By Richard Eichen
Courts have found that remote workers are entitled to have safe and injury prevention workspaces, even if they work from home. The issue is, as an employer, how can we ensure someone working remotely on a company supplied laptop, at their kitchen table will not claim carpal tunnel, neck, a fall, or another injury? In conjunction with HR, how can IT protect the organization while fostering company culture and productivity during these ‘odd’ times? With layoffs looming or imminent for many organizations, how does IT help protect the organization from employees trying to get the most they can before they get the email?
The key is to remain in control of the remote employee’s workspace, as best as is realistically possible. Suggested areas of focus are:
· A telecommuting policy covering, among other areas,
o working hours, permitted work scope, quantity, and regularity of work performed at home on company supplied technology and applications
o meal and rest periods; included and excluded work-related activities (which could continue post-employment, such as feed a pet or getting a drink of water)
o dedicated space and clean electricity requirements
o Cyber and WiFi security requirements (ex: passwords, use of public WiFi)
o handling of sensitive information (i.e., a locally printed copy of financials, PII, HIPPA information, a business plan or new product feature set) which is visible to anyone walking into the work area, or if a remotely working Doctor is using Telemedicine, anyone overhearing the conversation
· Training in phishing identification, particularly those messages supposedly providing Covid-19 updates
· Centrally managed desktops, and applications, freeing remote employees from applications and infrastructure support burdens. This is easier now that many critical applications are provided via SaaS. Centrally managed Desktop as a Service also allows IT to enforce and monitor work times per the telecommuting policy.
· Require all business is conducted over a company provided VPN; ensure all company supplied smartphones have a hotspot capability as a backup resource
· Restructuring the Help Desk to be the central source of contact for all employee issues other than HR or business. An automated application, with auto-routing can make this easier, but a phone line to a live person can help a remote worker who needs reassurance or has an outage.
IT’s role has changed from a supplier of data, applications, and support to the glue that physically holds the company together. Working with Insurance, HR, Procurement, and strategic vendors, IT must be ready to instantiate the telecommuting policy for both productivity and loss avoidance. This may be easier in large, highly profitable organizations that can bulk order chairs, monitors, and even desks to send to employees’ homes, but for lesser organizations, the cost of compliance will be a test of the CIO’s agility and creativity.