Why compliance training is even more critical when your employees have to work from home

Ewa Jaremka|April 10, 2020

Workplaces are reeling from the disruption of the present COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have significantly altered their operations, if they can operate at all. A majority of those who can, however, are asking their entire employee base to carry out their jobs from home. Although having your staff work from home has become a necessary contingency, it does place the spotlight on your responsibilities as an employer.

Compliance training may seem very much a necessity that’s relevant when your team is inside a physical office, sitting side by side. But did you know that it’s even more essential when you ask staff to work from home?

Your responsibilities as an employer aren’t mitigated by the fact that the physical workspace has simply shifted. You’re just as liable for your staff as when they’re working on company premises. What has changed is that those responsibilities have become much harder to deliver on, because of the lack of control you now have over all the variables within your dissipated and largely invisible “workplace”.

On the flipside, your people also have the responsibility to remain compliant with any policy and procedures provided by you, no matter whether they’re carrying out their duties in the company office or from the corner of their living rooms. It’s also why thoughtfully-designed, engaging compliance courses that “stick” really come into their own.

Here are some things you as an employer may not know about why a solid compliance training foundation is even more crucial when your people are working from home.

Workplace Health and Safety law still applies, whether your people are sitting in their home study or at your company’s desk pods

One of the biggest myths about having your staff work from home is that the usual rules surrounding physical risk no longer apply. After all, it’s their fault if they trip over a tangle of computer cables in a poorly set-up up home office corner, right? Not quite. Workplace Health & Safety legislation still applies even when your employees are working from home.

Robin Price, a lecturer in employment relations at Central Queensland University, was recently quoted by the ABC as saying there were several issues employers had to ensure were compliant with health and safety. “If you’re an employee and you’re working for someone, they have a duty of care for your health and safety,” she said.

But by delivering effective compliance training, you safeguard not only their safety, but also your business against any risk of legal action should they become injured. Once they complete training, the onus is on the employee to take all reasonable care to ensure their safety, and follow the company policy as driven by you.

It also empowers your staff with the knowledge of how to apply WHS fundamentals to their home-working environment. Depending on the nature of your business, this can include points such as the ergonomics of their chair and desk rather than hunching over their laptop at the kitchen table, access to proper heating and cooling, good lighting, ensuring they take breaks and, of course, wiring up their equipment safely so that they don’t trip over.

At times such as the present pandemic, experts also advise that it’s good practice for employers to communicate and reiterate to their team that they refresh themselves on their compliance training on what is a safe and manageable workplace.


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Appropriate behaviour, use of company IT and data privacy is much harder to supervise

According to esteemed US law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in an article on its Coronavirus Resource Center, asking staff to work from home “may be prudent and advisable, but can inadvertently heighten the risk of data breaches or other cyber incidents, which in turn can lead to substantial financial loss, reputational harm, and legal exposure”.

An increase in your employees working remotely also means that they’re more likely to take electronic or other data outside the physical, secure boundaries of the office space, or turn to shortcuts that may be more convenient but less secure, such as forwarding emails or documents to their personal email accounts. All of these can increase the risk of your data loss, it said.

This issue really puts the importance of compliance training that covers these topics front and centre.

Modules on data privacy, appropriate use of the company internet, cloud and VPN, offer a crucial reminder to your employees on how to protect your organisation from cyberthreat, data loss and litigation – especially when they’re working in less cyber-secure circumstances and in many cases on their own devices.

Safeguarding the company by highlighting appropriate behaviour modules is also especially important for managers when they’re overseeing remote teams.

Bullying and harassment can actually increase

While it may seem a counterintuitive concept because staff aren’t in each other’s physical presence, surprisingly, many companies experience that bullying and harassment can actually increase among colleagues when people are working from home.

Just as internet users feel more free to be abusive and aggressive via their keyboards on chat forums and social media, office bullies can feel that the removal of face-to-face interaction makes it easier to intimidate or harass their colleagues, whether via threatening chat messages, emails or calls.

Again, the fact that your employees aren’t in your office doesn’t diminish your obligation to provide a safe workplace. But if your staff have undertaken compliance training on the topic, it means the legal liability becomes theirs, protecting your company from being sued.

It’s why many companies are reminding their remote-working staff to refresh their understanding of their obligations to behave and interact appropriately, and to report any bullying they observe among their peers to their managers.

The take-away…

Even though your employees are working from home your responsibility to provide a safe workplace – whether it’s virtual or physical – isn’t mitigated. Your business is just as prone to risk and inappropriate behaviour and, with the immense pressure that companies and economies are facing during these unprecedented times, now it’s more important than ever to ensure that your business and people remain compliant and protected.

Safeguard your team and your business during COVID-19 with easy-to-implement online compliance training. Request a demo of our Compliance Ready+ modules today.

About the author

Ewa Jaremka


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