As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more endemic both in the United States and worldwide, business leaders face new challenges. There’s no question that the pandemic has profoundly altered the way we work, play and live, but the changes that compliance departments and officers continue to grapple with offer an entirely new set of questions from those when the pandemic began. How do we continue to keep both our businesses and our people safe as the pandemic ebbs and flows? What unique challenges have arisen as a result of the new hybrid and remote-work culture that has flourished during this time?
The truth is that business compliance is navigating uncharted waters, which is changing the demands on compliance. Here are a few of the basic tools you need to navigate this changing space.
A Heightened Risk Environment: Remote Work Vulnerabilities
While many workers and businesses have thrived during the pandemic, remote and hybrid work have brought about a heightened risk environment. The pandemic has accelerated the timeline for getting employees online and remote. platforms hasn’t been feasible, which means that compliance departments and officers have made decisions on the fly and hoped for the best. We’ve integrated new platforms, brought on new partners and secured new assets so that our businesses could stay afloat. Now That we’re through the most difficult stretch, it’s important to take a moment to reassess the added technology we’ve onboarded in such a short period. The questions to ask yourself and your compliance team at this point are: Have we left the company vulnerable? How vulnerable are we? What do we need to do to close any gaps?
Add to this the fact that many employees still don’t have secure firewalls around their home networks. This leaves many systems vulnerable to cyberattacks, phishing and other forms of technological hacking—events that can wreak real havoc for compliance departments. Additionally, we’ ve seen an increase in questions about how private, company and personal data are handled when some of that data must be transferred outside the control of a company firewall, protected server or cloud system. It’s vital to ask: Are there places compliance needs to take a closer look to ensure that the company’s systems are secure and safe?
These pandemic-prompted changes have contributed to a heightened risk environment around technology and remote work. To be prepared for this continually evolving landscape, it is important to bring technology experts into the conversation around compliance. Hiring people with a deep knowledge of both the technological. demands of a remote and hybrid workforce and the legal ramifications that could transpire should something go sideways is vital. Such hires will ensure that your company continues to navigate these new compliance waters with minimal business risk.
An Evolving Office Environment: Keeping People Safe When They Return
There’s always a middle ground, but determining the right path for your business requires a deep understanding of this horrific disease and the compliance and legal issues that could arise should your workforce become ill.
To begin, compliance departments need to get up to speed on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From there, you’ll need to figure out what the rules (masking, vaccination requirements, etc.) are for the location So, for example, if your office were located in Austin, Texas (like mine), and Austin were to move back into the top tiers of infection, you’d need to comply with local masking and vaccination mandates to ensure the safety of your employees. You’d also need to check into social distancing rules, your ventilation system at the office and whether you can get access to outdoor spaces and airflow to help make employees safer when they do return.
Many of us have already been through this process repeatedly as we’ve watched the pandemic wax and wane. We can’t always tell what new variant is on the horizon or what new requirements we may have to meet. This experience drives home the need. For compliance departments to be in step with both national and local authorities. Also, companies should develop a plan that includes cleaning procedures, case tracking processes and leave coordination for employees who do fall ill.
Now is the time to continue to revisit, revise and rethink your procedures. If you have to return to remote work, your business needs to have the knowledge and systems in place to keep employees safe and your business open.
The Bottom Line on How to Navigate These Uncharted Waters
There is no question that the pandemic has profoundly changed the way we all work, live and play. It has created a unique challenge for business compliance officers and departments both large and small. It has increased and changed the demands of these departments, constituting tricky issues to navigate. All that being said, I prefer to look at this period of turmoil and change as an opportunity to improve the way we live and work. The first step in improvement and evolution is to get your head around what issues might crop up as we move from a pandemic to an endemic stage.
Whether you run a large or small business, compliance is vital to ensuring that your company remains aboveboard. It’s even more important now. Understanding the changing business landscape reveals how employee demands have evolved. Knowing where the potential pitfalls lie, you can ensure that you find a way to navigate these new and uncharted waters with aplomb. While this article is far from an exhaustive list, it does offer some important insights into how best to sustain your business as we all slowly move into the new normal.