While many are anxious to “return to normal” once the country reaches herd immunity, over half of workers say they want a “new normal” allowing more work from home. According to Pew Research, before the pandemic 20% worked remotely, whereas now 71% are doing so and 54% would like it to stay that way. Such a high number of remote workers causes a business to have less control over the working environment and brings new liability concerns regarding workers compensation, property, and cybersecurity.
Let’s take a look at how work has changed, and then how insurance policies might be affected.
More WFH Now and Forever
Besides those who’d like to continue working from home, according to Gallup 54% of workers are willing to leave their current job for one that allows them to work remotely. While a majority are preferring a remote/in-person mix, Pew Research claims 31% of women and 23% of men now want to work from home all of the time. With this shift in how people work and how they prefer to work, the nature of work has changed in general, also changing the risks and vulnerabilities associated with insurance coverage.
The Corporate Office Space
With businesses realizing they can still be productive with workers at home, there is less need for as much office space and personal offices/cubicles. Since those working remotely will only travel to the workplace when they need to collaborate, the workspace will be more open and collaborative. New offices are more likely to have additional conference and meeting spaces, as well as video studios.
According to WhistleOut, 35% of those surveyed said a weak internet connection prevented them from doing work at some point in the last year. In order to continue working from home, people are making home internet improvements, and providers are doing the same. People are also creating home offices and home video studios if they significantly rely on video conferencing. A dedicated office space is high on the list of desires of the many who are moving and buying new homes as a result of the pandemic.
Many corporate learning programs used to involve in-person classes and seminars. The switch to E-learning during COVID is most likely to stay in place, making in-person learning a smaller element to the corporate curriculum.
81% of workers are using video conferring, and 57% are using instant messaging platforms like Slack (Pew Research). Workers have also been recording videos to post on social media or within corporate messaging platforms in order to encourage coworkers, keep them motivated, and maintain some kind of visual contact. With more people used to using video as a means of communication, it’s now more fully integrated into the work experience, a change that’s likely permanent.
Those changes in how we work can significantly impact a business’ insurance coverage, especially in the areas of cybersecurity, property, and workers compensation.
There are more vulnerabilities in a “dispersed,” home-based network than a centralized office network. Additionally, hacking of virtual communications networks will always be an increased risk compared to in-person meetings. The Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies are warning that with increased remote work, hackers are seeking out flaws in network security and targeting vulnerabilities in virtual private networks and remote work tools/software.
For any company shifting to a more remote workforce, cyber insurance is absolutely necessary since it makes a business more vulnerable to hacks and data privacy beaches. Even if a company already has cyber insurance, they should review their policy to make sure the terms align with the new risks associated with remote work.
In remote work, a company’s property might be equipment like computers and related devices. Businesses should evaluate whether their property policy terms cover that equipment and the data within it once it leaves the office space. Coverage for physical and non-physical property depends on the specific language of the policy. They should also determine if the data itself is also covered under their cyber insurance policy, and if it’s lost, which policy would be the default coverage.
Employers are required to provide a safe working environment but the lines are more blurred for remote workers who aren’t independent contractors. Typically, the location of the work done doesn’t matter, and this is the reason why companies need to make sure their insurance policy’s “coverage territory” includes everywhere their workers may be located. Precedent on covering remote work was set by Sandbery v. JCPenny where an employee tripped over her dog while going to her garage to retrieve fabric samples for work. The court found that the worker’s injury resulted from a “risk of her work environment” and therefore, “arose out of” her employment. For questions about Workers Compensation coverage, you may contact Risk Innovations, our Jencap company partner.
Get an update on your clients’ current office/home workforce and make sure they have appropriate policies for their “new normal.” Contact us if you need to amend a policy and get a quote.