We’re all more productive when we have the space to think, time to work, and the freedom to be creative. However, giving employees that freedom doesn’t always go hand in hand with keeping a business and its data secure. Balancing an employee’s ability to work, free from distraction in the face of a number of collaboration tools and laborious IT security processes takes fine tuning on the part of the IT team. They need to truly understand how staff like to work, the issues they are encountering and what risks are actually being faced.
We decided to explore this further by surveying employees and IT leaders across Europe and the USA about their attitudes to digital security communications and the workplace. The research was conducted through an independent research firm and it is one of the largest global surveys run to date outbound digital communications. ‘Freedom to Focus’ report tells us that the intensity of hybrid working is leading to a state of constant connectedness which is causing distraction and fatigue. In turn, this leads to mistakes that compromise company security - like misdirecting an email or sending the wrong attachment. Ultimately, these sorts of slip-ups are much more likely to happen when people are spinning too many plates. Also, with the increased hybrid way of working the changed working practices mean the underlying level of security during sending an email needs to be robust.
The data also uncovered that the majority of businesses’ attention and resources are focused too heavily on inbound threats. Despite IT professionals saying they are mostly concerned by phishing (46%) and malware (48%), and perceive email security as just defending against external threats (46%), a third (33%) also said they believe sensitive data has been put at risk in organizations due to outbound emails. In fact, over half of employees (62%) admit to email errors. A number that is probably much higher in reality. It’s a natural response to hide a mistake – something we’ve all been guilty of once or twice. However, when it comes to a potentially serious data leak, its vital that the incident is logged. With this in mind, the results of our survey are particularly concerning.
All employees spoke of being most efficient at work when they’re able to concentrate on what they’re doing. Sounds obvious but its key when you consider the sheer volume of distractions in a modern work environment.Whether they’re grappling with bureaucratic IT security processes, responding to messages on various different channels, or even being blocked from sending an urgent file to a colleague, a range of factors prevent employees from truly focusing on their work.
That’s not to say that using a range of collaboration tools is a bad thing; these platforms have been instrumental in bridging the physical divide during the pandemic. But there is a clear tension between employees’ desire for the freedom to focus and the way they currently operate.
Businesses need to find a better way forward, so staff can work without unnecessary disruptions and unnecessary risk. A good starting point would be the roll out of smart technology that allows staff the freedom to focus, communicate freely and effortlessly, and even take a few risks when the moment takes them. All while ensuring there’s no actual risk to the business, particularly in terms of data security.
That might sound like a complex task – but once IT understands how employees like to work, the hard graft is done. For example, most people we spoke to prefer email, seeing it as a trusted and safe way of getting their job done. But troublingly, it’s a misnomer as employees are far more likely to make errors on email when they’re unable to focus. So, what is to be done to support employees use of email without undue friction?
Too often IT turns to training as the solution but with mediocre results. The vast majority of IT leaders (76%) consider it as an important way of improving security, yet almost two thirds of employees (64%) disregarded their training in its entirety. This disconnect between IT and employees points to a significant waste of time and money. What our research supports is that IT security training alone is failing, it needs to be balanced with technology that should work harder to reduce the risk of human error.
Progressive risk management is a likely answer. Technology powered by smart security can work behind the scenes, helping employees stay safe and stop potential data leaks caused by mistakes. With such technology, common easy mistakes like sending an email to the wrong recipient or mixing up the Bcc and Cc functions are less likely to happen. Beyond error correction, smart technology works by securing (no keys) encryption, intuiting what the right level of security to correspondence should be – and applying it, providing the ability to revoke emails, as well as applying protection before, during and after sending one. All this would go a long way in preventing companies from suffering reputational, legal and financial repercussions.
Clearly, with the stakes this high, businesses need new strategies to mitigate data breach risk. We believe that employees must be empowered to focus on work that truly matters without unnecessary IT friction and free from unwieldy security protocols. Smart technology and a proactive risk management approach can usher in a new age of security digital communication, allowing businesses to remain secure, productive, and fluid.