Learning to run a business in the ‘new normal’

Businesses are facing ever new challenges. As we settle into the ‘new normal’ it goes without saying that nobody predicted or could anticipate 2020.

Earlier in March many office-based businesses were forced to work from home, following Government advice. Following the Prime Ministers announcement the Government advice is again to work from home if you can. In addition to this, only last week did the Financial Conduct Authority ask businesses to operate from home.

If you have left your commercial property unoccupied you must let us know so that we can inform your insurers.

As previously advised, buildings, whether temporarily closed or permanently unoccupied can be at greater risk from theft, escape of water, arson or vandalism. If you have completely closed your business premises, our top tips to ensure your business premises are best protected during this unprecedented period of unoccupancy are:

  • Your Insurance Policy Unoccupancy condition – Check to ensure the period of unoccupancy before you must inform your insurer.
  • Secure the premises. Ensure that for security reasons intruder alarms are set in accordance with policy requirements and the building and windows are all secured.
  • Turn off the water supply. In empty properties, leaks are less likely to be spotted early. During the period of temporary closure turn off any non-essential water supplies at the mains.
  • Ensure fire alarms are working correctly.
  • Visit the premises as often as possible. Try to visit the property as often as possible to check it remains secure, whilst of course following the latest Government guidelines on travel restriction. 

Working from home in the “new normal”

In the last national lockdown the FCA expected home insurers to extend cover to people working from home. Whilst some home insurance policies do this its essential that you check with your insurer for their acceptance..

For employees working from home on a now more permanent basis it is worth considering:

  •  adequate lighting and ventilation
  • an adjustable chair with back support
  • an uncluttered desk with everything you need in easy reach
  • placing your monitor at eye level (try hard back books)
  • using accessories such as a keyboard, mouse, wrist-pad, headset, webcam and footrest

 The new-found risks of remote working

 Digital and Online Risks

As remote working has moved from a temporary to a common working practice, businesses should revisit their cyber risks.

Digital technological advancements have thankfully made it possible for many businesses to work from home and operate in an almost ‘business as usual’ fashion but a remote workforce can however make it more difficult to monitor and contain threats to your IT security.

 Employees working from home on a more permanent basis

There has been a large increase in the amount of traffic accessing networks remotely via home wi-fi’s. The IT infrastructure within many offices is such that all employees connect to a secure encrypted server. Put simply, when employees access your company’s systems remotely, the risk to that exposure increases.

Remote working doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to the home.

For staff opting to base themselves in a public environment from time to time, companies should be aware of the additional risks this poses, such as unsecured open public wi-fi networks. Here are some ways that could improve your cyber security risks:

  • Try to use a Secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). Most large organisations will already have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) but smaller companies may not. This secures your company data as it travels between the company’s internal network (in your office) and your employees remote laptops and desktops.  VPN services provide security by hiding a user’s IP address, encrypting data transfers and also hiding locations. Speak to your IT provider if you are unsure whether you have a VPN installed already.
  • Ensure employees only work on devices with up-to-date software
  • Employees working from home should ideally use company owned PCs or laptops.
  • Ensure your IT support company have checked all devices that could be used to access company systems and have installed anti-virus software, firewalls and ideally encryption.
  • One of the biggest threats associated with public WiFi is the opportunity it offers hackers to position themselves between a user and the public Wi-Fi router so that they can intercept data. It is important that all home wi-fi routers are private and non-discoverable.
  • Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your company iPads, phones and other devices from the latest threats.
  • The UK Government are warning the public to be extra vigilant and cautious of scams relating to coronavirus. Unfortunately cyber criminals will take advantage of any opportunity and Coronavirus-scams are on the increase. Unbelievably there have already been reports of fraudsters using the COVID-19 pandemic to scam people looking to buy protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products (which don’t ever get delivered); sending emails targeting people who may be vulnerable or isolating at home. You can find out more at Action Fraud UK.

There have proven to be a lot of benefits to having a ‘remote workforce’ but it can make it more difficult for IT staff to monitor and contain threats to network security.

If your business doesn’t already have cyber liability insurance we recommend getting advice on the right cover for your business.

Please be reminded to review your contingency plans and business continuity plans.

If there have been any changes to the way your business operates you must let us know. Please contact your account executive at Real Insurance on 0330 058 0260.

You may also be interested to read this article from rehab4addiction about guarding mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.