Remote working Risk Assessment and Mitigation

With the ever-growing trend of remote working, organizations need to perform a risk assessment to determine the risks associated with this type of work arrangement. This article will explore the critical risks associated with remote working and provide tips on mitigating these risks.

Remote working Risk Assessment

Several risks are associated with remote working, classified into three categories: technology failure, social isolation, and security breach.

1. Technology Failure

One of the most significant risks associated with remote working is technology failure. If your computer crashes or the internet goes down, you may not be able to access your work files or communicate with your colleagues. In addition, if you are working from home, you may not have access to all the equipment you need to complete your work.

2. Social Isolation

Social isolation is another crucial risk associated with remote working. The lack of a physical office environment can lead to a lack of communication between employees and managers, especially if an employee is new to the organization or if their department does not have regular meetings.

Moreover, because many remote workers use personal devices such as smartphones and tablets for work purposes, they often become distracted with personal tasks when off duty. This can result in neglecting family time and other important social events.

3. Security Breach

Although not as common as technology failure or social isolation, a security breach is still a risk that needs to be considered when performing a remote working risk assessment. If employees do not have a secure and reliable way of accessing their work files, important information may be exposed to third parties.

4. Productivity Risk

There is a probability that employees are working on some other items which are not related to work. Working from home has many distractions related to personal life, lethargy, etc. It is difficult for an organization to know if the employee is working on the task given or something else.

It becomes difficult for the employee to concentrate on the work as he can be distracted by kids at home, visitors at door, loud music or sound around the place, etc. 

5. Health Risk

Staying at home and working has its health hazard as you tend to stay indoors and not move out of the comfort of your home. Working from the office would force you to exert and travel to work, which gives some level of exercise to your body. Also you may tend to snack a lot from home which can disturb your eating schedule.

Mitigating Remote Working Risk

There are several ways for organizations to mitigate the risks associated with remote working. These include –

  • Installing antivirus software on all devices used for work purposes
  • Implementing strict security controls, such as having employees set strong passwords and enabling data encryption, VPN for office connectivity, etc.
  • Encouraging regular communication between managers and employees through meetings or online chats
  • Providing employees with the equipment they need to perform their work tasks (e.g., computers or printers) in case of technology failure or ensuring that access to these is restricted when not in use.
  • Regular review with employees to access the work done

The main takeaway from this article is that organizations should treat remote workers like regular office workers by performing a risk assessment. This way, you can ensure that the risks associated with remote working are identified and mitigated.

Advantages of Remote Working

There are several advantages to remote working, which include:

1. Reduced Costs:

By allowing employees to work from home, organizations can save on office rental costs and other associated expenses. In addition, employees who work from home are not required to purchase or lease equipment such as a computer or printer.

2. Increased Productivity:

The lack of supervision of remote workers encourages them to work independently, which results in increased productivity. Remote employees can also focus on their tasks more easily without distractions in an office environment.

3. Flexible Schedule:

For some employees, having flexible working hours can help with day-to-day living, such as picking up children from daycare or school or taking care of elderly family members after business hours. Some employees even prefer to take a few days off during the week and work extra hours on the weekend instead.

4. Retain Top Talent:

Many millennials prefer to avoid commuting and have a better work/life balance by working from home, especially if they have children. This means that organizations have a greater chance of retaining their top talent by allowing them to work remotely.

Disadvantages of Remote Working

Despite the advantages, remote working also has its disadvantages, which include:

1. Increased Isolation:

The lack of a physical office environment can lead to a lack of communication between employees and managers, especially if an employee is new to the organization or if their department does not have regular meetings. Moreover, because many remote workers use personal devices such as smartphones and tablets for work purposes, they often become distracted with individual tasks when off duty. This can result in neglecting family time and other important social events.

2. Technology Failure:

Technology failure is one of the most common risks associated with remote working. If employees do not have a secure and reliable way of accessing their work files, important information may be exposed to third parties.

3. Security Breach:

Although not as common as technology failure or social isolation, a security breach is still a risk that needs to be considered when performing a remote working risk assessment. If employees do not have a secure and reliable way of accessing their work files, important information may be exposed to third parties.

