Working From Home Safety Tips
How safe are you in the privacy of your own home?
Working remotely from home is many things — convenient, boring, stressful, relaxing. However, with working from home comes a slew of security risks, like burglaries and phishing attacks. As many employees use their personal devices for work, it often falls to them to protect themselves from cybercrime. In this article, we cover home safety, environmental safety, and digital safety, with tips on how you can protect yourself while you work from home or, as it’s commonly abbreviated, WFH.
How To Work From Home Safely
When you WFH, you have to consider home security, environmental safety, and digital safety. Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can make yourself much safer while you toil away on your laptop.
Even though you’re home, burglaries can still occur, especially if you’re locked away in a home office. While most burglaries take place when the home is unoccupied, 8 out of 1,000 households got robbed when someone was home in 2007; for single moms with children, the rate climbed to 22 out of 1,000.1 Here are some ways to protect yourself from home burglaries so you can concentrate on work.
- Home security systems: Of course, you don’t want a security system to go off every time you go downstairs to get a snack, but some systems allow you to arm some sensors and not others. For example, if you aren’t going to exit your home anytime soon, you can place entry sensors on your ground-floor windows and doors; that way, you’ll get alerted if anyone enters or exits. You may be able to get a tax deduction for your home security system if your home office is your principal place of business (this doesn’t apply to people who use, say, a kitchen table as a makeshift office). Learn more about the cost of home security systems, which may or may not require home security permits.
- Cameras: We recommend that you install security cameras, both outdoor cameras and indoor cameras, in areas that you can’t see while working. The best cameras for AI alert you only when they detect people so you aren’t inundated with notifications throughout the day. We understand; you have enough things vying for your attention! Learn how to install security cameras and where to place security cameras.
- Video doorbells: When working from home, it can be hard to avoid distractions like package deliveries. But packages aren’t just distracting; they are stolen constantly. In fact, we found in our package theft research that around 4 in 10 people have had packages stolen. With a video doorbell that has person or package detection, you can get alerted whenever someone is at your door, with or without a package. Then, you can speak to the delivery person through two-way audio and give them further instructions, or tell them you’re coming down. In other words, video doorbells let you man your front door from your desk, which is much more efficient than running back and forth from your office or work environment. They also work well with smart locks, which brings us to our next point …
- Smart locks: Smart locks work well with video doorbells, as you can unlock them remotely. For example, if you’re working upstairs and get a notification that someone is at your front door, you can check your livestream and let the Amazon delivery driver in so your package is safe. You can do all this from your desk, making opening and closing your door safe and convenient.
- Smart lights: Do you have to go out for a while? Smart lights can make it seem like you’re home when you’re not, on either away modes or schedules. Learn how much smart lights cost and, if you’d prefer not to replace your existing bulbs, how to install smart light switches.
Now that you’ve protected yourself against burglaries, let’s focus on environmental threats like fire and carbon monoxide.
- Smoke and CO alarms: You should have smoke and CO alarms on every level of your house, particularly the level of your home office. Also, don’t just turn off your smoke alarm if it won’t stop beeping, as you could miss valuable alerts. Rather, fix the issue that’s causing the false alarm; the same goes for your CO alarm.
- Fire extinguishers: Your fire extinguisher should be in good working order and easily accessible from your home office. Make sure you know how to use your extinguisher in the event of a fire.
- Other fire safety tips: There are tons of best fire safety practices to adhere to in general, like not smoking in the home, using flameless candles, and replacing cords that have frayed or bare wires. Read more about the best fire safety tips you need to work from home safely.
TIP: Although many people use space heaters to warm their home offices throughout the day, remember to keep pets away from them to prevent fires.
WFH often means a ton of Zoom calls, and as we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, these seemingly safe video chats can be hacked. In April of 2020, just as the pandemic began, 500,000 Zoom passwords were stolen and sold on the dark web,2 making passwords and other digital safety measures more important than ever. Especially for businesses protecting customer data, protecting your digital devices is essential even for remote employees.
- Install antivirus software. Antivirus software is the first line of defense against cyberattacks, with protection against malware, ransomware, adware, spyware, etc. All devices that employees work on should be protected with antivirus software, save for iPads and iPhones, which don’t need antivirus software. Learn how antivirus software works, how much antivirus software costs, and how to scan with antivirus software.
