Are you safe working from home?

May 25, 2022

The future of work has brought us important reflections about historical contradictions, unprecedented possibilities and uncomfortable questions. Companies and leaderships are recurrently put in check in the face of the blatant incoherencies and exposed inconsistencies. New agendas against old paradigms. New horizons for traditional models. New values in the face of contexts still not experienced.

Among so many subjects, the flexible work model has been one of the most prominent themes in the executive agenda. To many, it has become a primary question to attract and retain talents; to others, still a hard-to-swallow paradigm. The model has gained traction as something aspirational and non-negotiable for all talents that stand out in the labor market. It is even possible to assert that flexibility has earned the position as a new nuance of social inequality by privileging, mostly, more qualified workers from the age of knowledge, to the detriment of laborers inevitably associated to production plants, stores, logistic modals and the like.

These days, questioning flexible work is becoming taboo.

Something anachronous nowadays, when being contemporary is being flexible in everything, that including mental maps and social interactions. Flexibility is the spirit of the moment.

Naturally, as with everything in our lives, there are favorable and contrary aspects to the hybrid work model. It could not be any different. Even if it is inconvenient...

It is a broad subject and still in the process of maturation. There is a long way to go.

Here, I would like to dedicate to an aspect that, in my analyses, has been little mentioned, oftentimes even neglected: information security.

Let us look at some of the main risk areas for security and compliance:

• It is quaint to picture daddy or mummy working every day from the dining room, with the children and teenagers around. Yet, how to prevent access by those family members to audios in successive virtual conferences? Almost impossible to prevent conversations from being overheard from time to time by others (including by domestic servants) who are not bound by confidentiality and non-compete agreements. How will leaks by children at school be dealt with, legally?

• The use of virtual conferences for team meetings is productive and efficient¸ as well as for one-on-one feedback meetings. Yet, how to be sure the sessions are not being recorded by the interlocutor? How to ensure assertiveness, transparency and openness given the risk of clandestine recordings whose excerpts might even be used out of context to embarrass and discredit?

• The financial allowance some companies have been offering their associates working from home to maintain their infrastructure and connectivity is interesting. Yet, how to ensure information security mechanisms on the thousands of domestic networks? Outside the corporate firewalls, millions of personal computers are currently more vulnerable to cyber-attacks perpetrated directly against the households.

• It is always a challenge to reconcile transparency in everyone’s engagement with the business direction and complete confidentiality concerning strategic secrets (for instance, mergers and acquisitions, research and development, financial performance, to mention a few). How to ensure confidentiality in handling sensitive information previously dealt with in safe rooms in the current household setting, where notes, report printouts and the electronic screens themselves are vulnerable to family members’ curiosity?

• It is fundamental to hold candid and open conversations between leaderships and teams on an ongoing basis, with the creation of a space of trust and influence so that sensitive themes may emerge and, then, be dealt with maturely by all in the group. Yet, how to create that environment in the virtual context, where some refuse to turn on their cameras, with countless justifications unlikely to receive acceptable objections?

• It is important to control the working hours in relationships subject to union’s agreements and legal frameworks. Yet, how to effectively control working hours in a household environment with countless interruptions and a multiplicity of concurrent activities that, on the one hand, fragment agendas and, on the other, stretch work shifts beyond the more conventional intervals in a face-to-face environment? How to ensure people are truly delivering on their agreed-upon work shifts, without allocating time to other activities (perhaps, activities remunerated by third parties)?

• It is crucial to monitor the productivity and quality of the work performed by individuals and by groups. Countless tools and several management rituals to carry out that surveillance have been developed for face-to-face environments. Yet, how to implement productivity and quality controls on the virtual environment? And how to prevent the materials produced from being copied somehow to be shared with third parties?

These are some of the several operational challenges related to security and compliance in the paradigm of hybrid work or worked performed from home. Beyond fantastic scenarios of surveillance cameras and smart robots monitoring everything and everyone, the most pragmatic reflections should revolve around the acceptable boundary conditions to experience this new model.

It seems reasonable to say the flexible work model is becoming a new paradigm. But we are still far from robust responses to so many unresolved challenges.


Daniel Augusto Motta é Managing Partner e CEO da BMI Blue Management Institute. Doutor em Economia pela USP, Mestre em Economia pela FGV-EAESP e Bacharel em Economia pela USP. É Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Atua também como Managing Partner da corporate venture capital WhiteFox sediada em San Francisco (EUA), como Senior Tupinambá Maverick na content tech Bossa.etc e com Membro do Conselho de Administração da Afferolab. Também atua como Diretor de Planejamento Estratégico da UNIBES e Membro do Conselho Deliberativo do MASP. Foi Membro-Fundador da Sociedade Brasileira de Finanças. Foi Professor nos MBAs da Fundação Dom Cabral, Insper, FGV, ESPM e PUC-SP. É autor de diversos artigos publicados por Valor Econômico, EXAME, VocêSA e Folha de São Paulo, e também tem três artigos publicados pela Harvard Business Review Brasil. É autor dos livros best-sellers A Liderança Essencial, Anthesis e Data Insights.