by Brian Beyerbach | Apr 27, 2023 | Business Insurance, Cyber Security
As workers increasingly use personal devices in the course of their workday, an inviting pathway has emerged for cybercriminals seeking access to your company’s sensitive data. Research shows that a significant number of data security personnel, as well as many senior executives, are aware of the possible security risks that come with the increasingly popular remote and hybrid work options.
According to the FTI Consulting report, “The Most Valuable, Vulnerable Commodity: Data Establishes a New Era of Digital Insights & Risk Management,” 91% of data security personnel have personally experienced the negative implications posed by remote and hybrid work.
The report further states that:
- 45% believe that working remotely or using the hybrid model has increased the risk of data breaches.
- 41% have reported data shared on devices, networks, and systems that do not comply with their security standards.
- 38% of respondents felt their business is more vulnerable to malicious acts due to remote working and the potential avenues for unauthorized access to company data.
In fact, the digital risk is quickly becoming a higher concern than other, more traditional sources of company risk.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies drastically switched to remote work schedules in a very short timeframe with the primary goal of safeguarding their employees’ well-being. Employers reluctant to lose valued workers by forcing them to return to the office have allowed remote work to become a standard option in many occupations.
Unfortunately, this has had the predictable effect of causing a corresponding increase in cybersecurity incidents by 238%, according to a 2022 Alliance Virtual Offices report.
Available online data is increasing not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of variety. With more sophisticated tools and platforms supporting remote collaboration, a diversity of new data types and formats has surfaced. This can be a great resource for businesses if it is handled responsibly. However, it also has the potential for disastrous consequences without proper precautions.
Companies with remote employees frequently allow their staff to use their own devices instead of those provided by the company. These “Bring Your Own Device” (B.Y.O.D.) policies present huge security risks. Unfortunately, personal devices can be a security risk as they usually come with vulnerabilities like outdated software and insufficient network controls, making it difficult for security specialists to protect company data from potential threats.
Cybercriminals can find methods of getting personal data from devices faster than the companies can protect it, as is indicative of their advanced tactics and strategies. Criminals are shifting their efforts to exploit those vulnerabilities by altering how they target employees.
Where businesses have spent decades safeguarding their digital assets from cyber threats like ransomware attacks and data breaches with firewalls and intrusion detection systems, employees are now working outside the perimeter of those protections. Therefore, it may be necessary to have BYOD policies allowing employees to access company networks on their personal laptops, smartphones, or tablets, provided they have sufficient protection.
Remote Working Cybersecurity Risks
Telecommuting increases the chances of data breaches, as there are multiple threats associated with working from home. Businesses should be aware of the most common potential cyber risks and have sufficient protection measures in place.
The areas of growing concern include the following:
- Increased attack surfaces
- Shortage of security talent
- Insufficient security staff oversight
- Risky data practices
- Susceptible to phishing
- Vulnerable unsecured hardware
- Vulnerable unsecured networks
- Access and enabling technology vulnerabilities
The effects of poor security practices can be extreme. Studies show that companies with more than 80% of their employees working remotely incurred a loss of $5.1 million due to data breaches in 2022. Companies with a smaller portion of their staff (20%) working remotely paid an average of $4 million, which is still significant.
Although it may not be possible for companies to do away with remote work schedules, there are things that companies can do to protect themselves. Cybersecurity should be a priority.
What Is the Answer?
Businesses that prioritize cyber-safety should analyze their cyber-liability insurance policies. These policies usually contain detailed security procedures that companies must follow to be eligible for full coverage, making them a great source of info on the most up-to-date practices.
Staying protected in the era of BYOD is an ongoing challenge. To address this, businesses should create incident response playbooks that describe how to handle and contain data security incidents when they occur. By doing so, it’s possible to minimize the damage and get back on track more quickly. Following that with practice runs can take the strategy to the next level.
The pandemic brought remote working to a greater number of businesses and that isn’t going anywhere. Therefore, it is wise to embrace it and take steps to protect the company.
by Brian Beyerbach | Apr 25, 2023 | Compliance, Human Resources
With the growing number of hybrid and remote workers, keeping up with all the regulatory complexities has become a daunting task. Recent research shows that many employers have adjusted their leave policies to better meet the demands of their staff and match corporate values, as well as keep up with industry standards.
This has the potential to benefit workers and companies. Global Workplace Analytics reports that nearly 60% of employers believe embracing a workforce that includes hybrid and remote workers could save the company money. If those who wished to work remotely did so at least half of the time, businesses could see big reductions in their operating expenses.
By offering an attractive leave policy designed to accommodate these employees, they can draw top talent while saving money.
Managing employees’ leaves can be complicated, especially when required to comply with multiple state leave laws. However, it is doable. By addressing the most cited concerns, businesses can make their policies more efficient while remaining compliant.
