Security problems not raining on remote working's parade

Most business managers are worried about the security implications, but the number working remotely is rising rapidly

The increasing numbers of staff choosing to work remotely are posing an IT security headache for managers, according to a new survey.

More than half (55 percent) of the 500 business managers who took part in the poll said mobile and remote working is making it increasingly difficult to control what staff are uploading onto laptops and mobile devices.

Almost half (48 percent) said that remote working also makes security patching more of a problem and more than a third (39 percent) feel they are losing control. But despite security concerns around viruses and staff installing illegal software, three-quarters of managers said remote working is good for staff motivation.

The NOP research was sponsored by the software industry body the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which claims the results highlight a dangerous attitude by UK managers through a failure to enforce IT management polices on staff who work from home or on the road.

Siobhan Carroll, regional manager of the BSA, said mobile working is good for UK businesses but that there are also practical considerations that managers ignore at their peril.

"Bosses need to keep a tight rein on exactly what their staff are putting onto their mobile devices. This research suggests that UK bosses have a dangerously lax attitude to the downloading of illegal software on company devices," she said in a statement.

Separate research from employment arbitration service ACAS and the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) suggests the problem is set to increase. The study of 3,200 managers and 1,000 employee representatives found a dramatic increase in flexi-working and remote working across the UK workforce.

Almost a third of UK businesses now offer staff the option of working from home — nearly double the number that did six years ago, according to the ACAS and DTI study.

ACAS chair Rita Donaghy said in the report: "Flexible working helps employees handle responsibilities such as childcare and caring for others while still carrying out their job effectively, and employers benefit from keeping the services of good employees they might otherwise lose."