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The Business Side of Hybrid

Hybrid Workplace

The business side of hybrid is forefront as we make plans for the future. In a survey recently published by Gartner, CEOs were asked to identify the top enduring changes resulting from the pandemic. 45% of CEOs stated that hybrid and remote work was the most significant long-term impact. This equals all other noted enduring changes, combined. Nearly every business will have some degree of remote and hybrid working arrangements, as we experience a change in employee expectations and broader cultural shifts.

In past posts, we have looked at the technology and related services needed to properly support remote and hybrid workers. The business administration issues related to hybrid and remote work are more complex than the technology solutions.

Business Considerations

Working Environment

As we have noted before, as employers we are responsible for providing staff with a safe and healthy work environment.  If employees are working remotely, or from home, on a regular basis (an expectation for the job), their work environment must be managed.  We are responsible to ensure appropriate lighting, noise, desk space, seating, and ergonomic accommodations.

Payroll, Benefits, and Compliance

With employees working at home, you are more likely to be paying employees who both live and work out of state (or in another tax jurisdiction). In addition to accurately representing their work location for payroll, you will need to provide benefits in each state and comply with each state’s employment laws.  Minimum wage, sick time, and paid leave are a few of the regulations that differ between states.  Healthcare plans and providers will also differ, as do contributions to state unemployment insurance programs.  Additionally, you will need workers’ compensation insurance coverage for each state in which employees work.

Insurance

Beyond workers’ compensation, you may need to update your general liability coverages to address employees working from home.  Your insurer may see additional risk and/or the need to document work locations to ensure your business is properly covered.  Most policies require that you list any company-owned or leased work spaces, including co-working spaces.

Taxes

Employees working in your state while living in another is not uncommon. States have reciprocity agreements that dictate how these employees need to file their personal tax returns.  When you have remote employees working in other states, the rules are not yet as clear.  Some states expect you to withhold taxes based on your employees’ locations, as this is their workplace.

Even more impactful, some states see an employee’s work location as creating nexus, and will require you to file business tax returns in that state.

Recommendations

We strongly recommend that you proactively address the business side of hybrid work.  Speak with your HR, tax, and legal advisors as you navigate your hybrid and remote work plans.

  • Consider using a Professional Employment Organization, or PEO, to manage payroll, benefits, HR policies, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.  In addition to operating across state lines, PEOs provide you with a unified approach to human resource services. They can assist with recruiting, onboarding, offboarding, and regulatory needs such as driver safety, OSHA compliance, and testing for banned substances. PEOs als0 assume liability for compliance errors.
  • Be prepared to provide employees working from home with the workspace and accommodations they need to be healthy, safe, and productive. Beyond IT, we can assist with home office workstations, desks, stands, lighting, and more.
  • Communicate with your insurance provider to ensure your coverages are appropriate and correct.
  • Consult your tax and legal advisors to ensure you understand when, and where, you have nexus with respect to corporate registrations and taxes.

 

If You Have Remote Workers, Then

If you have remote workers, then how you manage your business and employees has, and will continue to change. We often talk about the technology that makes remote work efficient and that can help integrate teams. But supporting remote workers requires a broader perspective and understanding of the workplace.  As employers, we remain responsible for providing a safe, effective workplace regardless of where our employees work. Here a few considerations as you plan your hybrid and remote work strategy.

