Balancing Cybersecurity With Productivity: A Difficult But Important Task

Publication date: Sep 13, 2022

Last Published: Sep 13, 2022

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Striking the right balance between cybersecurity and productivity to keep dangerous threats at bay without making it unnecessarily difficult for employees to do their work is a difficult task to accomplish, but it’s so important that small and medium-sized organizations can’t afford to ignore it.

Read on to learn what happens when cybersecurity clashes with productivity and what you can do about it.

When Cybersecurity Clashes With Productivity

Organizations hire employees to do specific jobs, and they equip them with the tools they need to do them well and efficiently—increasingly often even when not physically present in the office. These tools include everything from desktop computers, laptops, and smartphones to word processors, spreadsheet programs, and communication software.

The same organizations don’t want their employees to fall victim to dangerous cyber threats, so they implement sophisticated cybersecurity controls and policies to strengthen their defenses. Sometimes, however, their defenses become obstacles not only for malware, phishing attacks, and other threats but also for employees trying to do their jobs using the tools they’ve been provided.

When that happens, both security and productivity may take a nosedive due to employees having to take extra steps to do their daily tasks and potentially ignoring or even actively circumventing the very same cybersecurity controls and policies that have been put in place to protect them and, by extension, the entire organization.

According to the cybersecurity firm IS Decisions, large US companies lose on average around 182 days of work annually as a result of complex cybersecurity procedures.

SMBs lose proportionally fewer days of work, but their losses hurt more because of their limited human resources.

Likewise, the relatively small budgets many SMBs operate with make it difficult for them to recover from the growing financial impact of cybersecurity incidents and data breaches in particular.

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How to Balance Cybersecurity and Productivity

Because of how severely negative the consequences of the lack of balance between cybersecurity and productivity can be, all organizations should strive to keep the scales from tipping in any direction.

1. Look for Low-Hanging Fruit

The Pareto principle, which states that roughly 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of causes, can be applied when balancing cybersecurity with productivity. How? By identifying which cybersecurity controls and policies are the biggest productivity bottlenecks and addressing them first.

For example, an organization may discover that its employees are having trouble complying with its strict authentication policy and using weak passwords to make things easier for themselves. To fix this issue, it can implement Single Sign-On (SSO) authentication to allow employees to sign in everywhere using just one set of credentials.

2. Improve Employee Cybersecurity Awareness

It’s estimated that around 85 percent of data breaches have a human aspect. Indeed, employees sometimes prioritize productivity over cybersecurity because they don’t understand what is at stake and how severe the consequences can be—not just for them but for the organization as a whole.

Researchers from the University of London and the Ruhr University Bochum believe that any campaign aimed at cybersecurity behavior needs to transform employees’ perception of their role in cybersecurity to make them cybersecurity-aware principal agents who can decide how to implement cybersecurity in specific contexts.

Regular cybersecurity awareness training sessions can help SMBs accomplish this objective and ensure that employees comply with cybersecurity policies because they are motivated to do so.

3. Use the Right Tools

Every organization that wants its employees to work both securely and productively needs to provide them with the right tools. Legacy solutions that haven’t been designed with modern threats in mind typically require a patchwork of bolt-on cybersecurity tools just to be moderately secure, whereas their modern alternatives are secure by default.

In many cases, organizations save money (especially in the long run) by replacing their outdated tools as a result of their maintenance costs going down and employee productivity going up. To select and implement the right tools, SMBs can partner with a managed service provider (MSP), such as us at OSIbeyond, and leverage its extensive IT experience.

Conclusion on Cyber Security and Productivity

Cybersecurity and productivity are like two opposing forces that must be carefully balanced for harmony to be achieved. When cybersecurity controls and policies are implemented with no regard for their impact on employee productivity, the result can be both decreased productivity and a compromised cybersecurity posture.

Fortunately, there are several steps SMBs can take to balance cybersecurity with productivity. Let’s discuss your business and strategies we can implement.

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