VP, Deputy General Counsel HireRight
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Extra risks businesses face due to remote working

2nd Aug 2021
VP, Deputy General Counsel HireRight
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The first thing to note is that there is no sort of legal bar, whether that is from a privacy perspective or an employment perspective, to people working from home. One of the biggest risks of mass remote working is the erosion of culture, and there are a couple of reasons why that is so important.

Firstly, your corporate culture and what you stand for is actually one of your unique selling points for attracting talent, and ensuring people have a happy work life, so the erosion of culture and the connection between teams and the impact that that has, for example, on collaboration, is quite significant.

The other reason why the erosion of culture is so important, and why it’s a risk for mass remote working, is that unbeknownst to us, by commuting and going into the office, we shed our home selves, and when we step into our offices, we put on the clothing of our work selves. In that defined space and defined environment of the office, a different set of rules and responsibilities, ways of being and interacting, and ethics apply to us, and when we’re at home we don’t have that.

By not having people around us that are also defined outside of their normal lives by their workspace, and are all being held to the same standards, we don’t have a mirror being held up to ourselves, which can essentially mean that we can become a little bit more lazy with some of the things that we might normally do: we might be more careless with how we are discussing confidential matters, especially if you live in a shared home for example, where people can overhear you or you might not have your headphones on; or we might not use Control-Alt-Delete to lock our computers as we walk away from our desks. Without many of our normal behaviours, we might be more tempted to do things that we shouldn’t do, so culture is a really big thing.

Additionally, specifically related to mass working because of COVID-19, an extra layer of risk is added on, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case once the pandemic has passed. This is because COVID-19 in and of itself, for a variety of reasons, has put a lot of pressure onto people – this could be that your partner has been furloughed, they may have lost their job, or you may be feeling unstable because you can’t see your family and friends. There are lots of stresses, and we know that psychologically, if we become more stressed, we become more susceptible to doing things that are out of character of what we might normally do.

From a risk perspective, you’ve also got a risk of people’s mental health suffering, leading to them not behaving as they normally would, which again can impact the culture of your organisation. Also, for anybody who is struggling financially for example, there may be temptations that are in front of them, dependent on what information they have access to, which means they might be more tempted to commit some sort of breach of policy or some kind of fraud. Again, this is why the erosion of culture is so important, because that probably wouldn’t happen, or it would be less likely to happen, if you’re sitting next to a colleague at a desk.

So, I think those are two of the key things to consider – one of them is very unique to COVID-19 and one of them I think applies more generally as a risk of mass remote working.

You can read more about the impact of pandemic on background screening, talent acquisition, and talent management in HireRight’s 2021 Global Benchmark Report.

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