Managing the remote working risk

From the roll-out of high speed internet to smartphones and cloud computing, technology has changed the way we work forever. As a result, remote working is growing in popularity. That’s good news for employees.

Technology provides much greater flexibility in where, when and how we work. It’s also good news for business owners, as it can reduce the cost to business in terms of rental space, improve productivity and boost retention rates.

According to the latest figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), there are now as many as 3.8m home workers in the UK – giving a tangible indication of just how commonplace remote working now is. At no time has this been more apparent than during the London 2012 Olympics, when even more people benefitted from remote working practices.

There are, however, unique risks associated with managing a remote workforce that employers must be prepared for and protected against. 

I work for a leading commercial insurer and know only too well that businesses of all shapes and sizes face a raft of different risks every single day, from fire and flooding to theft. But providing protection for employees doesn’t end when they are out of the office. Therefore, the importance of businesses ensuring their remote workforce has the same level of cover as those operating on work premises should not be underestimated.

Out of sight, not out of mind

Managing home workers and identifying their associated risks can be complicated for employers, but by working with a trusted broker partner companies can get useful advice and, most importantly, find a tailored package that matches the unique needs of their business.

Some employers don’t realise that having a remote workforce has real implications for their insurance cover. For example, a typical business policy requires business owners to notify their insurer if employees are operating from other addresses to ensure that property damage and business interruption cover is seamless.

Another impact is in the need for employers to meet the same health and safety obligations for remote workers as with those employees based at the company’s premises. This means making sure they have an appropriate workspace at home, take regular breaks and so on. It also means completing Portable Appliance Testing (often called PAT testing) on items used for work purposes such as laptops and landline phones, as these should be routinely checked by employers for safety.

Remote working as a business enabler

Remote working is starting to form an important part of many businesses’ continuity plans, acting as an assurance that, in case of business interruption, key parts of the business will still be able to function. 

When it comes to building remote working into a business continuity plan, though, it’s important to remember that there is more to this than simply ensuring people have internet access and telephone lines at home. Small business owners need to consider more broadly what systems, databases, equipment and other tools are needed by employees to maintain productivity and a normal level of customer service.

Remote working can be an incredibly effective tool for businesses of all shapes and sizes, but what’s clear is that it is important the associated risks are managed and mitigated. Here are our top three tips for successfully incorporating remote working as part of a business continuity plan:

1. Identify the different personnel

Identify those that require a remote working strategy in the event of business interruption and determine the needs of these different groups. For example, do they have computers and broadband at home? What databases and systems do they need access to, in order to maintain productivity and customer service levels while working remotely?

2. Capture this insight as part of your business continuity plan

Include emergency contact numbers, supplier and key customer details, passwords and anything else that may be needed by your remote workforce in an emergency.

3. Keep your business continuity plan in an easily accessible place

Review it regularly and make sure you keep it up to date – including when personnel, suppliers or premises change.

David Swigciski is SME Trading Director at RSA, the UK’s largest commercial insurer.

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