Telecommuting or teleworking as some call it is still on the increase.

And it sure beats sitting in the car and being stuck at the same set of traffic lights every morning, doesn't it?

Globally, many companies have already encouraged their workers into the world of telecommuting but for anyone not yet enjoying the extra time the omission of the daily commute provides - read on. Before you try to convert your boss, or yourself for that matter, you need to consider how you might accomplish this home-working experience with complete integrity. By this I mean securely.

Given the fact that Telework America Survey 2001 has one-fifth of the U.S population, over the age of eighteen, already involved in some form of teleworking, it isn't surprising, therefore, that the rest of the world is beginning to catch up. As we can see people are already working from their own homes and it's a trend that seems to be on the rise, especially after one predominate date. We all need to look, however, at what kind of data is being accessed and stored on users' home/office PCs.

Consequently, we need to know what steps are being taken to protect this data and what training employees need to be given to aid them in this 'secure teleworking' environment. For an employer it should be a key area for consideration as he or she is the one that will get sued if things go wrong. For employees it needs to be something that they are aware of and able to understand fully - let's face it, if things do go wrong, they're the ones in the immediate 'firing' line; literally. This is not to say that allowing employees to access sensitive data from home, which may 'simply' be a customer database, is something to be avoided. From your customers' perspective, though, it's not so simple as their details might be leaked, so certain things need to be put firmly in place.

Working from home has many plus points including an increase in employee productivity - it just needs to be done in an appropriate manner and with all due care and consideration. Proper training, suitable equipment and the appropriate security solutions are all measures that should be in place and already prerequisite within the office. Although teleworking in the U.S. is rising, with continued growth being seen across many business sectors, something is slowing down their British cousins. It may be the fear of the extra expense that is putting many U.K. companies off the idea. Maybe they would like to give their employees the choice but fear the perceived initial expense or it may be, as some have suggested, that the U.K. is rife with mistrust.

According to a Trade Union Congress (TUC) report in the U.K., businesses don't give employees much leeway to working from home during working hours, although they do expect their guys to put in extra time 'at home' both during the evenings and weekends. The U.K. is apparently the worst offender in Europe with one in five employees toeing the line; as opposed to one in fourteen across the European Union - come on guys!

What about security? If it's not okay to do it by day, does the twilight hour make it safer? I think not! Any form of work, whether in an office environment, on the road or from home, requires a security policy - basically, a set of dos and don'ts. Security should never be compromised as it encourages people to become complacent. Do you know what paperwork your workforce takes home to finish after a long day in the office? And, do they leave it unattended in the car, while popping into the supermarket or take it with them when they call into the bar for a quick drink before getting the train home? Do you even know where it's kept when they aren't actually working on it and who else has access to it when it leaves your office premises? These are all pertinent questions if you want to stay on top of your security. Even if you hadn't thought about the apparent security risk, surely you've considered it from a business perspective?

Whether telecommuting or just finishing off a few loose ends at home, your employees should have the means to ensure that both you and their security are not compromised. Solutions from anti-virus to firewall/VPN and encryption to access control are all available and easier than ever to implement. Accomplishing a safe and secure office environment, wherever you work, is now one area that's available to all. Solutions are not as expensive as you might think and there are plenty of alternative security vendors to ensure a competitive pricing policy.

Developing strategies to protect your assets and to ensure measured growth and stability should encompass a security policy. Once in place telecommuting is a safer option, an environmentally sound decision and a less intense way of getting the best out of your employees.

Jayne Parkhouse is reviews editor for SC Magazine (


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