Skillsoft Blog

Compliance in a Remote Work Environment

April 14, 2020 | by Charlie Voelker

When it comes to working, a lot has changed. Things are not business as usual. However, amidst all the changes something remains constant: compliance. Just because employees are now working from home doesn’t mean the rules of the game no longer apply. Any policy that applied to the workplace before the COVID-19 pandemic extends to work conducted at home as well.

While every company is unique, the following common issues should be considered through the lens of work from home:

Harassment

While what used to happen face-to-face is now happening via web conference, phone, and email, the same standards for professional, respectful behavior apply. It also introduces some new considerations. For example, people who may not be especially computer-savvy may be new to web conference technology and colleagues should make an effort to be patient and avoid making comments that could be construed as age-based discrimination or harassment.

Working from home can make you feel more relaxed and casual, but you have to be careful that this doesn’t cause you to act in overly familiar ways with colleagues. Even if you’re working on your couch, you’re still interacting with people you have a business relationship with. Keep interactions professional, just as you would if they occurred in the office.

Timekeeping

Hourly employees are used to clocking in and out when at work. This practice of keeping track of working time is critically important for both the business and the individual. Keeping an accurate account of time spent working gives the business the records that it needs and ensures the employee is properly paid for the time they work.

While it is easy when at home to step away to throw in a load of laundry or walk the dog, this is non-working time and employees should not count it as “on the clock” time. On the other hand, it can be all too easy to get pulled into a work email or phone call and forget to keep track of the time. Keeping careful track of the time they spend working can help employees maintain a healthy work/life balance and ensure they are paid for all work completed.

Device usage

Most companies have policies regarding company-issued device usage, and these apply even when in the home. If you are using employer-issued computers, tablets or phones, the acceptable use policy limitations still apply. For example, if certain web sites are off-limits while in the office, they’re still off-limits at home.

Sensitive or confidential information

It’s likely your company has defined the types of information it considers sensitive or confidential. The importance of protecting this information extends to the remote work environment. Be sure to consider not only what’s on your computer screen, but also what might be overheard by others at home. If you need to step away from your device, be mindful of the fact that you may have sensitive or confidential information on the screen that shouldn’t be seen by anyone outside the company. You can protect this information by simply locking your computer or device when away from your desk. Be mindful that family members may hear something they shouldn’t.

Ethics and code of conduct

Your company’s code of conduct defines how you and other employees should act on a day-to-day basis. The company’s ethical principles that govern decisions and standards of behavior still apply to a remote work environment. Maintaining professionalism and treating colleagues, customers and vendors the same way as before remote work ensures adherence to these policies.

The move to remote work does not reduce the importance of a company’s compliance program. Indeed, the dispersal of a workforce makes consistent compliance messaging even more critical. Online compliance training can help organizations of all sizes maintain their compliance programs even in the face of an extended period of remote work.

Skillsoft course suggestions:

Charlie Voelker is the Director, Legal Compliance Products

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