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Need to work from home? Be wary of tech, legal and cybersecurity issues, experts say

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

As concerns grow, many employers are turning to a remote-work environment for their workers. Our Chief Technology Officer Ryan Treisman spoke with the Phoenix Business Journal's Hayley Ringle about important things those business owners should consider.

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While more Valley companies are requiring or asking employees to work from home due to coronavirus concerns, setting up remote work environments for workers can be a challenge amid technology, legal and cybersecurity issues. After Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a public health emergency declaration on March 11, Trainual Inc., a Scottsdale-based training software-as-a-service startup, had its 23 local employees working from home a day later, said Chris Ronzio, Trainual’s founder and CEO. When setting up employees to work from home, the first thing companies should do is set work expectations. Since employees might have distractions at home such as kids and spouses, flexibility in hours worked should be considered, Ronzio said. “Whether it’s kids or various projects, handle things on a person-by-person basis,” he said. “This is a human thing more so than a business thing.” Once managers figure out the time commitment, they should set work priorities on what is required to be done, Ronzio said. “Set out clear and specific tasks for each employee,” he said. “Some positions might be more difficult for tasks, like office managers.” Team communication is also key when employees are working remotely, Ronzio said. “At minimum you should have a daily huddle or stand-up meeting with an online call to talk about what people will be working on for the day,” he said. “Set up Slack threads for teams to talk and connect with each other. Keeping policies and procedures together is important to make this work.”

Replicating the work environment Cybersecurity and data and privacy issues also need to be considered when employees work remotely, said Ryan Treisman, the chief technology officer of Adopt Technologies LLC, a Phoenix-based turnkey provider of hosted and managed cloud computing solutions for businesses. Adopt Technologies also has dozens of employees working from home.

“The best solution is a VDI, or virtual desktop infrastructure, or remote-hosted, cloud-based desktop for employees to do all their work,” said Treisman, adding that this is Adopt Technologies’ forte. “This way it’s like they’re logging into a corporate desktop experience from home.” The next best option is for employees to use a corporate-issued device that can be remotely connected through a VPN, or virtual private network. “VPNs are like a tunnel that connects to the corporate infrastructure,” he said. “However, not all lines of business applications will work over a VPN.” If these options are not available, the next option is to allow employees to take their work desk computer home. However, problems can arise with setting up the computer at home and potential damage or loss. “The last resort is allowing employees to use their personal computers,” Treisman said. “These personal computers need to have the right licenses, have anti-virus and the required bandwidth needed to do their work.” Regardless of which option companies choose, it’s important to have a remote work plan in place in case of emergencies such as this, he said. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick for existing and new clients who want to set up a remote desktop,” Treisman said. “The great thing with a cloud provider is they’re easily provisioned. It can be increased if more employees are on, and decreased as needed. It’s an elastic resource.”

What about insurance? Legal issues should also be of utmost concern for employers who have telecommuting employees, said Ron Stolkin, a labor and employment attorney with Ballard Spahr in Phoenix. Employers should advise their insurance carriers that their employees will be working from home, Stolkin said. A timekeeping system should be in place for nonexempt employees, those employees who get paid hourly, he said.

“Timekeeping is an important element and employers should make sure their employees are clocking in when they start work and clocking out when they take a break, eat or are done with work,” Stolkin said. Employers should have an agreement with employees on regular and effective communication. Employees should return phone calls and emails in a timely manner, he said. “Telecommuting agreements are important so employees know how long they’ll be working from home, it should describe a safe and appropriate work environment and make sure they have sufficient internet capability,” Stolkin said. Employees who are parents also should know that telecommuting is not a substitute for dependent child care, he said. "Parents might be home with their kids, and now they’re trying to balance work life and being a parent,” Stolkin said. “They would need to come to some sort of agreement about this.” A lack of control and accountability are a couple of the challenges with telecommuting, he added. “It’s almost impossible to police,” Stolkin said. “Unless you’re in that house you don’t know what they’re doing.”

If you are considering a remote-work policy and need some guidelines, visit our earlier blog post by clicking here.

#cybersecurity #covid19 #remotework #remoteteams #remotedesktop #businesscontinuityplanning

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