After nine months of working from home, many wonder if the new normal is here to stay. While an exciting proposition for some employees who have found themselves more productive and satisfied with work-life balance, such an initiative raises questions as well. As the initial move to remote work was considered a rapid response by many, there is now opportunity to institute formal policies and make the transition a reality. In fact, according to MIT Sloan Review1, uncertainty abounds, with many organizations choosing to maintain semi-remote, virtual workplaces over the next 12 to 18 months — and possibly for good.
Knowing this, the decision to implement a deeper and more consistent work from home initiative requires leaders to develop coherent policies and work to mitigate the potential dangers that weren’t addressed last March. From cybersecurity initiatives to dedicated policies, your ability to succeed in the long term will require resilient and reliable systems to keep the business running smoothly. Today, we would like to explore some of the things that should be on your radar as we progress through 2021.
The Elephant in the Room: Addressing Cybersecurity Threats
One of the biggest challenges that was created by the rapid shift from traditional workspace to the distributed one is the expansion of your “attack surface.” Rather than penetrating one large organizational fortress, hackers and cybercriminals now have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of potential weak spots.
To take on the new cybersecurity challenges of your virtual working environment, leaders must learn and understand the changes in their cybersecurity risk profile and revamp their strategies, training, and exercises to address these changes.
From common threats to your business2 to complex and sophisticated attacks, companies are finding themselves in the crosshairs more frequently than ever. The FBI now receives 3,000 to 4,000 cybersecurity complaints each day, driven by organizations in healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, and the public sector.
But as we discussed in last month’s blog, the path to prevention starts with understanding3. From phishing emails to ransomware, the opportunities for things to go wrong are endless. Therefore, companies need to take steps to ensure that attack vectors are limited, employees are educated, and policies are up to date.
Developing Remote Work Policies
Another area of focus for business leaders is on the human resources side of the equation. As much of the decision to shift from traditional to remote came out of necessity, few employers changed their employee handbooks and employment policies to reflect this new reality. Unfortunately, this has left companies with potential legal exposure and other pitfalls if left unaddressed.
According to HR Morning, employers may find themselves at risk of FLSA violations, discrimination issues, work environment obligations, and more. In addition, it’s important to set clear guidelines for employees. Professionalism still matters even when employees are working from home. Policies need to reflect this new landscape in order to protect your people and your business. Here are just some of the things you should focus on:
- FLSA Violations: One of the most obvious problems with remote employees is it’s hard to know how many hours they’re actually working out of the office. For companies with hourly employees, overtime issues could arise once they cross the 40-hour threshold. To address this, companies are urged to keep up with employees even more frequently to ensure people don’t find themselves in this situation.
- Discrimination and Disability Concerns: Without seeing your staff on a regular basis, employees may end up becoming out of sight and out of mind. Unfortunately, this can have unintended consequences. Employees need to receive the same level of support and opportunities for advancement that they received before going remote. Employers need to reinforce the right to training, promotions, and visibility.
- Work Environment Regulations: Employees live in a variety of environments, and HR Morning notes that just because an employee isn’t working in the office doesn’t mean an employer isn’t responsible for their health and safety. Part of your new policy should address this and ensure that their environments are suitable for ensuring safety and productivity.
The entire article from HR Morning4 explores additional things you need to address and highlights eight rules that your policy should cover.
Changing Perks and Benefits
A move from in-office to home office has represented a change in employee needs. Parking is gone, catered lunches are no longer an expense, and the new normal should reflect this. Understanding and providing for employee needs shouldn’t go away just because the office is shut down—but the way you provide them should evolve.
The right system of perks and benefits can improve engagement5, reduce burnout and loneliness, reinforce your culture, and provide you access to more talent when you start hiring again. A recent survey6 by Remote found that since the pandemic, employees are rethinking which benefits and perks they prioritize.
Adopting your company offerings in the remote work environment is essential to help convince employees that you are delivering for them. Replacing catered lunches with delivery gift cards or virtual happy hours, offering work from home office stipends, covering internet bills and more can go a long way in keeping engagement high.
More companies are going for the unconventional7 in their remote work perks, with offerings such as virtual ukulele classes, language lessons, and more. While not every company needs to venture into quirky and obscure benefits, organizations should stay focused on addressing the challenges of the moment to make their teams happy and keep performance levels high.
Rethinking Your Insurance
From cybersecurity insurance to your workers’ compensation insurance during the lockdowns, one of the best things you can do right now is to look at your insurance policies to ensure you’re getting the most value out of it.
We know when it comes to purchasing insurance you want the best coverage you can afford backed by a financially stable carrier who has your interests in mind. If you’re looking to address the new normal and forge ahead confidently, it pays to know that you’re protected.
We’ve developed tailored insurance programs for businesses of all types and sizes, so whether you own a construction firm or a clothing store, you can be sure to find coverage suitable for your business.
As a leader in the Northeastern Region, Acadia Insurance has a variety of policy offerings designed for your protection. Get to know more about our products and get a quote from our network of agents here.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.