Most entrepreneurial business owners would agree that the last year has brought about unexpected challenges. Many of the businesses that have survived this pandemic have done so because they’ve been able to adapt. Entrepreneurs need to actively seek to address problems and provide solutions that can protect their businesses, intellectual property, and people.
With the rise of the digital age, it’s becoming increasingly common for employers to offer remote work options to employees. The accessibility and convenience of working remotely are appealing to many, especially younger professionals and millennials. Of course, choosing to have your employees work remotely comes with some potential liabilities, risks, and legal issues.
To prepare for potential issues with a remote or hybrid workforce, let’s examine this key trend for employers and the future workplace.
- Analyze what work can be done remotely to help determine which roles it may make sense for. Also, consider what criteria should be applied when selecting which employees can work remotely.
- Work from home criteria should be objective and based on legitimate business reasons. Any policies should be applied consistently to avoid possible claims of workplace discrimination and/or retaliation.
- Protect your devices, protect your business. While, there are no simple solutions to complex problems, and security breaches are unpredictable by nature – increased security is key in today’s remote work environments.
- Protect all aspects of your business with professionals like the business attorneys at The Frazer Firm.
Work From Home Trends
According to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, as of mid-2020, the number of full-time U.S. remote workers had increased more than 40% compared to pre-COVID times.
Many employees have adjusted to working remotely; a recent Gallup poll revealed nearly two-thirds of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic would like to continue doing so.
Because we are functioning as a part of a greater business ecosystem, it’s obvious we must have the ability to adapt as the businesses around us change. Business owners continue to move towards more remote or hybrid work models because the benefits can’t be dismissed. When you consider factors like decreased pollution, financial savings, and overall satisfaction amongst employees, remote work is the way of the future. Even if remote work won’t be a permanent option for your team, remote work will remain the norm.
Today’s workforce wants flexibility. From coworking offices to coffee shops, to make sure your remote workforce remains productive you have to protect both your remote employees and your business. Use the following suggestions as a guideline as you seek to protect your business in remote work environments.
Developing Policies and Procedures
Developing policies and procedures for remote positions should be a top priority for every business owner. These fundamentals drive the tactics of your business and offer the assurance that your employees and clients are protected.
Make sure your employees understand the application of policies and procedures so that they can follow them. It’s also good to make sure that all company guidelines are reviewed and signed off on by employees. As policies and procedures change, date the revisions and make sure that your team acknowledges the updates.
The list of technology, computing, and software tools available to entrepreneurs is endless. Explore and implement the solutions that work best to protect your business.
Security is critical in remote work environments. Many public WiFi sources aren’t secured, and if your employee has a lot of classified information like passwords and bank information stored on their work computers, they’re at risk of falling victim to a cyber-attack.
Consider using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), limiting administrative accounts, integrating multiple-factor authentication, etc. Hire outside professionals to run security checks. Examine your organization from all angles to determine vulnerabilities. If your employee is working from places other than at home, remind them to follow best practices like using secure passwords and locking their devices when not in use.
Avoid Wage and Hour Issues
Remote work means that business owners must be even more careful to avoid common remote work-related wage and hour issues. Now is the time to make sure that your employees are properly classified as exempt or non-exempt.
For exempt remote workers, their classification depends on:
- whether they meet the minimum salary threshold of $684/week, and
- the primary duty test for the specific exemption (which often requires an analysis of the job description)
- In general, exempt workers are entitled to a full week’s salary for any week in which they perform any remote work.
Non-exempt remote workers are entitled to pay for hours actually worked (including unscheduled hours and/or unauthorized overtime work). When working remotely accurate recording of all hours worked is critical. As business owners, remember to clearly communicate in writing that off-the-clock work, underreporting of hours, unauthorized overtime, etc. are prohibited.
Offer Continued Training
As the business landscape is ever-changing, policies have to evolve to keep up. Your team members should understand the company’s policies on remote work, cybersecurity, and intellectual property, among other things. This information should be reviewed and updated regularly with continued training and feedback.
In these cases, educate and train managers on the company’s updated timekeeping and pay policies, for example, as well as on monitoring potential staffing issues.
Empower Your People
Most often, employees are the cause of breaches in security. These situations are often not nefarious but simple human error. The more you empower your people to encourage secure connections and best practices, the more confident they will be in remote work environments.
The entrepreneurial business owners that focus on cultivating a culture supporting remote work and empowering its people will be the ones that succeed.
Monitoring Remote Employees
Here are best practices when monitoring remote workers:
- First, disclose any monitoring to employees — it builds trust and removes employees’ reasonable expectation of privacy. This forms the basis for invasion of privacy claims.
- Do not expect employees to work every second, every day.
- Monitoring should be done equally and consistently — avoiding any retaliatory-motivated actions based on anything discovered.
- Train your managers and staff to work together to prevent virtual/remote harassment.
- Be prepared to investigate any activities that may be discovered through monitoring.
Protecting Your Business in Remote Work Environment
We understand the challenges your business may be facing. Our experienced business attorneys will help make sure your business is protected against liabilities and risks that come with remote work. At our firm, we care about the wants, needs, and overall success of your business and its employees.
We are entrepreneurs and have extensive business litigation experience. Your business is in good hands. To discuss the legal options for your business, contact The Frazer Firm in Jupiter, FL to schedule a consultation.
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