- Keep your family members off work devices. Even if your work laptop has the highest browsing speeds, don’t let anyone else use it, as they could click on phishing emails or go to malicious websites, compromising the device’s security.
- Cover your webcam. Although it may seem paranoid, many people cover their webcams with a piece of tape or an actual webcam cover. Webcams aren’t immune to cyberthreats,3 as we’ve seen with the Zoom hackings, so for the most privacy, cover your webcam when it’s not in use.
- Use a VPN. VPNs provide the most data privacy, even on home networks. Once you set up a VPN, it will encrypt all of your web activity through a tunnel before it meets your internet service provider’s server. Unlike incognito mode, VPNs actually hide your browsing history from your ISP, not just on the device itself. The best part is that VPNs don’t cost much, usually no more than $15 a month at the high end, so you can get a VPN app without breaking the bank.
- Make sure your storage is encrypted. Look for a cloud provider with end-to-end encryption to keep your business data safe; a popular option with encryption is Amazon Web Services (AWS).4
- Secure your Wi-Fi network. If strangers can connect to your Wi-Fi, then they can easily see your device’s IP address and web activity. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is protected with a password that’s hard to guess.
- Use strong passwords. On that note, password strength is a must. Each of your work-related online accounts, including your home Wi-Fi network, should have unique, long, and complicated passwords. Unfortunately, people tend to slack when it comes to passwords; our password habit research shows that only 15 percent of U.S. adults use strong password generators, which most likely means that they’re repeating passwords. The easiest way to keep track of all your passwords is to store them in a password manager.
- Turn on authentication. Another advantage of using password managers is that you can add advanced authentication, preventing random people from accessing your accounts even if they figured out your passwords. You’ll need to either enter a passcode sent to your mobile device (two-factor authentication, or 2FA) or use biometrics like facial or fingerprint recognition (multifactor authentication, or MFA). We prefer MFA, which lets us open accounts using Touch ID.
- Avoid phishing attacks. Never click on emails, messages, texts, or attachments that you don’t recognize. These may be phishing attacks meant to steal your login credentials by impersonating legitimate websites.
NOTE: Most antivirus software includes protection against phishing, as do most email providers.
One advantage of working from home is that you’re in control of your office, your time, and your day. Of course, with power comes responsibility, so you’ll have to consider your physical and digital security, unlike if you were in a regular office with an IT team. The best ways to protect yourself while WFH are also the best ways to protect yourself in general, so even if you return to working at the office, we recommend the same practices.
Whether you are just starting to WFH or have been doing it for years, here’s the quick version of how to stay safe.
How do you stay safe while working from home?
There are various ways to stay safe while working from home. These are some of them:
- Install a home security system, cameras, video doorbells, smart lights, smart locks, smoke detectors, and CO detectors.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
- Use antivirus software and VPNs.
- Don’t let anyone else use your work devices.
- Use strong passwords on all work-related accounts.
What should you not do while working from home?
When working from home, you shouldn’t do the following:
- Have your security system completely disarmed; rather, arm the sensors in rooms you aren’t in.
- Use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Let your family use your work devices.
- Store important data in unencrypted local or cloud storage.
- Have an unprotected Wi-Fi network.
What are the hazards of working from home?
The hazards of working from home include burglaries, fires, dangerous CO levels, and cyberattacks that result in data breaches and financial losses.
What is the advantage of working from home?
The main advantage of working from home is convenience; instead of doing an hourlong commute, you work in a home office. WFH also means that companies can spend less on office leases, decreasing their business expenses and increasing their revenue. Of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home also reduced the spread of COVID-19, increasing the health and safety of remote workers.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS EXPERIENCED VIOLENCE IN ABOUT SEVEN PERCENT OF HOUSEHOLD BURGLARIES FROM 2003 THROUGH 2007.
IntSights. (2019). Recycling Credentials in Four Easy Steps.
Norton. (2021). Here's the reason why people cover their webcam.
Amazon. (2020). The importance of encryption and how AWS can help.