We know remote work isn’t going anywhere. The question is, how do we make it better? There’s no denying the productivity, employee well-being, and cost benefits of remote work. However, the risks and challenges remote workers face are also undeniable.
Businesses can’t continue to ignore the latter if they want to create a solid remote work team and environment to support it. Let’s look at three risks unique to remote employees and how to manage them best.
Cybersecurity concerns make up so much of the conversation surrounding risks unique to remote workers.
Because employees are working from home or in another remote location, it’s challenging to maintain a consistent cybersecurity program—mainly because workers are using varying devices across different networks with diverse cybersecurity protection solutions.
Not having a handle on cybersecurity makes your employees and business vulnerable to many cyber threats, including malware, phishing, and password attacks. The solution? Company-provided equipment and training.
If you can, provide your employees with the equipment they need to do their jobs remotely, whether a laptop, mobile phone, or access to a reliable internet service. But, more importantly, install cybersecurity solutions on each piece of equipment.
In addition to company-provided equipment, take your employees through rigorous cybersecurity training. Ensure they learn the basics, like:
- Most-used cybersecurity tools.
- Cybersecurity risks specific to remote work.
- Common cyber threats and how to spot them.
- How to navigate different cybersecurity solutions.
- The difference between an insider threat and an external one.
Also, walk your remote employees through what to do in the case of a data breach, malware attack, and other cybersecurity issues.
Of course, the kind of technology people have access to and how they understand and use it is different. The unfortunate thing is it’s much easier to address this in the office than it is remotely.
For example, if employees have difficulty understanding how to use specific software, they can walk to their manager’s office and get hands-on help almost instantly.
On the other hand, remote workers have to send a request for help by email, instant message, or video call. They then have to wait for their manager to receive the request. After that, they finally connect with their manager, and both do their best to do a software walkthrough virtually.
Technology is such an integral part of successful remote work, accommodating each remote employee’s technology literacy and learning style is necessary. “No remote worker left behind” must be the motto when it comes to teaching them how to use your tech tools properly.
Sit down with each employee and ask questions which reveal how comfortable they are with technology, what they need extra help with, and how to best provide them with that support.
Cybersecurity and technology-related risks aren’t the only, nor the most important, ones remote workers face. There are unexpected health risks associated with working from home businesses must manage as well. Let’s start with physical health.
Physical health risks
First, some remote employees don’t get enough exercise for whatever reason. They’re sitting more than anything, and that can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which makes them vulnerable to chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, many remote workers don’t have the luxury of a home office with ergonomic furniture. Instead, they’re using what they have, whether kitchen chairs, couches, or side tables. Setups like this don’t promote good posture, resulting in regular neck, shoulder, back, and wrist pain.
Remote employees spend a lot of time in front of their computers. Unfortunately, our eyes just aren’t made to stare at a screen for hours on end, which is why many remote workers experience eye strain.
To better manage the physical health risks associated with remote work, do the following:
- Reimburse your employees for ergonomic office furniture purchases or provide it for them.
- Give them guidance on how to design a home office suitable for remote work.
- Offer wellness resources like discounted gym memberships, access to a personal trainer, and free virtual workout sessions to encourage physical activity.
- Ensure your remote workers are taking regular breaks and lunches and clocking out at the end of the day to give their eyes and minds adequate rest.
Mental health risks
You can look at the mental health of remote workers in two ways. On the one hand, many remote workers feel like their mental health has improved thanks to the convenience and flexibility of remote work.
On the other hand, remote work has led to various mental health challenges for employees. For example, “67% of remote workers report feeling pressured to be available all the time,” according to recent remote work statistics compiled by Zippia. As a result, remote workers don’t clock out of work and end up burning out.
In addition, many remote workers get little to no social interaction, leading to isolation, loneliness, and a sedentary lifestyle. All of which can exacerbate mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To better manage your remote employees’ mental health risks, incorporate the following:
- More frequent breaks.
- Regular mental health check-ins.
- Flexible working hours and time off.
- Encourage a work-life balance.
- Free or discounted access to mental health professionals.
There’s a long list of risks unique to remote workers. Figure out which are affecting your team and do everything in your power to protect your remote workers from them.