Workplace Safety: How to Address Remote Risks
The evolution of remote work shifted into high gear after 2020 and continues to change in 2023 as organizations embrace remote, hybrid, and in-office policies. This means that employers and security practitioners must adapt to these alterations, too, including in workplace violence strategies.
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that around 27 percent of the U.S. workforce was working remotely at least part time as of August and September 2022, while a handful of academic surveys have suggested that the number is closer to 50 percent,” according to the MIT Sloan School of Management. Findings from the Pew Research Center skew similar, estimating that 35 percent of full-time employees were working entirely remotely in March 2023.
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That same survey from Pew also indicated that of employees in jobs that can be performed remotely, 41 percent are working a hybrid schedule—an increase from the 35 percent recorded in January 2022.
With more U.S. workers considering working from home, security practitioners must address the remote risks this workstyle poses, according to the Tuesday GSX session, “Accommodating a Remote Workforce and Adapting Workplace Violence Strategies to Manage Company Risk Tolerances,” by Deb Andersen, PSP, security administrator, physical and cybersecurity at MWI Direct.
There’s a particular mindset that can help security professionals mentally juggle between considering risks to an employee in his or her home while ensuring that they do not overreach.
“It’s the employee’s home, but it’s the employer’s workplace,” Andersen says.
Security, and other stakeholders invested in workplace safety (whether on-site or remote), can look to standards from industry, municipal, local, and international regulators to help find that balance and establish or tweak a work-from-home policy for its organization.
At the very least, a work-from-home policies should include defining the expected working hours for remote employees, communication guidelines, technology usage, related security protocols, rules for conduct during virtual meetings, recommendations for team building exercises, and rules on handling work expenses, according to Andersen.
Security professionals should consider additional steps that ensure employees are aware of potential threats and any available resources that can mitigate these threats.
Remote work training should consider both physical and cyber risks and solutions. Solutions for physical security aspects around the home will vary, but can include aspects of operational security, crime prevention through environmental design, and situational awareness. Cyber training may focus on educating employees about network security and awareness, as well as advice on how to secure home networks and the importance of keeping up with updates.
Some employees may be inherently unsafe at home if they are a victim of intimate partner violence (IPV). Training for dealing with aggressors can assist, as well as an awareness about the rights and limits the local or state government levies on organizations related to reporting or interfering in abusive relationships.
Other programs or rules that a security department can offer as part of the training include best practices for emergency planning, a health and wellness strategy, and collaborative communication. For example, agreeing with an at-risk or high-risk employee on certain phrases or codewords or the placement of regular objects to be used to indicate that he or she is in a dangerous situation.
When developing these strategies, it can be helpful to know the common challenges to a remote worker’s safety. Whether the risk comes from an employee, his or her aggrieved partner, or a former employee, it’s easier to spot a significant risk if you understand the pathway to violence that a potential attacker will take.
Being able to identify concerning behaviors can not only allow security to spot the problem before an attack is initiated, but it can also help deescalate the pathway and rededicate resources to preventing an attack.
For show attendees interested in additional learning opportunities related to workplace violence, consider attending these other sessions during GSX 2023 (all times are local/CT):
Wednesday, 13 September
- 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: “Stop The Next Mass Shooter: A Workplace Violence Tabletop Exercise”
- 9:45 a.m. to 10:45a.m.: “Targeted Violence: The Events That Shaped Today’s Standards and Instructions”
ASIS also offers educational opportunities on workplace violence outside of the annual conference, including the following webinars:
- “Remote Workplace Insider Threat Mitigation”
- “Securing the Cloud and the Remote Workplace”
- “Creating Future-Ready Flexible Workplace Access”
- “Work from Home/Return to Work: Employee Life Safety at Your Home Office Now – Soon Back to Your Real Workplace”