By requiring or authorizing employees to work from home while the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, companies have taken on a variety of new risks. The largest and most obvious threat is the cybersecurity risk, with many employees at home relying on improperly protected networks. Company policies, practices, and education must be quickly revised and augmented to address this new IT environment.
While many companies pivot to protect against these new cyber threats, they may not be paying sufficient attention to the other, non-cyber, risks in this new age.

Here are five additional risk areas that companies should attempt to mitigate with regard to work from home activity:

  1. Workers’ Comp. As far as OSHA is concerned, once you authorize a person to work from home, you’re responsible for ensuring that their home workplace is safe. That means accidents during working hours and even musculoskeletal damage from an ergonomically poor workspace could result in a workers’ comp claim. That’s why many companies are allowing employees to bring home their desk chairs from the office for the duration of the pandemic.
  2. Lack of Supervision. No one wants a supervisor or boss looking over their shoulder, but it’s much easier to coach and evaluate an employee when you’re in the same physical location. Now those types of informal, drop-in check-ins have been replaced by videoconference calls. Try to maintain a familiar level of empathy and informality in those frequent check-in sessions.
  3. External brand slippage. You want to project a certain organizational image to external clients, partners, industry groups, and other stakeholders. By this time, though, we all know the difference between a professional appearance on a videoconference call and the other extreme. When you videoconference with your employees, do you see an appropriately dressed and groomed person with a tidy (real or fake) backdrop? Or are you looking at a ceiling with a chin in the way or a bed and all kinds of clutter in the background? Be sure to set firm ground rules for videoconference appearance – from dress codes to backdrops – so your people represent your company appropriately.
  4. Managing Employee Work Habits. Working from home triggers different instincts in different employees. Some may feel free to embrace and go along with distractions, while others are inclined to work too much. A manager needs to keep each of their people on an even keel and not let them slip into either extreme – distraction or burnout – so work production is consistent and reliable.
  5. Mental Health Concerns. COVID-19 isn’t the only stressor in people’s lives right now. And some employees have a strong personal support mechanism with family members at home, while others may live on their own with little interpersonal contact. Perhaps they previously relied on their work setting to provide a sense of home. Managers should carefully watch for signs that an employee is not coping well on their own. It may be manifest with attitude, appearance, and even changing work habits.

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