If you have remote workers, then you …

  • Are responsible for their work environments, including the same health and safety regulations that apply in the office.
    • Ensuring safe and appropriate workspace ergonomics, sound levels, lighting, etc. are responsibilities of the employer.
    • Provide your remote workforce with appropriate furniture, lighting, and ergonomic tools.
    • And yes, an employee working from home might be eligible for Workers’ Compensation if they trip over their dog while working.
  • Need to accurately track and manage working hours for non-exempt employees.
    • Avoid wage and employment related liabilities by ensuring hourly workers are compensated for all work time, including when they respond to the random off-hours email.
    • Setting clear policies and expectations can help avoid work hour, wage, and employment issues.
  • Are responsible for ensuring their work is secure.
    • Remote work environments must be managed and secured to the same levels as those working in the office.
    • Data privacy regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI, and SEC17, do not end at the office door.
    • Networks, systems, applications, and data require the same levels of protection regardless of location.
    • Similarly, physical protections must be in place for printed documents.
  • Can be accountable for intellectual property stored on personal devices.
    • Establish a clear policy and procedures for the use of personal devices for work.
    • Include the need for the company to install software or tools to manage the business’ information on the device, including but not limited to cyber protections, personal/work data separation, local encryption, backup/recovery, and the ability to remotely remove work related data in an emergency.
  • Want to avoid “in-person” bias.
    • Remote workers need mechanisms to participate in the informal conversations and interactions we take for granted when working in an office environment.
    • Supervisors and managers should help workers establish and build effective relationships, including those that offer mentorship and guidance, with direct co-workers and others in your firm.
    • Measures of performance should, explicitly, avoid the implicit bias that in-person visibility correlates to better involvement and teamwork.
  • Should understand the tax implications for your business, and employees related to working remote.
    • Having employees in other tax jurisdictions can make proper payroll tax withholding and filing more complex.
    • States may or may not have reciprocal agreements and some states are imposing new rules.
    • Remote workers may create nexus in some jurisdictions, triggering sales tax and other tax obligations.
    • Work with your attorney and financial advisors to understand your requirements and to ensure compliance.

Your Next Steps

Cloud technologies help facilitate remote work and hybrid work environments. You can deploy systems, apps, and tools to make remote and hybrid work efficient and secure. Remote and hybrid work models, however, span every aspect of your business.  Policies, procedures, operations, and culture all require attention, planning, and support.

Work with your legal and financial advisors, and your HR resources, to ensure  your remote/hybrid plans will benefit your business.

5 Ways to Improve Work from Home

Networks and Connectivity

The Covid-19 pandemic proved that work from home and remote work was viable and productive for more employees than previously believed or acknowledged.  Necessity is a great motivator. Our businesses, employees, and customers responded, adapted, moved forward.  In the process, we have identified new benefits and pitfalls with remote work. Looking forward, our emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic is not a clear as hoped or predicted. The virus is here to stay and the impact on our lives is yet to be fully understood.  Our normal is not necessary “new”, but continues to evolve.

While we cannot predict the full extent of the shift, remote work, hybrid work, and work from home will be the norm. 

Business need to continue to assess, plan, and adapt.  Here are 5 ways we can improve work from home and hybrid remote/in-office work environments.

1 Device-as-a-Service

Device-as-a-Service, particularly remote desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, have clear benefits for new office norms. You can:

  • Provide a secure access to applications and systems with consistency regardless of where your employees are working
  • Better manage the computing environment, separating your business’ computing from the local device
  • Use existing, older laptops and desktops, thereby reducing hardware upgrade costs driven by operating system and application upgrades
  • Leverage Chromebooks as end user devices, lowering your total cost of ownership

2 Pick a Video Conferencing Service

Picking a standard video conferencing service lets you manage how you communicate internally and with customers. The right choice can also save you hundreds of dollars per year per employee while giving you and your team the features and functions they need to manage meetings and work efficiently.  By selecting a preferred service, you can invest the time and effort to integrate the service with your productivity and collaboration suites. An small investment in teaching employees how to fully use the solution also pays dividends.

3 Improve Employees’ Internet

You would never allow your Internet service to slow down work at the office. You should not allow home Internet speeds to slow down your remote employees. Reimbursing employees for increasing their Internet speeds improves productivity and morale. Providing employees with better WiFi routers and access points ensures their connections are available and reliable. Note: a few states require employers to reimburse home Internet services based on the percentage used for work.

