COVID-19 lockdowns are largely in the past, but the age of remote work has just begun. According to a study by Upwork, 22% of jobs will be remote by 2025.

If you’re one of the many professionals working from home, you know about the rewards: no commute, flexible hours, afternoon naps and (for some) working in bathrobes! But have you thought about the risks?

If your home Wi-Fi network gets hacked, you could inadvertently expose your company’s sensitive data to theft. And if you routinely work from your couch or bed, you can experience muscle strains and injuries. Not to mention, it’s easy to let snacking get out of hand when you work mere steps from your kitchen.

To create a safe, secure and productive home office, follow these tips:

Design an ergonomic workspace

Standing or sitting for long periods can cause stiffness, soreness, and muscle and joint fatigue. A properly designed workspace can improve your work, well-being and quality of life.

Create lumbar support. Buy a chair with lumbar support to maintain good posture and prevent lower backpain. Look for an adjustable chair with an “s” shape. This will help support your spine’s natural curve. If you don’t have the budget for a new chair, roll up a towel and place it behind your back.

Adjust your chair. Ensure your knees are level with your hips and your feet are flat on the floor.

Place your monitor directly in front of you. Your monitor should be behind the keyboard and within anarm’s reach (18-24 inches). Use a laptop stand or a stack of books to raise your monitor to eye level.

Adjust your work surface. Consider a standing desk so you can alternate between sitting and standing.Standing promotes movement, alleviates back and shoulder pain, and energizes you. When you are sitting, raise your desk (or chair) so your arms and wrists are level. Keep your keyboard and mouse close to avoid straining your wrists and shoulders.

Take frequent breaks

Frequent movement gives your brain a break, helps loosen your muscles and reduces eye strain. If you’re used to sitting for long periods, set a reminder to get up every hour.

Stretch. There are many stretches you can do while seated, like shoulder rolls. But it’s best to get up periodically. Setting up a yoga mat next to your desk can be a helpful reminder to work your muscles.

Take a walk. Walking improves your mood and physical health. Even short walks can have significant benefits if you work them into your daily routine. Set aside 15-30 minutes a day to get outside and enjoythe fresh air.

Prepare a healthy snack. One of the benefits of working from home is access to your kitchen. Take advantage by making a fresh snack, like a fruit and veggie platter, Greek yogurt with berries, hard-boiled eggs or a smoothie. Better yet, eat it away from your desk.

Calm your mind. Meditating can help you find calm amid a hectic workday. But if meditation isn’t for you, try writing, coloring, listening to music or cleaning. These activities offer similar mental health benefits, including reduced stress, increased focus and greater peace of mind.

Rest your eyes. If you can’t leave your desk, look away from your screen periodically. Remember the20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Follow cybersecurity best practices

With the freedom of remote work comes added risk. When you work from home, you must take extra steps to protect your company’s sensitive information.

Use strong passwords. Choose complicated passwords and change them often. Strong passwords include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid reusing the same passwords across your network.

Change your devices’ default passwords. Hackers can track down and exploit default passwords.

Use a virtual private network (VPN) to access company data. Conducting work on an unsecured network makes your data vulnerable to theft.

Avoid public Wi-Fi. If you must work from a public place, connect to your company’s VPN first.

Don’t click on unsolicited links or attachments. Be wary of emails and texts asking you to respondimmediately. Cybercriminals often use urgency to convince you to act without thinking. If you receive anemail or text you weren’t expecting, look up the number or website in a web browser instead of responding to the original message. Never act without confirming the message with the sender.

Use multifactor authentication (MFA). MFA requires you to provide multiple verification factors beforegranting you access to a network. In addition to entering your normal login credentials, MFA asks you toenter a secret code generated through an automated call or text.

Update your device software. Updating your devices’ software regularly ensures you’re running the latest versions. Software updates often include security patches to repair vulnerabilities.

Be proactive about safety

Whether you're working in an office or at home, safety is a part of your job.

Create an evacuation plan. Include escape routes, a safe meeting place, emergency contacts, special needs and an emergency kit. Practice your plan with your family. If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, create a separate shelter-in-place plan.

Assemble an emergency kit. Ideally, you should have enough supplies to last you two weeks. The Red Cross and Get Prepared Canada recommend the following basics:

·     Enough water for one gallon per person,per day

·     Nonperishable food, like peanut butter, granola bars, canned fruits and veggies, crackers in sealed containers, etc.

·     A manual can opener

·     A flashlight

·     A battery-powered or hand-crank radio (A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) Weather Radio is best.)

·     Extra batteries

·     A first-aid kit

·     Necessary medications and medical equipment

·     A multipurpose tool

·     Sanitation and personal hygiene items, like wet wipes, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc.

·     Copies of personal documents, such as proof of your address, your deed or lease, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.

·     Cell phone chargers

·     Family and emergency contact information

·     Cash

·     An emergency blanket

·     A set of clothing for each familymember, including socks and underwear

·     A map of the area

·     An extra set of keys

·     If you have children, elderly family members or pets, you’ll need to include additional items:

·     Medical supplies, such as contact lenses, syringes, a thermometer, disposable gloves, etc.

·     Baby supplies, like bottles, formula, diapers, wet wipes, etc.

·     Pet supplies, including collars, leashes, ID tags and food

·     Toys and games for children

Check your smoke detectors. Get Prepared recommends testing smoke alarms once a month and replacing 9-volt batteries once a year.

Look for electrical hazards. Inspect cords to make sure they aren’t damaged or frayed. If a cord feels hot, unplug and replace it. And don’t overload power cords or use extension cords long term. (Extension cords are intended to be used for 72 hours or less, and not as permanent or long-term plug-ins for equipment.)

Keep safety and security top of mind

For many, remote work offers a welcome relief from the daily grind of working in an office. But it comes with its own challenges. By keeping safety and security top of mind when you’re working from home, you’llget the most out of your home and work.

RRJ Insurance Group Ltd. O/A KRGinsure is a member of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario(IBAO) and our brokers are licensed with Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO).

This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing, financial, medical or legal advice. Youshould contact your attorney, doctor, broker or advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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