How to keep a remote workforce compliant has been particularly concerning ever since a unique, revolutionary, massive experimental transition to remote work started in March 2020 – the year the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in the world. The kinks and wrinkles of this tremendous change are still being ironed out by companies everywhere.
Today, the transition is being positively received by all workers, noted a recent Global Workplace Analytics Survey. Moreover, the benefits of switching to remote work have been appreciated by many optimistic leaders in society – many of whom anticipate the transition will be a permanent one.
Among these benefits? A major slashing of commute, travel and real estate costs, higher employee morale (which translates to better employee retention), an expanded talent pool, lower overall costs to the environment, and an increased productivity.
Remote work may be here to stay. It’s proven to be very popular with workers: a full 99% of work-from-home US employees expressed wanting to continue working remotely for at least a couple of days a week, a Review42 survey found. These workers, according to an US-based Owl Labs survey, reported being 22% happier than employees always working onsite. They reported more concentration, a better work-life balance, and less overall stress.
Happily, it appears that productivity has not been impacted since the transition took place: this year, a PWC UK Survey found that 84% of employees reported their own job performance being the same in-the-home as in-the-workplace. Furthermore, in the United States, the above-mentioned Owl Labs survey found that remote staff worked over 40 hours a week, 43% more compared to staffers who always work inside the office.
As a compliance officer still navigating the near-permanent transition to remote work, you’ve doubtlessly worked overtime to develop, tweak and perfect a company governance and compliance programme that is in step with modern laws and regulations – one tailored to a brand-new remote workforce.
Remote Workers: A Risky, or Positive, Asset?
Indeed, quite a few unique risk management issues arise when employees are allowed to work from home; companies, for example, must look to counter financial terrorism by beefing up data security and anti-money laundering (AML) practices. Considered a business’s “weakest link” – in an Aon 2020 report — remote workers are an easy and clear target for hackers who can steal company information and hold important data hostage, and this is a primary concern for compliance officers everywhere.
In addition, payroll and HR-related compliance obligations must continue to be taken care of, such as employee classification, workers’ compensation and home occupation permits. Technological tools must be in place in order to collect and preserve this information, which means learning about which compliance programme tools work best, for the size, nature, and industry of your company’s new remote workforce.
When it comes to compliance, are remote workers a risky, or positive, asset? Judge this for yourself at the end of a lengthy experimental trial period. Although you’ll be addressing a number of issues along the path to full compliance, as long as you learn to balance and appreciate the remote work positives you encounter with the additional governance measures you’re required to implement, you’re on the right footing.
Eventually, you’ll be able to report how successfully your company’s remote workers are staying within a correct compliance programme and move forward from there. Your company will have to make the decision on whether to stick to a fully remote or hybrid or onsite office working model, and your input will be vital as to what should be done.
Unsure as to what you can do to ensure compliance in a remote setting? Here are some steps we recommend a compliance officer can implement to stave off potential problems linked to many employees working remotely.
How to Create a Compliant Workspace For Remote Workers
Step 1: Classify Your Staff Correctly
Classifying your staff correctly is critical for staying in-line with the varying requirements of a correct compliance programme.
If you employ independent, freelance workers, carefully evaluate whether they should have access to everything, including internal documentation, virtual workspace channels, offline data, etc. Stay up-to-date with your Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), while making sure these are binding in the places of residence of your freelance workers. Protect your company by also including sound confidentiality clauses in your signed contracts with this group of employees.
If you’re in charge of company compliance within an especially regulated industry, such as financial services, do your job and make sure the communications of all staff are archived – this is the law. It’s vital to know exactly whom among your staffers are regulated, and to keep in place a compliance recordkeeping system that works in-office and in designated remote spaces, alike, so that financial crime prevention, ESG criteria, Know Your Customer (KYC) initiatives, Customer Due Diligence (CDD) acts and similar, are diligently followed and implemented by your enterprise.
Large companies especially keen on countering financial terrorism (CFL) and AML often place the communications of their C-Suite executives (and workers who handle highly sensitive information) on regular legal hold. Make sure you and your compliance team are keeping this system seamlessly working by testing it every so often, and that it is suitable for remote working.
Step 2: Make Remote Work Policies Compliant
If your current employment situation remains unaffected, a remote work policy should still be developed, be put into place, and be explained clearly to all staff workers. The ideal remote work policy is one that keeps to compliance requirements and protects the company against legal problems that you’ve been hired to be concerned about.
Step 3: Create a Work Plan
The compliance team should create a remote work plan – one that, first, identifies the responsibilities of all staff members; second, keeps track of said responsibilities, should remote work change job roles significantly; and, three, account for job description changes, the type brought about by remote work.
When dealing with a large workforce, take care to identify their roles within each company department and to weigh and anticipate possible problems to your current compliance programme. Always have the technical support staff be on regular call.
Other compliance job tasks to include in your work plan is to:
– Identify the best ways for company workers to communicate and collaborate with each other and with clients;
– Schedule regular virtual meetings;
– Determine which work methods are in keeping with maintaining data systems safe and sound during “on-the-job” work shifts performed with live office access;
– Ensure all training involving remote working tools and compliance has been undertaken by the start of the first day of work of any new employee;
– Inquire which staff members are not-so-good about remote working – so that you can have them well-trained in the latest compliance understandings and technologies.
Step 4: Fully Implement Data Security and Recordkeeping Laws
Liabilities are plentiful when businesses and workers are regularly connected to the Internet, especially in regard to recordkeeping and big data. Compliance regulations can be backed by heavy fines and punishments, with data-intensive industries, such as financial, coming under heavy scrutiny.
Step 5: Train Your Staff in Data Security
It’s expected that remote workers will use their personal devices and work on their own Internet WiFi network. Quite a few will opt to work at a co-working space or at a coffee shop. The risk of data breaches elevates when these activities are undertaken.
Seek to thoroughly train your staff in data security, especially those who constantly work with sensitive data. Training should be provided in the areas of data loss, online data security, GDPR and CCPA laws, best bring-your-own device practices, and in the authorized sharing of sensitive information.
Step 6: Track Activities
Track team collaboration tools for data loss and unsuitable behaviour. Present-day Data Loss Prevention solutions and monitoring make automation of this process possible, which cuts down conversations that risk security, as well as lead to a sharing of information that is unsanctioned. It is possible to monitor employees without having HR personnel track them throughout the day, every day.
Step 7: Collect All Communications
The best communication compliance often involves working with a company archiving solutions that collects communications – such as mobile text, email and company collaboration tools, for example, Slack – and preserves them well.
The media reports there is an avid eagerness on behalf of workers to work remotely, which means an adequate training of the staff should be top-of-mind for all compliance officers aiming to preserve compliance with data security, corporate governance standards, Know Your Client and Client Due Diligence initiatives, and more.
By following the steps above, you’ll anticipate most compliance problems that arise when workers keep their workspace at home, or at a co-working space, or even a coffee shop. With due diligence to training and a dedication to being thorough, you can do much to keep your company safe from active threats that darkly loom over many industries at present.