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Adapting to flexible working practices

At a glance

  • Flexible working practices, such as hot-desking and working from home, are increasingly common in today’s organisations
  • While delivering various benefits to employees and employers alike, they also present various risk management challenges
  • We look at some important considerations when exploring flexible working practices

Working from home, hot-desking and bring your own device (BYOD) are all prominent examples of how our work environment is evolving.

For some job roles, technology now makes it possible to work seamlessly from anywhere in the world, challenging traditional staffing practices and enabling smarter and more flexible methods to be explored.

The pace of change is so rapid that flexible working is predicted to become the norm for 70% of organisations by 2020.

However, as well as potential benefits for both employers and employee, flexible working also presents a number of fresh challenges for risk managers to overcome.

We look at some important points to consider when exploring flexible working.

Multiple locations, same duty of care

All employers should take reasonable steps to protect employees from foreseeable risks of harm. This duty is not limited to their regular place of work, but extends to all work environments, including business travel and home working.

Measures such as Display Screen Equipment (DSE) workstation assessments therefore still apply, but may need to be approached slightly differently.

As a minimum, DSE guidance should always be given that addresses different types of work environments. All workstations, including hot-desks, should be adjustable to meet various employees’ needs. If a person is working from home regularly, it is advisable to conduct a separate DSE assessment for that environment.

Fundamentally, it is important to keep records of all risk management actions in order to evidence how you are meeting your duties to employees.

Mental wellbeing

Managing hazards such as stress are also important when satisfying an employer’s duty of care. Organisations should therefore consider how flexible working practices might impact employees’ mental, as well as physical, wellbeing.

For example, using personal devices for work may remove clear divisions between work and life, introducing more stress. Working from home may have the same effect for some employees, while also potentially fostering feelings of isolation.

Insurance implications

Businesses should always be encouraged to discuss flexible working arrangements with brokers and insurers to ensure cover remains suitable.

Portable electronic equipment, for example, can be subject to inner limits, so may require adjustments to accommodate larger amounts, or usage at multiple locations.

Equally, employers should recommend that employees check their own insurance arrangements for potential conflicts. Some household policies, for example, can restrict or exclude use for business purposes.

Similarly, if employees are using their own vehicle for business travel, it is essential to check that it is insured for uses beyond social, domestic and pleasure.

Maintaining security

Flexible working practices can introduce a range of cyber and data security issues that will need to be addressed.

Allowing employees to use personal devices, such as laptops and smartphones, for work purposes is a particular challenge. Organisations should ensure they have clear written policies on acceptable use and security procedures, formally authorise and register all devices, and require strong passwords to be used.

Other sensible measures include using remote access virtual private networks (VPNs) for business purposes, and installing remote lock/wipe software in the event of a device being lost or stolen.

Guidelines on the use of unsecured WiFi networks should also be considered, as well as clear policies on taking paper files out of the office.

Ensuring equality

If some employees benefit from flexible working at the expense of others, this can breed resentment towards both flexible workers and the organisation.

It is therefore advisable that flexible working arrangements are not made on an ad hoc basis, but instead introduced via clear policies setting out the circumstances of when and how they apply.

“Flexible working itself has been around for decades, but technology is now opening up a range of new possibilities,” explains Steven Taylorson, Head of Technical Casualty Underwriting at Zurich.

“Legislation is still adapting to these trends, so businesses will need to think carefully about how they continue to meet current duties in this rapidly evolving workplace.”

To find out more information, please speak with your local Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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