Revising Worker Leave Practices
Despite considerable efforts to ensure they stay compliant with industry standards and government regulations, many companies are finding it challenging to establish all-encompassing personal leave policies. Managing a dispersed workforce of a combination of hybrid and remote employees can make it even more difficult for HR leaders who struggle to stay up-to-date with regulations and take advantage of financial opportunities while providing employee support.
This can put a strain on their resources and become overwhelming.
HR teams should be aware of the ever-changing workforce dynamics, and a 2023 NFP Leave Management Report from benefits consultants at NFP provides an outline suggesting the primary practices for leave policies that make sure they remain compliant.
The report recommends that employers put more effort into examining their benefits policies across the following areas.
PTO, Sick Time, and Vacation
Compared to a conventional vacation policy, a PTO (Personal Time Off) policy is more flexible and offers employees an allotment of time that they can use for sick days, personal activities, or even vacations, as outlined by their employer. With this type of plan, employees do not need to specify the reason for taking their time off, making PTOs a practical solution for companies.
Often, employers prefer more regulation over how paid time off is used. Studies have shown, though, that people usually take less time off when they’re allowed an unlimited amount of PTO.
The best approach to forming a sick leave policy is to research the maximum state-required leave that an employer must provide and, if feasible, create a policy that meets or exceeds that amount. This ensures compliance with government regulations and also protects the interests of both employer and employee.
PTO generally begins accruing upon hiring, but some companies offer the yearly allotment as soon as the employee is hired.
Although parental leave is usually granted to the mother when a child is born, an optimal approach ensures that all parents have the same leave policy. This protects birth, adoption, and fostering parents wishing to build a close relationship with their new child.
Establishing impartial policies that provide for all types of parental leave for all parents while adhering to federal and state regulations offers employee equality and simplifies management for employers.
Shockingly, 42% of employers don’t coordinate their maternity leave with short-term disability plans, and a whopping 63% fail to do the same with state medical leave benefits. Generally, the state pays first, and then short-term disability covers a percentage.
By providing salary continuation, employers can supplement the existing benefits from short-term disability and/or state-provided benefits for their employees. Thereby ensuring that their staff is being completely provided for during those times.
There has been a notable uptick in employers providing family caregiver leave to their staff over the last few years. However, over half of the companies that offer this benefit allow fewer than six weeks of paid time off.
Millions of U.S. workers care for their elderly and disabled loved ones. Enabling employees to take time as needed to attend medical appointments and care for their families grants employees the chance to manage both their work and personal life while preserving productivity on the job.
Whether managing a company’s employee leave program is handled by the owner or manager, an internal HR team, or an outside benefits consultant, offering flexible leave is a popular and progressive trend. Although it might seem complex initially, it all begins with compliant and comprehensive leave policies and procedures.
There are ways for forward-thinking companies to manage the process while remaining compliant. Ultimately, it might be mutually beneficial.
by Brian Beyerbach | Apr 10, 2023 | Employee Benefits
Employee benefits packages are designed to help families manage their finances and protect their long-term economic health. As part of the worker’s overall compensation, benefits typically include health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, and other types of coverage.
In the modern workplace, family benefits are becoming increasingly important to employees. With more people working remotely, and many unable to take traditional family vacations due to the pandemic among other reasons, it’s no surprise that employees are looking for ways to keep their families connected and supported.
Employees Increasingly Value Family-Friendly Benefits
Family-friendly benefits are becoming more and more attractive to employees. They provide employees with increased flexibility in juggling work life and home life. This encourages peace of mind and a sense of security when it comes to their family’s future that allows them to more fully focus on their job-related obligations when they are at work.
Companies that offer flexible work schedules, parental leave policies, and other family-friendly benefits have an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent.
In addition, providing these types of benefits can help improve employee morale and productivity. As such, it is essential for employers to understand the value of family benefits in order to stay competitive in today’s job market.
Unfortunately, these benefits are often the first to be cut when it comes to reducing expenses in the workplace.
Problems in the Workplace
Employers and workers alike feel the pressure due to the lack of economic stability. During times of economic unease, companies will often take a look at their employee benefits as a way to reduce costs while protecting jobs and preserving wages. Although this can seem to be the lesser of two evils, it can also be a substantial source of fear and anxiety for many workers.
Plus, after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade brought reproductive rights into question, workers have increasingly been concerned about their access to reproductive health benefits. In fact, nearly 41% of employees feel their employers could do more, with almost one in ten considering changing jobs for one with better benefits.
These conflicting objectives may make reductions to family benefits appealing to employers while they directly oppose the preference of the workers. Feeling valued and appreciated as a member of the team is essential for people to feel secure and comfortable with the stability of their jobs.
When an individual’s employee benefits are secure and they know they can expect reasonable compensation in the future, their satisfaction increases along with their motivation. This leads to a heightened sense of responsibility for their job and a higher level of performance that is worthy of note. Additionally, it also increases their loyalty to the company.
