The trend for employees to work at home risks compromising security, according to a survey carried on behalf of Novell.

The company questioned 615 workers in the UK to find out their attitudes to home working and discovered that security feature low down their list of concerns. Loneliness, remoteness from other works, and the distraction of TV, were all ranked as being more important considerations.

Four out of five of those questioned admitted they took no security precautions while working from home. Curiously, the same workers were more security-aware while working from company offices, which suggest the home environment may lull them into a false sense of security.

“We wanted to look at people’s attitudes,” commented Steve Brown, UK managing director of Novell. “The benefits of having a more flexible workforce are clear, but the dangers are sometimes less obvious,” “The only way to protect against this growing type of security threat is to take the responsibility off home workers,” he said.

Novell has some technology of its own to push, hence its interest in proving what many in the IT department could probably guess for themselves – home workers don’t spend time worrying about the issue security because they see it as someone else’s problem.

What is perhaps more interesting is that it appears that many companies still don’t take precautions when sending employees home to work, other than to set usage policies. “Home workers are out of sight and out of mind,” as Brown described the phenomenon.

Putting a figure on what this costs UK business is much harder to do, however. Novell describes this in its press materials as being potentially “billions of pounds”. Coming up with a figure like that would require investigating the sorts of security breaches that are likely to result from poor home security. That’s the sort if information that will have to wait for another survey.