How to Pinpoint Compliance Blind Spots and Unaddressed Problems That Sneak in via a Remote Workforce

When the world shifted to remote work in 2020 as stay-at-home orders came into effect, many company leaders truly believed this was a temporary phase. No one knew that the shift to remote work would come so quickly or last as long as it has.

With these tremendous changes, executives and company leaders have had to reassess everything from their business strategies to the way they manage employees and maintain compliance. As employees continue to work remotely, how do you pinpoint compliance blind spots and unaddressed problems that can sneak into a remote workforce? Based on my experience, here’s what you need to know.

Remote Work Isn’t Going Away

First, it’s essential to understand that remote work is likely not going away anytime soon. Sure, Malcolm Gladwell can make remarks about the perils of working from home, but it won’t change what the modern workforce wants.

According to findings from Zippia, a job posting and career counseling company, more than 68% of those surveyed earlier this year would prefer to be fully remote. More than 20% would take a 10% pay cut to work from home permanently.

We also are dealing with the Great Resignation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released a paper on whether people are leaving companies at a higher rate. It shows that the Great Resignation is real. As the report says, “the pace of resignations seems to have risen more quickly than one would have expected from labor market tightening alone,” and indicates that there may be factual evidence to support the idea that people are quitting because their companies don’t offer remote work.

It’s not just remote work that’s here to stay, either. According to Gallup data from early 2022, 53% of remote workers expect a hybrid arrangement to be available for them on a more permanent basis, while 24% expect to work exclusively remotely.

That means that even if you don’t have a fully remote workforce, you likely have employees who thrive at being hybrid. You’ll also need to address their needs and the potential blindspots that hybrid work introduces. The new reality is that ignoring the demands of employees who want to work remotely could cost you your business.

Revamp Your Compliance Rules to Avoid Remote Work Blindspots

Once you’ve come to terms with the new workforce realities, you must consider updating your compliance rules. The compliance rules you had in-office should apply to remote work but probably need to be revamped. Here are a handful of common areas where management can often be blind to issues in a remote workplace.

Device Usage and Surveillance

Technology is how we connect with our remote and hybrid workforces, but it can also pose a compliance threat if not properly managed. While major corporations have plenty of tools to ensure that devices are used properly in the office, many struggle with remote and hybrid work. Leaders must ensure that employees have the proper protections in place at their home office or via a secure connection to make remote work secure. Compliance teams can work with the tech teams to ensure that all devices are up to date with the latest protections that fit your company.

There’s also the growing issue of employee surveillance via work devices. How do you ensure that your remote and hybrid workers are indeed connected and working when they need to? What rules and regulations are there around surveilling your employees when they’re using work devices and where they are using them? Some states and countries have different surveillance rules, so it’s essential to know these when hiring a remote workforce. Tread carefully in this area because it can be a messy legal space with privacy regulations.

Taxes and Remote Worker Locations

With remote workers working worldwide, do you know what your tax liability might be? This is often a complex and difficult aspect to unwind, but it’s a crucial focal point. For example, workers in California and New York are entitled to different benefits and tax classifications (contractor and freelance). Does your compliance department know what those are? What employment vulnerabilities might come up if you use workers in these states?

In some places, there are also rules about tax filings based on how many days someone spends in a specific locale (residency). Do you know where your employees work and the potential tax implications for those places?

Many issues can crop up with remote workers, especially when it comes to taxes, so be sure to work with your finance department to figure out where your vulnerabilities and blindspots might be. Once you’ve coordinated with them, you can set a well-advised policy that meets everyone’s needs.

Remote Access to Privileged and Confidential Information

With more workers deciding to work remotely, businesses are increasingly faced with issues of access to privileged and confidential information. Say an employee is working from home, and their spouse happens to see something that is confidential on their work device. How do you handle something like this? What if a family member overhears something on a video call or conference call?

These issues need to be addressed clearly and concisely in your compliance work. Solutions can be technology-based, but make sure that you’re choosing a technology partner that adheres to the local rules and regulations, both where your company is located and where the information is being accessed.

The Bottom Line on Compliance Blindspots in Remote Work

The best way to tackle these compliance blindspots is to think outside the office box. New issues can crop up as people work in remote locations, whether it’s a coffee shop or their home office. If you think about potential vulnerabilities as you begin to structure your new remote work compliance rules, you’ll be prepared to head off any sneaky issues that might crop up. In reality, remote and hybrid work isn’t going away any time soon, so now is a prime time to ensure that you and your workforce are ready for the shift in work.

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