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No Going Back Now: Workplace Strategies for A New and Better Normal

When businesses across the nation sent their employees home to work in the early days of the pandemic, many scrambled to put temporary systems and processes into place that were only intended to hold them for a few weeks. Many are still working remotely seven months later, with no plans to return until January 2021 at the earliest, if at all. It turns out that the ‘new normal’ we’ve been talking about is actually a business evolution, one that will require much more than a short-term business continuity plan.

Sentinel recommends development of new workplace strategies based on the “PACE” approach: privacy, access, compensation, and employer liability. It’s a methodology that prioritizes what matters most–people–while also focusing on data integrity, risk management, and employee safety. Whether your company intends to bring employees back onsite, go fully virtual or something in between, a dynamic work-from-home strategy is possible so long as it remains flexible to accommodate the nuances of home life.

Privacy – if personal laptops or desktops are being used to access company systems, the same IT firewalls in place at the office should apply at home. All security protocols should be installed and monitored, just as if the computer was employer-furnished. There should be no expectation of privacy while operating within the employer network.

Access – home networks tend to be less secure than office networks, particularly WIFI, and they should be password protected at all times. Depending on the sensitivity of client data, some employers have had their home-based employees sign a non-disclosure agreement. Should there be a breach (of any kind) it should be reported immediately to management. If have employer provided equipment, access should be limited to official company use.

Compensation– overtime rules will apply for certain FLSA eligible employees working from home (checking email after hours for example). Same goes for meals and breaks for hourly employees so it is essential that hours are tracked and reported accordingly.

Employer Liability – thinking about Workers Comp, many home-based employees have been working from their dining room or kitchen table, perhaps sitting in a chair not ergonomically built to ensure workplace comfort and safety. Carpal tunnel issues can arise from months’ long working from too low or too high seating. What about slips / falls in the home? Perhaps each employee’s home workplace should be photographed and reviewed by an ergonomics specialist to ensure employee safety? Options (such as allowing employees to take their office chair home) should be reviewed and considered.

The Sentinel team is here to guide you through the strategic planning and business recovery process. Change is hard, but it’s a lot easier with a trusted advisor to guide you.

Contact Carr McCaskill by phone at: 336-842-4803, or by email at: cmccaskill@sentinelra.com.