A $170,000 grant award from the National Science Foundation will allow a research team led by Clay Posey, associate professor of management and a cybersecurity expert, to explore the ramifications of home-based work environments on company security.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March, the country’s business landscape has rapidly shifted in favor of remote work, with very little time to plan for many companies. Researchers will review how companies moved to secure at-home work environments, examine remote workspaces and assess the overall impact on sensitive organizational information. What Posey’s team finds will likely have implications for companies long after COVID-19.

“In a nutshell, COVID-19 has thrown many things out of whack and prompted rapid decision-making for organizational leaders,” Posey says. “This research will be important for executives overseeing employees in non-traditional work environments.”

Clay Posey
UCF researcher Clay Posey is part of a project that will explore remote work cyber behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As businesses continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, employees are learning to share their workspaces with children, pets and housemates — all the while dealing with the resulting distractions. These unexpected working conditions can create a variety of responses among employees. Posey hopes his team’s research will uncover these behaviors and help prevent cybersecurity threats at companies large and small.

“Some employees might pay more attention to cybersecurity risks in the face of a disaster like the coronavirus because they are in a protective state of mind,” Posey says. “On the other hand, the added stress from working at home could lead other employees to pay less attention to security and take risky shortcuts and workarounds.”

Supported by the National Science Foundation’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, the UCF team will identify a sample of workers temporarily assigned to their homes due to the pandemic. Participants will be surveyed over a two-week period on their daily attitudes, stressors, actions and emotions regarding cybersecurity. In-depth interviews and assessments will be performed using several pools of participants working at home. Associate Professor Mindy Shoss of UCF’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology program will co-lead the research team with Posey. The proposal was accepted by the NSF as part of its Rapid Response Research funding mechanism, which supports studies with a severe urgency.

Mindy Shoss
UCF researcher Mindy Shoss will co-lead the remote work cybersecurity project.

Posey received his doctorate in business administration from Louisiana Tech University and joined UCF’s Department of Management, part of UCF’s College of Business, in 2017. He is also a member of UCF’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Cluster.

Shoss earned her doctorate degree in industrial and organizational psychology from the University of Houston. She joined UCF in 2015.

About UCF College of Business Established in 1968, the UCF College of Business offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and executive levels. All programs, as well as the Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting, are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business— AACSB International. The college provides high-quality academic programs designed to give students a competitive advantage in the world of business now and in the future. Learn more at business.ucf.edu.