4 Secure Your Remote Workers

Unless you provide the equipment and services, you cannot control your employees’ home networks and systems. At the same time, you want and need to secure your applications, data, and network. To do so:

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible to control network, system, and application access.  MFA and 2FA are the simplest means of preventing hackers from using compromised user identities or credentials.
  • Upgrade home computers with additional, advanced threat protection services.  Many of the next-gen solutions offer greater protection from modern attacks and are designed to work with existing anti-virus solutions that may be installed on the device. Some of these solutions also provide tools for remote support.
  • Consider using physical security keys that provide authentication codes without the need for a smartphone or other device.

5[/av_dropcap1 Protect Your Remote Resources

Whether using a company provided laptop or a personal computer, problems at home are disruptive and take longer to diagnose and repair than in-office problems. While Device-as-a Service solutions separate the risk from the physical device, employees using their local machines are at risk.  At a minimum, ensure that you are backing up and can recover applications and data on remote laptops and desktops. If an employee performs critical or time-sensitive tasks, consider a continuity solution that enable the employee to return to work within minutes rather than hours.

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Whether work from home, remote work, or hybrid work will be strategic or tactical for your business, you can improve the security and employee experience with minimal cost.  We are here to help you assess, plan, and update your IT services to best meet your needs — and budget.  Contact us for an initial consultation.

 

need to continue to assess, plan, and adapt.  Here are 5 ways we can improve work from home and hybrid remote/in-office work environments.

[av_dropcap1]1 Device-as-a-Service

Device-as-a-Service, particularly remote desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions, have clear benefits for new office norms. You can:

  • Provide a secure access to applications and systems with consistency regardless of where your employees are working
  • Better manage the computing environment, separating your business’ computing from the local device
  • Use existing, older laptops and desktops, thereby reducing hardware upgrade costs driven by operating system and application upgrades
  • Leverage Chromebooks as end user devices, lowering your total cost of ownership

2 Pick a Video Conferencing Service

Picking a standard video conferencing service lets you manage how you communicate internally and with customers. The right choice can also save you hundreds of dollars per year per employee while giving you and your team the features and functions they need to manage meetings and work efficiently.  By selecting a preferred service, you can invest the time and effort to integrate the service with your productivity and collaboration suites. A small investment in teaching employees how to fully use the solution also pays dividends.

3 Improve Employees’ Internet

You would never allow your Internet service to slow down work at the office. You should not allow home Internet speeds to slow down your remote employees. Reimbursing employees for increasing their Internet speeds improves productivity and morale. Providing employees with better WiFi routers and access points ensures their connections are available and reliable. Note: a few states require employers to reimburse home Internet services based on the percentage used for work.

4 Secure Your Remote Workers

Unless you provide the equipment and services, you cannot control your employees’ home networks and systems. At the same time, you want and need to secure your applications, data, and network. To do so:

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible to control network, system, and application access.  MFA and 2FA are the simplest means of preventing hackers from using compromised user identities or credentials.
  • Upgrade home computers with additional, advanced threat protection services.  Many of the next-gen solutions offer greater protection from modern attacks and are designed to work with existing anti-virus solutions that may be installed on the device. Some of these solutions also provide tools for remote support.
  • Consider using physical security keys that provide authentication codes without the need for a smartphone or other device.

5[/av_dropcap1 Protect Your Remote Resources

Whether using a company laptop or a personal computer, problems at home are disruptive and take longer to diagnose and repair than in-office problems. While Device-as-a Service solutions separate the risk from the physical device, employees using their local machines are at risk.  At a minimum, ensure that you are backing up and can recover applications and data on remote laptops and desktops. If an employee performs critical or time-sensitive tasks, consider a continuity solution that enables the employee to return to work within minutes rather than hours.

Whether work from home, remote work, or hybrid work will be strategic or tactical for your business, you can improve the security and employee experience with minimal cost.  We are here to help you assess, plan, and update your IT services to best meet your needs — and budget.  Contact us for an initial consultation.

 

Lessons Learned: Remote Workforce Security

As part of its Global Year in Breach – 2021 report, security firm ID Agent found that remote workforce security is more difficult than generally thought. With many of the changes in how we work expected to continue, as business leaders we need to embrace hybrid work as the way of the future.

