The business benefits of flexible working are well-documented, being able to hold on to valuable staff, having a wider talent pool, reducing absenteeism, increasing commitment from employees and improving productivity. Business in the 21st century requires not only flexible working but also international travel between companies, partners, customers, suppliers or distributors. Global business travel spending was forecast to increase by 8.6% in 2015, with the UK estimated to have spent £43.5 billion on business travel in 2014 alone (Statista.com). However, in a world where security threats are becoming commonplace, companies need to measure the risks and the dangers of allowing their employees to work flexibly in the UK or internationally and look for solutions to minimise risk.

Flexible working is being enabled by the myriad and universal access of communication platforms but also raises concerns about the security of business critical information. The transfer of documents to employee’s personal devices, emailing information to externally hosted email accounts, and exchanging data and information via online communication tools such as Instant Messenger are all typical business practices for working remotely. For any security conscious organisation, this scenario is a nightmare as it poses a number of threats to document and data security. For instance, 40 per cent to 50 per cent of emails sent between Gmail and other email providers aren’t encrypted according to Google’s own Transparency Report.

The compromising of business critical communications, whether it is due to cyber espionage or by predatory cybercriminals, is one of the greatest threats business face and could inhibit a company’s competitive edge. Yet there are solutions and methods to address this without the fear of compromising the ease and value of flexible working. Primarily companies should ensure that their communications are secured through the use of end-to-end encrypted communications systems. These solutions encrypt phone calls, messages, emails and video calls in a way that cannot be unscrambled by an opportunistic hacker or nation state. Without this added layer of protection, it is quite easy for a malicious actor to hack the employees home network, deploy a fake phone mast in proximity to their house and use this to eavesdrop on all communications that employee sends.

Secondly, companies that are dealing with even more sensitive data should deploy secure file transfer technology, and further add to the protection that employees have, whilst also pairing this with mandatory anti-virus software. Many companies avoid these solutions as they worry that they will be overly complex and employees will just ignore them in favour of easier solutions. However more and more of these solutions, whilst remaining totally secure on the back-end, have been optimised with user experience and functionality in mind. This requires minimal input from the user making having secure communications stress-free and straightforward.

Finally, for international travellers, secure communications solutions involving non-contented VOIP calls and video calls can substantially reduce telecommunications costs while simultaneously improving the quality of voice and video communications in comparison to traditional GSM calls and/or contented VOIP solutions.

Whilst it’s true that working flexibly can be a boost to businesses both economically and functionally, it also brings with it some additional risks that have to be mitigated. It is inexcusable for companies to not look to the security of their employees working flexibly, and being hacked is a hefty price to pay for not planning in advance. Given the constant rise in cyber threats, and the rise in usability and functionality of security solutions, it is necessary that any company that has employees working remotely takes steps to secure their communications.

By Jonathan Parker-Bray – Founder and CEO, Criptyque