Is your business prepared for long-term remote workforce management? Seventy percent of white-collar workers are still working remotely, and most employees permanently want to retain at least some form of remote work. Many workers are even willing to quit their jobs if the company demands full-time in-office attendance.
Even though the original reason for the work-at-home movement has somewhat dissipated, employee preferences – coupled with a tight labor market – indicate that remote work is sticking around for good. This is creating some challenges on the remote workforce management front. When companies quickly raced to set their employees up for virtual work, their once temporary solutions have morphed into long-term company risks.
Now, companies must go back, take a good look at associated risks, and put in solid, future-proof measures to control the added risks from many employees working remotely. Here’s how to spot those risks, how to manage them, and what integrated risk management technology can do to help.
Risks Associated with Remote Workforce Management
Because remote work is expected to increase by as much as 87 percent over pre-pandemic levels by 2025, companies will be exposed to a new set of risks that will have to be managed alongside other enterprise risks. Here are three top remote workforce risks to build into your organization’s overall risk management plan.
1. Economic risks
Businesses will need to keep a close eye on the impact on their real estate and office-space costs as more employees work from home. Remote workers are also migrating out of expensive, urban cities to smaller ones with lower living costs, creating a more scattered workforce.
What these trends mean is that companies will need to re-examine their real estate strategies. Some companies may want to consolidate office space in premium locations, while others may open more satellite offices. Others may choose to do both.
The trick is to have enough office space to accommodate those who want to come in without paying for space that no one uses. Regardless, your company will need to consider all your options and associated risks to meet employee demands and mitigate unnecessary costs.
2. Compliance risks
As workers spread out geographically, compliance risks also expand, particularly in the form of cybersecurity. Attacks against cloud-based email, remote desktop applications, and similar technologies designed to assist remote work are higher. Phishing and ransomware are up 11 percent and 6 percent, respectively, over last year, and 61 percent of breaches involved credential data.
Corporate networks are at exceptionally high risk. To quickly shift in-office workers to home, many had to hastily launch cloud services without proper vetting. The risks of subpar cybersecurity are only compounded by human errors. With more distractions at home, employees may be more prone to leave their screen unlocked or click on that phishing email.
For companies to fight compliance risks, they will need better execution on cybersecurity. Whether that means employing virtual private networks (VPNs), requiring routine security training, or prohibiting the use of work on personal devices, companies will need to implement stricter policies and enforcement.
3. Psychological risks
Stress management is part of the new charge of companies managing their remote workforce. With the lines between work environments and personal space blurred (e.g., kitchen tables doubling as office desks), it is becoming harder for workers to shut down for the day.
Nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than before. Additionally, parents continue to struggle with balancing work and caring for their children while at home. There is also growing evidence of Zoom fatigue and the toll on mental and physical health.
While some of these life stressors are beyond a company’s control, it’s in its best interest to mitigate as many as it can. For one thing, healthcare expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers who report high levels of stress, and 40 percent of job turnover is due to stress. This can have a severe impact on the organization since replacing an average employee costs 120-200 percent of the salary of the position affected. And even when an employee sticks around, job stress can lead to depression, which is associated with nearly ten annual sick days.
To mitigate the risk of lost productivity, increased costs, and all-around unhappy employees, companies need to evaluate remote work strategies and create systems that provide the psychological safety employees need. This could look like setting work-hour boundaries, enforcing PTO, or simply checking in and asking, “What obstacles are stopping you from your best work this week?”
How to Mitigate Remote Workforce Management Risks
The economic, compliance, and psychological risks associated with remote workforce management may require new ways of thinking for an organization. It’s not every day a global pandemic forces workers to stay home or effectively causes a 31 percent increase in anxiety across the U.S. But even with all the “newness” of these scenarios, companies can still build a resilient risk management plan that will last long into the future. It starts with focusing on risk impacts.
Risk impact is an estimate of the potential losses associated with an identified risk. Many risk events can cause the same impact. So, when it comes to managing the risks associated with a remote workforce, think about the impact on the organization, not the event causing the crisis. By focusing on impacts rather than scenarios, you can build robust risk response actions and controls without creating a separate plan for every possible scenario.
For example, remote workforce management could impact the company with:
- Loss of facilities
- Data breach
- Decreased mental health
- Increased employee absenteeism and resignations
- Influx of healthcare claims
By focusing on the impact, you can create meaningful risk mitigation strategies that will help you bounce back faster from whatever scenario comes your way.
How Technology Can Help Manage Remote Workforce Challenges
With remote workforce management risks now part of everyday life, you’ll want to find an easy way to assess, manage, and monitor them on an ongoing basis. The challenge is that these risks can originate in several departments outside the confines of traditional risk management – HR, IT, finance, etc. – and be collected in various formats, using different criteria, and in separate systems. Manually pulling all of this data together can be difficult, time consuming, and error prone, leaving you especially vulnerable to changing threats.
Integrated risk management technology, on the other hand, makes it easy to collect and consolidate data from multiple internal and external data sources and turn that into actionable insights. You have one source of truth, which facilitates communication and decision making. A 360-degree view also helps you visualize how remote workforce risks interrelate and the cumulative impact on the organization.
In other words, with an integrated risk management solution, you can shore up every vulnerability across your business, including employee mental health and office management. IRM also helps minimize overall spending by automating tedious, routine processes, which frees up resources for deeper analysis and other, more strategic tasks.
Remote workforce management is part of the new normal. And with it comes a new set of scenarios and risks that cut across economic, compliance, and psychological impacts. Organizations need not be overwhelmed, however, as the best way to manage these risks is by focusing on the impacts themselves. By taking an integrated approach to risk management, you can continuously monitor remote workforce risks, gauge the impact on other risks – and gain the insights that will help you become more resilient against adverse impacts for years to come.