Mitigating Remote Working Risk

There are several methods that can help mitigate the risks associated with remote working, which include:

1. Implementing Strict Security Controls:

Employees must be required to set strong passwords and use encryption software (e.g., full disk encryption) when accessing company data remotely. At the same time, organizations should ensure that access to technology used for work is restricted when not in use (for example, by locking laptops in desks or having employees place passwords on shared devices).

2. Promoting Regular Communication:

If employees do not communicate regularly with managers, it won’t be easy to address any concerns or questions that may arise during remote working hours. This means that organizations must promote.

3. Encouraging Socialising:

Although it is not possible to force employees to socialize with one another, managers can encourage team-building activities (e.g., video conferences, team lunches) to help reduce the risk of isolation.

4. Providing Training:

Employees must be provided with adequate training on using technology for remote working purposes. This will help reduce the number of support calls that IT staff receive and ensure that they work productively from home.

5. Having a Clear Remote Working Policy:

By having a clear remote working policy, employees and managers will be aware of their responsibilities when working remotely. The policy also includes guidelines on acceptable computer usage (e.g., no personal browsing) and how to report any technical issues.

6. Making the Off-Site Worker Feel Part of the Team:

Although an off-site worker may not be in direct contact with their manager daily, managers can still make them feel part of the team by sharing important company news and letting them know about any upcoming events. This will help promote a sense of belonging and encourage employees to maintain regular communication during working hours.

7. Encouraging Flexible Timings:

Employers will create a more flexible working environment that caters to different lifestyles by allowing employees to set their work schedules (e.g., 9 am to 5 pm). For example, employees living in rural areas outside major cities may prefer shorter workdays to avoid long commutes.

8. Offering Training in Self-Management:

For employees to be successful in remote working, they must manage their own time and workload. Managers can offer training courses on time management and setting achievable goals. This will help employees feel more confident when working independently.

9. Having a Remote Working Policy That Covers Technology Issues:

If employees are experiencing problems with their technology (e.g., slow internet), they need to know who to contact for assistance. This is why organizations need to have a remote working policy that outlines the contact details of the IT support team.

10. Monitoring Employee Productivity:

  • Although it may be difficult to do, managers should still monitor employees’ productivity when working remotely. This will help identify individuals who are not meeting their deadlines or producing quality work.
  • To monitor employee productivity when working remotely, managers should block certain websites (e.g., social media) in order to prevent employees from wasting their time online.
  • Employees must be encouraged to report any technical issues that may affect their work performance.
  • When conducting a remote working risk assessment, it is important to consider all the risks and rewards associated with the practice. By implementing the appropriate mitigations, organizations can reduce the likelihood of these risks materializing and ensure that their employees are productive when working from home.

There are several ways for organizations to mitigate the risks associated with remote working. These include –

  1. Installing antivirus software on all devices used for work purposes
  2. Implementing strict security controls (e.g., passwords, encryption software)
  3. Restricting access to technology when not in use
  4. Promoting regular communication between employees and managers.
  5. Technology failure is one of the most common risks associated with remote working. To mitigate this risk, organizations should –
    · Ensure that employees have a secure and reliable way of accessing their work files
    · Regularly back up work files
    · Have a contingency plan in place for technology failure.

Isolation can be a common issue for employees who work remotely. To help address this, organizations should –

  1. Encourage employment through monitoring software or timesheets.
  2. Promote regular communication (e.g., video conferencing, email, instant messaging) between employees and managers
  3. Encourage socializing with coworkers by organizing team-building activities.
  4. Employees who work remotely may find it challenging to balance their work and personal lives.
  5. To help them manage this, organizations should –
    · Encourage employees to set boundaries between their work and personal lives
    · Offer training courses on time management and how to set achievable goals
    · Let employees flexible working hours to accommodate different lifestyles.

The risks associated with remote working can be mitigated through the appropriate risk management strategies. By implementing these strategies, organizations can ensure that they are productive and safe when working from home.

Here are some Tips for Working from Home

Interesting fact – Source Statista

34.7 Million full-time employees in US alone could work from home

14.5% of workers will work from home for 5 or more days a week

40% unemployed persons could take full-time position if remove work was available

Conclusion

The benefits of remote working are clear, but organizations must be aware of the risks associated with the practice. By implementing the appropriate mitigations, organizations can reduce the likelihood of these risks materializing and ensure that their employees are productive when working from home.