Working from home leads to increased 'digital anxiety'

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a boost to the numbers of people working remotely. But a new study from F-Secure finds that 67 percent of internet users who work from home reported they increasingly worry about their online security and privacy, even if nothing is wrong, compared to 58 percent of other users.

Remote workers also report raised concerns about a range of other of issues, for example 65 percent of those who work from home say the internet is becoming a more dangerous place, compared to only 54 percent of other respondents.

Senior Lecturer in Cyberpsychology at Nottingham Trent University Dr. Lee Hadlington, whose research interests include employees' adherence to workplace cyber security practices, says it makes sense that people's sudden shift to telecommuting has increased their anxieties about online threats:

It is not surprising that individuals have started to worry more about cyber security, particularly when working from home. Many individuals were thrust into the 'new normal' of home working with very little preparation, training, or equipment. Let's not forget, for most individuals in a workplace environment, cyber security is generally a second thought, and is usually something that is seen as the responsibility of someone else in the company. This, coupled with the fact that many home workers have less than perfect home working environments (e.g. desks in busy parts of the house, limited/poor internet connection, limited working knowledge of internet-based technology), means that these cyber security fears could be symptomatic of a combination of factors.

In addition 63 percent of remote workers say concerns about data privacy have changed how they use the internet, compared to 48 percent of other respondents. 71 percent of remote workers say they worry that new Internet of Things devices -- such as wearables and connected home appliances -- could lead to a violation of their privacy, compared to 64 percent of non-remote workers. While 70 percent of remote workers feel increasingly uncomfortable connecting to public WiFi due to security risks compared to 63 percent of other respondents.

"Steps everyone can take to secure themselves and their privacy when they work from home include updating their devices and software, ensuring their personal devices have security software installed, and some other basic infosec measures," says F-Secure's security consultant Tom Gaffney. "But keeping your personal and professional online activities separate from one another may be as important as any of these tips. Restricting what sort of things you do on each device and during which times can be an essential way to ease digital anxiety."

You can find out more on the F-Secure blog and there's a summary of the findings in the infographic below.

Photo credit: Maridav / Shutterstock

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