Pandemic Triggers Panic

2020 and the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges. The biggest challenge was cybercrime. The mix of understaffed IT departments, maintenance failures, unpreparedness, record-breaking cybercrime, and employee stress taxed IT teams and services. Cybercriminals took advantage of this golden opportunity, and businesses were hit hard.

Businesses needed to rapidly shift to remote operations. For those with older technology, this shift was especially difficult. Everybody became a remote worker. IT teams needed to become instant experts in remote workforce security. For too many businesses, it was a mad scramble to to get their teams remotely or face shutting down entirely. Many employees lacked training in remote work; many IT teams had never managed remote security at scale. A barrage of unintentional, insider threats assaulted IT teams daily.

Stress Creates Vulnerabilities

Why was the massive shift to Work from Home such a boon to cybercrime?

IT departments were unprepared and understaffed.  Only 39% of IT executives polled felt they have adequate IT expertise on staff to assist with remote work issues. Only 45% of organizations reported having and adequate budget to support remote work.

At the same time, employees were dealing with unexpected stress at home and more likely to make cybersecurity mistakes. Over 50% of respondents admitted they were more error-prone while stressed. 40% said they made more mistakes when tired or distracted. Altogether, 43% of workers surveyed acknowledged mistakes resulting in cybersecurity repercussions for themselves or their company while working remotely.

Cybercrime Complications

Chaos and confusion created opportunities for cybercriminals. Experts estimate that overall cybercrime was up by 80% in 2020. Much of that increase was from phishing attacks. Cybercriminals took advantage distracted, stressed workers, with limited IT support, and immense numbers of email. In 2020, phishing attacks skyrocketed by more than 650%. Attacks hit 75% of companies and accounted for almost 80% of all cybercrime.

Successful ransomware also jumped more than 145%. In 2020, 51% of all businesses and 40% of small and midsize businesses experienced a ransomware attack. 50% of attacks on SMBs used vicious double extortion ransomware. Ransomware will continue to top the list of cybercrime trends in 2021.

Next Steps to Stay Ahead of Remote & Hybrid Workforce Risk

Stopping ransomware and decreasing your company’s risk of a successful cyberattack against remote and hybrid workers starts with stopping phishing and its destructive effects. We have tools that help your IT team support and protect your people and your business, while also protecting your budget.

To learn more about you cyber risks, and solutions to fit your needs and budget, contact us and schedule a complimentary Cloud Advisor Session.

 

Webcasts

Cloud Cover – Manage IT All

3T@3 Webcast Series: Tuesday, Sept 20 at 3:00 PM ET

You can Manage IT All.  With all the benefits of cloud computing, our IT services seem more complex.  In reality, the complexity has shifted from locked computer rooms to the collection of apps we use on a daily basis.  For many small businesses, traditional IT support services do not meet current technology and business needs.

The right IT management and services add value and save money.

In our September 3T@3 Webcast, Cumulus Global CEO Allen Falcon discusses how you can Manage IT All by exploring IT management strategies for small and midsize businesses. Allen will focus on improving the value-add to your business by rethinking and adjusting your IT service model.  Managed cloud services can better match current and evolving business needs and priorities.


Want to dive deeper? Click here to schedule a “no obligation” meeting with one of our Cloud Advisors.

Hybrid Workplace

Cloud Cover – Hybrid Work

3T@3 Webcast Series: Tuesday, August 18 at 3:00 PM ET

Economic, market, business, and social changes are driving shifts in the way we work and the way we run our businesses. We, as a society, have learned that in most instances we can work productively and collaborate regardless of our physical location. Reclaimed commuting time, work-life balance, and refreshed personal priorities change employee perspectives on their work environment. Successful businesses will adapt to changing expectations.

You can, affordably, adapt your IT to hybrid work while improving security and resilience.

In our August 3T@3 Webcast, Cumulus Global CEO Allen Falcon discusses IT strategies and solutions to help you adjust your IT services to better support hybrid work. Specifically, Allen will dive into virtual desktop services as a way to provide seamless services for on-premise and remote workers.

View On Demand:

Hybrid Workplace