Basic Family Benefits Package
Many employers offer their employees a basic family benefits package. Unfortunately, it usually does the minimum toward caring for the needs of their workers and their families.
Most packages include the following:
- Family health benefits parity globally
- Fertility and adoption support
- Maternity and parenting support
- Postpartum and pediatric care
- Reproductive health care
Unfortunately, there is a growing disparity between the family benefits packages offered by employers and the ones wanted by employees. This gap often leads to a lack of job satisfaction among employees, which can lead to decreased productivity and higher turnover rates.
The Disparity in Family Benefits
Studies show that nearly 2/3 of employees have either left or considered leaving a job without decent family benefits. Furthermore, an even larger percentage have had to miss work or lose opportunities because of concerns related to their family’s health.
These statistics demonstrate the importance of providing adequate family benefits in the workplace. Evidently, family benefits policies are prized more highly than ever.
In addition to the typical benefits offered by the majority of U.S. companies, workers have identified the following as areas where the packages offered by their companies often fall short.
- Caregiver support
- Paid parental and caregiver leave
- Preconception support
- Reproductive health support
Fortunately, there are solutions.
In order to bridge this gap, employers must take into account the needs of their employees when creating family benefits packages. They should consider things like childcare options, flexible work hours, family health insurance coverage, and other benefits that could help improve employee morale and well-being.
This could begin with a dialogue with employees encouraging them to identify where they feel the need most greatly. Assess which areas would provide the most improvement in the lives of the greatest number of employees. Communication ensures they feel part of the solution. Their needs are being met.
By taking these steps, employers can ensure that they are providing fair and equitable family benefits packages that meet the needs of both themselves and their employees.
by Brian Beyerbach | Mar 31, 2023 | Compliance, Human Resources
As the nature of the contemporary workplace evolves, your policies must reflect the changing times. With the rise of remote work, digital tools, and new regulations, there are many key changes to consider for your 2023 employee handbook.
An employee handbook is an essential tool for any organization. It sets out the expectations, terms, and conditions of employment while reducing potential legal risks. This document should not be overlooked if you want to ensure compliance with government regulations.
No matter how comprehensive your current employee handbook is, it can become outdated quickly due to changes in the law and the world. Therefore, employers should ensure that their handbook covers all the essential policies, as well as any new developments in their workplace. This will guarantee your employee handbook is up-to-date and compliant in 2023.
Changes in Work Time Policies
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a dramatic shift in workplace dynamics. No longer satisfied with the traditional 9-to-5 workday model, modern employees are increasingly opting for flexible working hours. This has made way for the emergence of remote work, hybrid work, and flexible work hours.
To ensure the successful management of these new work structures, businesses need to implement sound policies. This would include key points, such as, but not limited to, the following:
- Which employees are eligible
- Attendance expectations
- How time off and breaks are tracked
- How overtime is compensated
Having such a policy in place ensures everyone is on the same page and enables operations to remain smooth.
Communicable Disease Policies
During the Covid 19 pandemic, many companies introduced protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. These included rules around staying home if unwell, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, maintaining social distancing, and having regular tests conducted.
Companies should reevaluate their existing policies and update them so that they are not only applicable to the Covid pandemic but any potential future communicable disease or virus. This will help ensure that businesses are well-equipped to handle such occurrences with minimal disruption.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Incorporating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) mission statement in the employee handbook sends a strong statement to employees that the company is committed to DEI. If that seems too bold, consider using the word “employee” and “they/them” throughout the handbook instead of gender-specific pronouns.
Pay close attention to any company leave policies and make sure they are not exclusive. Providing additional medical benefits when an employee gives birth may lead to discrimination cases from other staff members who have medical issues unrelated to childbirth that require them to miss work.
Offering a paid medical leave benefit regardless of the reason is not only more equitable but also provides cover for more scenarios. This should be prioritized over only providing it for childbirth-related issues.
Progressively, companies are shifting from “maternity” leave to “parental” or “caregiver” leave for bonding with a child. This type of benefit should also be available to families who adopt, use surrogacy, or foster care when growing their family- not just those who experience childbirth.
Security and Privacy Protection Policies
To ensure a safe and secure work environment, employers should regularly update their security policies and procedures for both in-office and remote workers. They should also update their social media policies to further protect confidential information and address any potential privacy concerns.
Ensure Employee Handbook Compliance
It’s no good having an employee handbook if employees don’t know what it is or how to access it. To make sure everyone knows where to find the handbook, you should have an electronic version with embedded hyperlinks for swift navigation.
These can include links for applying for benefits, emails for contacts, and links to other related policies. Rather than relying on hardcopy employee handbooks, organizations now have the ability to keep policies up-to-date electronically. This makes it easier for them to make amendments quickly, without having to print out and distribute new versions.
It is essential to review and update employee handbooks with legal counsel every year in order to stay up to date with the ever-evolving work environment, pertinent laws and regulations, and also promote fairness and inclusivity throughout the organization. This process helps establish a strong company culture.