How to ensure remote workers follow security guidelines: 4 tips for cybersecurity policy compliance

Close up of a keyboard with one key that has a house symbol and says "HOME OFFICE," while the key next to it has a symbol of an unlocked padlock.You’ve probably heard the proverb, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Similarly, you can mandate that your remote workers undergo security awareness training, but if they aren’t properly motivated to comply with your guidelines, they won’t necessarily adhere to your standards.

A 2021 survey of office workers around the world who transitioned to remote work during the pandemic found that 76 percent of employees feel working from home eroded the boundary between personal and professional, and 30 percent have let someone else (e.g., a partner or child) use their corporate laptop, according to a report from HP.

Additionally, 50 percent say they perceive their work laptop as a personal tool. These statistics demonstrate how remote work has heightened security risk levels and precipitated a dangerous shift in how workers think about the devices they rely on to do their jobs.

Ultimately, establishing security guidelines for people working from home and carrying out employee security awareness training, while vital steps in the risk mitigation process, aren’t enough to get staff members to follow best practices for optimal data security.

While you can penalize staff members who don’t adhere to your security standards after the fact, it’s preferable to avoid incidents in the first place by ensuring as much compliance to your company’s policies as possible. Waiting until the aftermath of a security snafu can result in significant monetary damages for your business: The global average total cost of a data breach reached $4.24 million in 2021, up from $3.86 million in 2020, according to IBM.

To increase the odds that your remote staff members will stick to best practices for data security, you’ll need to go beyond achieving awareness and inspire them to care about company-wide cybersecurity. Here are a few steps you can take to motivate your team members working from home to do as much as possible to keep company data safe.

1. Make it clear what’s at stake.

Your security awareness training shouldn’t solely cover what remote workers should be doing but also why they should meet those standards, according to XPERTECHS. Explain the consequences of a breach that will affect the entire staff – such as downtime, lost revenue and reputation damage.

2. Turn it into a competition.

Gamification is a popular way to get people invested in mundane tasks. One way to increase security policy compliance is to give employees points for setting strong passwords, updating work devices in a timely manner, and other recommended practices, according to Cybint.

3. Reward good behavior.

If you incentivize compliance, your remote workers will likely pay closer attention to recommended security practices. For instance, if an employee successfully spots and reports a phishing email, you can send a company-wide email praising their security savviness, Cybint explains.

4. Establish consequences for non-compliance.

While positive reinforcement is preferable, you should also clarify  that you will reprimand staff members for negligent behavior that compromises security. Create a procedure for dealing with willful non-compliance with remote security standards and ensure your staff members know what will happen if they act recklessly, XPERTECHS recommends.

At the same time, keep in mind that mistakes happen and don’t penalize people who acted in good faith but made unfortunate errors. Otherwise, your team members could cover up missteps instead of reporting them because they fear the repercussions, worsening the whole situation.

If you’d like to learn more about how to minimize your IT security risk level, our trusted advisors can connect you with leading cybersecurity solution providers. We can also advise you on crafting and maintaining effective security strategies and guidelines for your remote and on-site team members.

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