With technology making it seamless to telecommute, remote work has become the new norm for business. In fact, the number of Americans working from home has increased 159% from 2005 to 2017 with nearly 5 million people currently telecommuting in the U.S. As new generations enter the workforce in an increasingly competitive landscape for employee benefits, as a business owner, you may be considering offering this flexibility to your employees.
Consider the Benefits
One of the most obvious benefits of allowing employees to telecommute is the decrease in overhead costs associated with maintaining a brick and mortar building. In addition, your employees can enjoy savings on fuel expenses, vehicle maintenance, and meal costs.
Some other benefits to consider:
- The flexible schedule can help employees’ work/life balance, resulting in increased productivity.
- Remote work options offer the opportunity to recruit talent from all over the world.
- In the event of a disaster, many business operations can continue.
Begin your remote work program on a small scale using a pilot program. Present the opportunity to just one or a few long-time employees, whose work could be well-suited for this type of environment. Choose employees who are in good standing with the company and understand what it will take from them to keep projects moving. Testing this program before a company-wide implementation will help address the inherent risks to business processes and workflows as bumps along the way, rather than wide-spread problems.
While remote work can pose many exposures, most of them can be mitigated with thorough planning and proper execution. Once policies and procedures are established, companies can take full advantage of the benefits that having remote workers offer.
Project Productivity Risk
The change in environment will inevitably result in adjusted workflow or processes. Additionally, alternative methods of communication and oversight will be needed between supervisors and team members to keep them connected. Consider options like video conferencing, screen sharing, and time tracking software. Overall, with the right adjustments, productivity should remain the same, if not, improve, for remote workers.
Safety at Home
Workplace safety and ergonomics should be just as important for remote workers as on-site workers. Remote workers should attend a specialized safety training or orientation to thoroughly address all possible exposures they’ll face in their new environment, including ergonomics.
When a remote worker begins in their new workspace, a site visit should occur with a supervisor or HR personnel to check that all common safety measures are being addressed. Periodic visits are a good idea to ensure continued compliance. Remember that remote workers have all the same rights to Workers’ Compensation for injuries that occur during employment that employees in your facility do. Not monitoring a remote worker’s workspace periodically can allow hazards to develop, putting your company at greater risk for a Workers’ Comp claim.
Information security is the largest challenge for companies with remote workers. Physical loss or theft of devices containing data or access to data is much more likely. Remote workers will usually be in possession of laptops and/or mobile data drives issued by the company to allow them to work with the same systems and information as workers located in-house. The protection of building security, key cards, and the watching eyes of other employees will not be able to protect their equipment.
Another aspect of security to be cautious about is using company-issued equipment for non-work related tasks. If family members access laptops, they could potentially download a virus or spyware. The same could happen if an employee got lax and used their company equipment for personal use. Companies should also be aware of how sensitive data or documents will be stored and disposed of. Physical printouts especially need to be disposed of properly.
To protect your employees’ and your company’s interests, be sure that all equipment requires passwords and encryption for access. Train remote workers by offering a data protection workshop or creating a comprehensive list of all necessary protections to be installed on laptops. In addition:
- Make sure operating systems and applications are regularly patched and updated
- Enable built-in security measures on machines
- Consider other paid antivirus solutions for your employees’ machines
- Employ a disk-based encryption solution
A thorough policy should be established regarding the line between personal and company property to prevent missteps from happening. When establishing the employees’ remote worksites, be sure that any wireless connection is secured and that your company has a policy about using unsecured connections (such as at hotels and other public spaces) for work tasks. Companies can also set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) access for connecting to the company’s networks to ensure that access is secure.
To learn more about protecting your business and your remote workforce, talk to a member of the commercial lines team at Eastern Insurance — they are happy to answer any questions you may have and to help you determine which insurance options are best for your unique business. They can be reached by phone at 1-800-333-7234 (Option 2), or on our website: https://www.easterninsurance.com/contact-us.