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Risk and compliance considerations for distributed workforces

by LLP Reporter
12th Jun 20 11:48 am

Leading risk and compliance software and services company NAVEX Global has released seven key considerations for business leaders and decision makers preparing their organisations for a phased return to work.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought organisations to a virtual standstill, prompting immediate updates to business plans and the mass-adoption of unfamiliar working practices. Now, many are turning their attention towards what will come next. Maintaining data security standards, remaining vigilant of increased or emerging risks, and ensuring easy adaptation for workers during this transition will be vitally important. Here are some key risk and compliance considerations for businesses who are now plotting their next move:

Prepare for a phased return to the workplace 

With most of the world having been in lockdown, remote working rules have already been rolled out across organisations. But any return to the workplace is unlikely to mean a return to normality. You may need to create a working rota to avoid physical contact, draft and distribute new policies and procedures to your workforce, and make sure your employees attest to the new standards and procedures.

Deploy Secure Channels for Network Access

According to a report released in January 2020 by the Identity Theft Resource Center, four out of five data breaches in 2019 were caused by hacking or unauthorised access. A continuation of remote working for parts of your workforce will require your employees to access sensitive data, meaning a secure network access channel is vital. An encrypted network and cloud-based data storage are therefore ‘must-haves’ for your business.

Revisit your Business Continuity Plan

To be truly resilient, a business continuity plan must account for the organisation’s present, not its past. As the pandemic environment has demonstrated, relying on an obsolete business continuity plan can be more dangerous than having no plan at all, as it can provide a false sense of security. Indeed a Compliance Week survey revealed 10% of respondents said their companies were ill-prepared for the pandemic. The unprecedented nature of a global pandemic may mean your current continuity plan requires immediate attention – especially should a second or third wave of infection strike. Begin working on a new one to adapt to the current, and possible future situation.

Monitor and Adapt Plans

Crucially, all risk must be continuously monitored, with plans updated to reflect any and all changes. Business processes are necessarily fluid, as are the broader circumstances surrounding them. Vendors, suppliers, staff and resources change over time, impacting business operations and logistics. Similarly, world events such as a pandemic and geopolitical changes can alter an organization’s processes. Ensure you have implemented a robust risk management solution that provides ongoing visibility of such risks, and look for opportunities to automate wherever possible to maximise efficiency.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Keeping employees up to date on emerging threats and changing circumstances – and the company’s response to them – is of the utmost importance. Throughout the early days of the pandemic, some organisations struggled to ramp up communications to their workforce – particularly within businesses where workers did not have access to digital communication tools. Colleagues need reassurance from their employers, so try to establish effective, accessible tools for communicating to your entire workforce, and try to establish a regular, predictable cadence of updates.

Consider Third Party Due Diligence risks

Even in this extraordinary situation companies are still legally liable for their own compliance failures and, in many situations, within their supply chains. Market change generate opportunities for fraud or bribery and corruption weak spots to enter the supply chain and, with organisations working quickly to bring on new vendors, it’s vital that vigilance remains high. With many colleagues still working remotely for the foreseeable future, implementing a central monitoring hub to undertake the necessary due diligence activity will become even more valuable.

Prepare for Long-Term Disruption

The very nature of a pandemic means that it’s almost impossible to know when it will end, and what the ebbs and flows will be. Your business must remain flexible to changing circumstances, lockdown rules being lifted and enforced in varying severity, and all of this to differing degrees across the world. Your business continuity plan should be a living document, changing and adapting to circumstances when needed – so make sure it is revisited frequently.

“The current pandemic has fundamentally changed the world as we know it,” says Giles Newman, International Managing Director at NAVEX Global.

“The resulting impact on working circumstances, continued uncertainly around supply chains and, now, preparations for a phased return to work are putting enormous pressure on businesses.

“Putting the right measures in place that will enable them to get back to work quickly and safely must now be the priority. At the same time, it’s imperative that leaders take the opportunity to build more resilient, risk-aware organisations that are well-placed to withstand continued instability.”

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