The pandemic continues to necessitate work from home in many workplaces. Many of these workplaces had never contemplated work from home and were flying by the seat of their pants as they set employees up. Many employees found themselves sitting across the kitchen table from their spouse, who was also working from home, in tiny condos wondering if they should be moving to the closet for those calls that really shouldn’t be overheard!
In July, the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner (“IPC”) weighed in with some guidance, releasing the Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic FACT SHEET.
The following are some highlights:
Work from home policies
Organizations with employees working from home should have these. If they pre-dated the pandemic, they should be reviewed and updated to ensure they make sense in current conditions.
Keep employees in the loop
It’s important to stay in close touch with employees when you aren’t seeing them in the office every day. It’s also important to make sure that where any policies have been introduced or updated, staff are made aware. While this is always important, it is especially important to ensure communication is regular and clear when there is no office water cooler where these updates can circulate.
Along with generally keeping employees informed, employers should make sure that employees know where to go for help as they navigate the work-from-home reality. Employers should provide employees with up-to-date information regarding where they can go for tech help, for example. Employers should also ensure that employees are informed about common issues facing other employees, for example, alerting employees to phishing scams.
Ensure secure remote access
Consider ways to ensure that remote access is more secure, for example, by introducing multi-factor authentication to employee emails etc. Everyone is going to be using a different wifi network, which can significantly increase security risks. Employees should be prohibited from using unsecured WiFi.
While many employees will not have the luxury of home offices, employers should inquire about employees’ home workspace set-up. Even where the employee has no choice but to sit four feet away from their spouse all-day, both the employer and the employee should turn their minds to what the employee can do to ensure that information is protected. For example, employees can be required to use headphones so that their spouses cannot overhear their calls and devices should be locked when screens are left unattended. If the employee is using paper records, employers should ensure that the employee has a secure place to put them away when they are not in use.
Love it or hate it, it looks like remote work will be here to stay for a while yet! Employers are encouraged to review the IPC’s Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic FACT SHEET and keep detailed records of their privacy protection efforts.