The coronavirus pandemic has forced a new normal for living, working, educational learning and parenting.
As millions of professionals adapt to this whole new way of life and the work from home (WFH) reality, many also have to balance the demands of normal life, full-time parenting and home-schooling. Those without kids may find themselves feeling overburdened too, with little motivation to do much outside of the required job duties.
As we all march along, questions like these have become common: How do you create a safe online work environment? How do you adjust to the new work-life balance? How do I fit home-schooling into my work routine? How do I keep my identity and finances safe when I’m online shopping?
How do I stay sane?
Follow these expert tips for creating a secure online work environment — and keeping it all together when working from home.
Stay Secure With Smart Passwords
While WFH does offer some advantages (no long commutes or unnecessary meetings), it also opens the door to security risks for employees and their companies. This is why addressing remote access security issues is always a priority.
One of the best ways to protect information: Use iron-clad passwords. Passwords like 1234 or 1111 are a criminal’s dream, so if you’re guilty of creating easy access like this, it’s prudent to fix it immediately.
Take an inventory of your various passwords, and make sure they’re long, complex and impossible to guess. Experts recommend a mix of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation and symbols.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
You can mitigate some work-from-home issues regarding security with two-factor authentication (sometimes referred to as 2FA). With two-factor authentication, two forms of identification are required before someone is granted access to a device.
In addition to a username and password, the user will be required to input a verification code or fingerprint to verify his or her identity. You can set up two-factor authentication on your computer, smartphone and other devices.
Two-factor authentication is also smart to implement on kids’ devices because it can prohibit them from making purchases or accessing inappropriate content.
Don’t Get Phished
Phishing is a form of cyberattack where a criminal makes it look like a legitimate company is contacting you by email, text or phone. With phishing, the goal is to get you to give information or private data that can then be used to commit identity theft, financial fraud or other crimes.
Before you open an email or text, verify that it’s legitimate. Don’t respond to urgent requests, don’t give any personal data via email or over the phone, and don’t buy into offers that include prizes or trips. Avoid opening hyperlinks, particularly if the organization’s name is misspelled when you hover over the URL.
Keep Work and Play Separate
Your WFH and personal life may be overlapping, but staying safe online requires a definitive separation of the two.
Use your work computer and work phone for work. Use your personal computer for your life. Avoid downloading personal items or personal-related apps on your work computer. And just as you would do while in the office, avoid watching personal videos or anything that could be considered not safe for work (NSFW) on your work devices.
Secure Online Shopping
Being at home all day and night might just be the excuse you need to shop online. And in some cases, shopping online is your best option for receiving groceries, necessities and household supplies.
When shopping online be smart about how and where you buy, and take steps like these to protect your identity and your credit.
- Shop with Credit: Avoid shopping with your debit card and use a credit card instead. If your account is breached, you’ll have no real recourse with a debit card since the money is immediately taken out of your bank account.
- Be Secretive About Your Social Security Number (SSN): Giving out your SSN is like handing someone the keys to your car and expecting it to stay put. Thieves can use your SNN to open new accounts and stick you with the bill. Protect your identity by avoiding giving out your SSN to anyone online or over the phone.
- Monitor Your Credit Reports: Now is the ideal time to monitor your Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax credit reports. Look for any unauthorized activity or accounts. If you find anything suspicious, dispute it immediately. This is the best way to keep your credit safe from identity theft and fraud.
Be Social – But Be Smart
As social distancing requires we stay away from others, spending time on social media is essential to keeping up our communication and connections. Whether you’re on Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tik Tok or any other app, be careful about oversharing, giving out personal information or being too specific about times when you’re going out for groceries or for a stroll at the park.
Also be careful about falling for scams or fake fundraisers that ask for personal and financial information. Cyber thieves are waiting to pounce and profit from the pandemic.
Finding Calm in the Storm
As if juggling your new work environment wasn’t hard enough, now you have to stay motivated, focused and upbeat. Parents also have to find time for home-schooling since most schools are closed indefinitely.
Sometimes 24 hours isn’t enough time to get everything done.
Regardless of your home situation, adding some structure to your days is essential to staying sane. Here are some tips to follow:
- Establish a Routine: Whether you’re working, currently out of work, or home-schooling, figure out a routine that works for you and your family, and do your best to stick with it. Set up milestones and rewards to keep everyone motivated.
- Sometimes OK Is Good Enough: Adopt a mindset where it’s okay if things don’t go as perfectly planned, whether it’s your kid’s daily lesson or your work productivity.
- Get Moving: Exercise, movement and going outside are vital to your health and well-being. Take a walk, ride your bike or toss the ball with your kiddo outside. Just keep the 6-feet distance rule and avoid playground equipment, public gatherings or outdoor structures. Online workouts are a great solution too.
- Chat Away: Social distancing has thrown a wrench in some of the ways we interact and communicate, but thanks to technology, we can still stay connected with video chats. Apps like Skype, FaceTime and Zoom are free. (See other apps here.) Parents can also set up virtual play dates so kids can interact with their buddies through their tablets, computers or smartphones.
During these difficult times, it’s important to let positivity prevail. Stay vigilant and hopeful, and remember that the circumstances we’re in now are temporary — and tomorrow is a new day.