A Hybrid Work Environment Risk Assessment

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According to stats from Zippia, 74% of American companies have employees who are currently working remotely or plan to implement a permanent hybrid model. Even with all the advantages, there are risks to consider when implementing this long-term in your business model. There are questions to be answered in helping make remote employment work successfully for both the employee and the employer. Here are 4 key areas of risk and related questions to ask yourself so that you can move forward with a hybrid workplace model in a way that protects both you and your remote employee.

Those 4 areas of risk are:

  1. digital risk
  2. physical risk
  3. financial risk
  4. compliance risk 

What is a Hybrid Work Place? 

Before looking at the risk factors of a hybrid work model, it’s important to define what it means. 

  • It is a non-traditional work model that blends in-office, remote, and on-the-go workers. 
  • It demands a comprehensive 360-degree understanding of potential risks and drawbacks. 
  • It doesn’t just mean letting your employees pack up their laptops and stay home. 

There is much more to the process. 

In fact, successful implementation of this working model requires a thorough and proactive analysis of how to make it work throughout the everyday. It takes forethought and planning to ensure both you as a business owner and your employees benefit from the setup.  

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Lens 1: Digital Risk

With remote employees, concerns like cybersecurity, data protection, and security protocols are more of an issue than ever before. Additionally, will an employee use their own equipment or transport the company’s equipment to their home. The risk of bringing your own device (BYOD) seems innocuous and innocent enough, but using a personal laptop is tricky. It may not have the right security measures in place and can inadvertently put employees’ information at risk, opening the door for hackers’ access to unsecured information. 

Digital guidelines are needed as are security protocols and usage agreements to protect both your company and your employees. Hybrid workplaces demand more complex security. Having clearly defined guidelines and protocols in place for cyber security is a must if you want to make a hybrid work model work for your company. 

Digital Risk Assessment Questions:

When considering the digital risk component of a hybrid work schedule, consider the following questions. Make sure you have a good answer to all questions outlined below before you consider implementing a hybrid model: 

  • Do you have a documented cybersecurity protocol for all employees?
  • Has the team been trained to use their devices, access programs, and work safely and securely?
  • Have you implemented multi-factor authentication measures?
  • Does your team know to whom to report and how to report cyber risk incidents?
  • Does your IT department conduct regular security assessments to proactively handle any potential threats?
  • Do you have consistent platforms for all employees for things like email, videoconferences, communication platforms, project management tools, etc. 

 

Lens 2: Physical Risk

You’ll also want to consider the physical risks of having remote employees. Consider whether your employees have a safe and healthy environment in which to work when they are not in your physical office. This includes having a workstation with proper ergonomics, that will not contribute to unnecessary injury that could keep a good employee out of commission. 

Some people do not do well with isolation and the lack of boundaries that can exist in a hybrid work environment. This can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Mental health is now a known issue for many people, which can be heightened by isolation. Therefore, now more than ever, you need to promote a healthy work environment that considers mental health just as important as physical.  

Physical Risk Assessment Questions:

Before moving on to the next factor, answer the following questions about the physical risk of a hybrid work model:

  • Do you have training and guidelines for a healthy, safe, and secure home office?
  • Are there ways for employees to address health issues (physical and mental) that may come up as a result of working from home?
  • Do you have internal social platforms in place for employees to communicate in a more casual way?
  • Are you providing office equipment (desks, chairs, etc) or depending on your employees to set up their own?

Information is power: Subscribe to our blogLens 3: Financial Risk 

It would seem that by sending employees home to work, you can save money in a lot of different areas. While that's true, the financial risk involved in remote models shouldn't be ignored. Employers assume financial risk for problems that can result from things like a potential loss of productivity, communication breakdown, travel expenses, security breaches, office setup expenses, and more. Another question is of liability. You'll want to make sure your company liability policy extends to things like home offices, personal equipment used for business purposes, travel in a personal car, injuries at home during work, etc.  

Financial Risk Assessment Questions:

The following are some questions you must ask to ascertain your financial risk when it comes to a hybrid work model:

  • Are there clear expectations about reimbursement of expenses and the purchase and use of supplies when out of the office?
  • Is it clearly defined who will provide what? Employee vs employer?
  • Do you have policies in place to ensure productivity remains healthy?
  • Are you willing to invest in helping your employees set up a remote office?
  • Will you provide them a regular stipend for expenses like cell service, internet, etc? 

 

Lens 4: Compliance Risk 

Finally, the last factor to consider when evaluating your risk assessment for a hybrid work model is compliance risk. Maintaining compliance in a hybrid environment will likely require new procedures and policies. Have a clear definition of what “remote work” means for your company.  Is it a blended week where an employee works some days at home and some in the office? Is it fully 100% remote? Is it flexible, allowing the employee to decide when and where they work? Once you determine what the best model is for your business, commit to training and educating employees on how to follow protocol and ensure continued compliance.  

Compliance Risk Assessment Questions:

Consider the following questions to ensure that your business remains compliant even in a hybrid work model:

  • Do you have a documented plan that outlines expectations for your hybrid work model?
  • What are the clear expectations about the use of company devices, furniture, etc.?
  • What does “remote work” mean for your company?
  • Will all employees have the option to participate, or only in certain departments? 

Communication is Key

The list of companies moving into the hybrid workforce arena is growing. While there are resources to help a company make the right decision, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, the more you know…the more questions you may have. Fundamentally, however, there is one element that is mandatory - communication. Good communication is the glue that holds a remote work environment together. 

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This could be said most assuredly about many working environments. Therefore, especially when implementing a hybrid model where your employees are coming and going, it’s vital to ensure that communication is happening and remains open. 

A hybrid work environment can and does work, but it requires leadership to think about the risk assessment differently. Do this, and you are well on your way to creating a workable and profitable work situation that will benefit all involved. 

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