it’s crucial that your system is properly protected. Ensure your anti-virus and anti-malware software is up-to-date, especially if the device you’re taking away hasn’t been used for a while. It’s also important to double check that any company-specific security software is in place and has been updated, including Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or 2-factor authentication procedures.
Set up a VPN
The threat cyber-crime poses to businesses is certainly no secret, but many people remain unaware of how vulnerable they are to an attack. Some of the most effective methods used by criminals to bypass security systems and gain access to sensitive information, is through the use of remote devices outside of the office, particularly when using public WiFi. So, if you’re connecting to your office to work on internal files or systems – for example via cloud storage – then the most secure way to do this is through VPN software. Often free of charge, these programmes provide a ‘tunnel’ between your machine and your corporate network, meaning criminals can’t see the data passing between them.
Be cautious with file access
First of all, ask yourself whether you need to take files from the office, or if you can work on them remotely. As soon as data leaves your corporate network, it’s immediately more vulnerable to being lost or stolen. If working on files remotely isn’t an option, you need to ensure they’re properly protected, should your device fall into the wrong hands. This can be done by encrypting the data and storing it on an encrypted drive or storage device, so that if your machine is stolen, this sensitive information cannot be accessed. If possible, only take anonymous work away with you, and leave anything involving customer names and addresses, for instance, until you’re back.
Be savvy on social media
Of course, keeping colleagues updated with your itinerary or email availability is important if you’re planning on working while you’re away, but sharing your location on social media could be risky. A quick search on LinkedIn or Twitter can provide cyber-criminals with enough information for them to determine whether you’re worth their time, and can easily alert them to the kind of data they might be able to access by targeting you.
We’ve already looked at the dangers of coffee-shop working in relation to prying eyes, but what about preventing the risk of procrastination? If you are working on holiday, you’ll want to make sure it’s as productive as possible so you can maximise the time you spend relaxing and with family or friends.Keep communications clear with colleagues in the office by clarifying your availability and ensuring you’re kept in the loop with what’s happening. And make sure you define what you’re trying to achieve by knowing your priorities and avoiding any distractions – do what needs to be done and try not to focus on both family and work at once, otherwise it’ll be apparent to both that they’re not getting your full attention!
Take personal precautions
Aside from ensuring you have the necessary security measures in place, there are a number of common-sense practices you can use to boost your defences. Work with your back to a wall so prying eyes can’t easily see your screen and avoid leaving your device unattended if possible, or at least ensure you lock the screen or shut it down if you need to step away.If you require internet access, check in with the hotel or coffee shop to see which WiFi network they would advise – one protected with a security key is always preferable to a free one, so you might need to request the password along with your frappucino. Make sure you also pay careful attention to browser pop-ups and emails that require any logins or passwords, and use 2-factor authentication to provide an extra layer of protection for your device and data if possible.
Don’t bury your head in the sand
If you follow all the above advice but the worst still happens, the most important thing is not to panic or bury your head in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. It’s scarily easy to get caught off-guard when you’re in holiday mode, so if you’ve accidentally downloaded something suspicious or your machine starts running unusually, immediately alert your office to your concerns. Close your machine down or force a shutdown by holding the power button until the device switches off – this can cause some data loss or corruption, but is sometimes a necessary last resort. Don’t turn your machine back on until you’ve handed it over to your IT support team, who will help resolve any issues.
We’ve explored the dangers of an office burnout before, so make sure you’re not overworking yourself on holiday too! It’s all about balance, so if you must take your work with you, ensure you’re spending enough time relaxing as well. Having a break and ‘resetting’ can be a great way of boosting both productivity and creativity, so don’t feel bad for spending time away from the office – it can be a great thing for both the business and you!