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On the Line

Remote Work: Managing the Risks that Are Here to Stay

Kelly Wulff
Vouch General Counsel
Tasha Matheson
Vouch Head of Claims

How we work and how we manage our workforce has permanently changed. For example, half of the labor force in major cities is working from home, and as this continues and becomes permanent for many companies, startups need to rethink their risk exposure. To better manage their risks, startups should be mindful of three key areas: cybersecurity, employee health and safety, and business property protection. Why? 

Cyberattacks are escalating

Cybercrime has dramatically increased since the start of the lockdown. In fact, according to Info Security Magazine, ransomware and cyber extortion payments doubled in the first half of 2020 alone for businesses. Worse, cyber-crime is expected to continue and evolve as the shelter in place restrictions begin to ease.
As work from home becomes work from anywhere, employees are likely to begin working in communal places, like coffee shops, which can lead to the use of open and unsecured networks that are vulnerable to attacks by hackers.

Additionally, business calls taken in a communal setting are susceptible to good old-fashioned eavesdropping, which remains an effective tactic for hackers to obtain commercially sensitive information. Later in this report, we’ll examine cyber risk trends, and cybersecurity experts will discuss top concerns for startups and provide best practices for startups to prepare for 2021; so read on to find out more about what you can do to protect your business.

Put your employees first

The work from home and “blended reopening” environment creates multiple new risks for employee health and safety. Employers need to consider many factors. For example: should you reopen an office if you aren’t going to separate workstations? Will you require  employees to wear masks, provide alternatives to public transportation, and reimburse people for parking? Founders need to consider practical things, the brass tacks of running a business during a pandemic. Don’t wait for OSHA or your local government to tell you these things. You are your best risk management tool.

Make your policies crystal clear

As your workplace evolves, keep a close eye on how you communicate expectations to employees. The most important thing you can do to drive employee behavior and performance is to be exceptionally clear in your expectations, and to document and repeat these expectations whenever possible. For example, do you start your All Hands with a reminder of your mission, vision, and values? Does your team know how to report concerns? Have you refreshed your employee handbook over the last year? Have you hired team members in new states? Reflect on whether your policies align with your company’s values. Do a compliance audit to ensure your employees have completed mandatory harassment prevention training. In most cases, you don’t need a lawyer to help you with these things, but we do recommend an annual review of your employee handbook and conduct policies with experienced employment counsel. 

Implement Ethena’s anti-harassment training to manage employment risks and comply with state law

To help our customers better mitigate employee risks, we’ve partnered with Ethena to provide anti-harassment training. Today, anti-harassment training is required by many states, and we are offering this service free of cost for startups with 14 or less employees, and at a discounted rate for larger companies. Ethena takes a modern approach to compliance training, and they feature examples that tackle issues in the WHF environment like how to handle inappropriate messaging or online behavior, and they do so in an easy-to-understand format, rather than in an awkward one hour lecture or video. Instead, Ethena provides short, engaging, and personalized training throughout the year. We loved it so much that Vouch uses Ethena for its own internal training.

Have an attorney review your employment policies, agreements, and materials.  

Vouch has also partnered with the Minnesota-based law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis to provide free legal advice to our customers on pre-claim employment law issues. Nilan Johnson Lewis advises companies of all sizes across the country on everything employment related, including recruiting and hiring, employment agreements, employee handbooks, performance management, wage-and-hour compliance, coaching and discipline, and termination.

Vouch has also partnered with the Minnesota-based law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis to provide free legal advice to our customers on pre-claim employment law issues.

Vouch is here to help if you encounter a dispute or claim

In the event that you need to file a claim related to employee issues, know that the process at Vouch is customer and user friendly. Vouch recently assisted a customer reach a quick resolution to an employment related claim brought by a former employee. We worked with our customer during every step of the process, and retained a highly-qualified, effective attorney to represent our customer, who was able to resolve the dispute swiftly, avoiding a potentially costly lawsuit. While we’d all like to prevent employee issues from arising, bad things happen to good startups, and we are here to help you through the process.

What’s to come later in 2021? For Vouch clients, we plan on offering access to a variety of compliance checklists, model forms, policies, procedures, and sample contracts. In addition, Vouch will launch a contract review service, as well as additional risk management partnerships and services.

It can be scary to navigate so many different kinds of emerging risks when it comes to cybersecurity, employee health and safety, and business property protection as a startup. However, with the right safeguards in place, compliance training, and expert resources, startups can learn how to navigate new territory. We are excited about our new offerings in the year ahead and we look forward to partnering with our customers to build ethical cultures and companies from the ground up. 

March 31, 2021
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