HR and the Legal Ramifications of a Mobile Workforce
The world is on the move. And, working from multiple locations. Today’s mobile workforce answers emails during dinner, writes reports on airplanes, and participates in conference calls in cars. A growing number of workers prefer flexible hours over the 9-to-5 grind. In fact, a recent study inside a Fortune 500 company found that employees offered flextime were happier at work and less prone to psychological stress than their colleagues working a more traditional schedule. However, here’s a concern: Flextime policies can create legal challenges for HR pros. This is why smart HR departments are developing intelligent policies and combining those with technology, paving the way toward more mobile, more productive, and increasingly secure organizations.
Employees Working in Vehicles Could Pose Legal Risks
Most of us already check work email, and answer business-related texts. Many employees also join conference calls from their cars. Ideally, workers use hands-free calling and refrain from texting while driving. But even hands-free devices can cause cognitive distraction, a lack of mental focus. And if one of your employees gets into an accident while focused on work—even using hands-free technology—your business could be held liable. This form of distracted driving will probably become even more prevalent as auto manufacturers begin equipping vehicle infotainment systems with the Microsoft Office 365 suite, which automatically enables voice-activated email and other functions. To be proactive, your HR department should write and enforce strict policies that prohibit employees from using smartphones and mobile assistants for anything other than navigation while driving.
Mobile Networks Create Potential Security Threats
A growing number of organizations, especially those subject to federal regulations like HIPAA or PCI DSS prohibit their employees from using public networks to access protected information. But people forget. They can get lazy. And, then there are the non-digital security issues. When anyone works in public—away from the office—security threats are everywhere, not only in the digital environment. A stranger could view confidential information by looking over an employee’s shoulder on a crowded flight. Or, a competitor could eavesdrop on a conference call in a hotel lobby.
Workers who travel, or work outside the office, should be mandated to use password-protected internet access, and tools like privacy filters which prevent others from viewing their laptop, tablet or smartphone screen. Additionally, enforcing strong policies, and educating your employees about their roles in maintaining security can help protect against these threats.
BYOD Policies Could Cause Compliance Issues
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is growing in popularity and acceptance. BYOD can save companies money and offer convenience to employees. But it’s really important that your HR and IT departments work together to develop BYOD policies and procedures, that track software and devices in use and mandate anti-virus and security software on BYOD devices and establish guidelines for network use and access to sensitive data. Also, you need to make sure all devices used for work are equipped with locking technology (via a password, pin code, or thumbprint) and the ability to remotely track, disable, and wipe a lost or stolen device, especially if your business is responsible for maintaining HIPAA or PCI DSS compliance.
Flextime Makes It Harder to Track Employee Hours, Including Overtime
With access to documents via the cloud and to work email via smartphone, today’s employees have many opportunities to attend to work matters after hours. This “always-on” mentality may increase productivity, but guess who’s responsible for tracking that time? You’re right. HR Departments.
Salaried employees making less than $47,476 per year must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours per week. So, if you don’t want to pay overtime for remote work that takes place after hours, you need to set clear policies. Your HR team may need to encourage managers not to send emails after hours because employees may feel compelled to reply. If such after-hours work is a must, your HR team should deploy time-tracking apps (and make sure to include salaried employees, too). Be proactive. Get started today. By working with your IT and legal departments, you can ensure your organization is in compliance with privacy regulations as well as payroll and legal issues introduced by an increasingly mobile workforce. Is your HR team ready?
A version of this was first posted on Huffingtonpost.com