With the onset of the pandemic, a remote working environment has become a necessity for nonprofit organizations of every type and size, as well as for businesses. Nonprofits need to be equally concerned about the safety and well-being of their staff and volunteers as businesses are.
While remote working is more prevalent than ever, nonprofit organizations need to realize that the transition to remote working may well be the wave of the future. According to Fast Company, about 84% of millennials expect to have some type of flexibility in their work environments. To be clear, millennials consider a flexible work environment to be a necessity rather than a perk or benefit.
The necessity of remote workers, along with the trend of the expectations for the next generation’s workforce, means that remote working will likely be a staple for any organization looking into the future. As workers increasingly transition into the home environment, nonprofit boards should be looking at how to keep the organization’s information safe and how to lessen the impact of risk to the organization.
The more familiar you become with remote working risks, the better your board can prepare to lessen the impact of risk. Getting a board portal for facilitating board business is a good start for tightening up security and keeping key people in the communication loop.
Identifying and Assessing Cybersecurity Risks in the Home Environment
In this era of remote workers, security and data breaches are issues that nonprofit boards should have on their agendas. Not addressing these issues proactively could cause substantial loss of time and money.
Cybersecurity is a risk under the best of circumstances. Not maintaining cybersecurity in the remote working environment can result in a host of risks for nonprofits. Nonprofits nearly always collect some amount of personal information from your members, staff, volunteers, and donors. A data breach causes the risk of that information being stolen and sold on the dark web and that poses a liability issue for the nonprofit that got hacked.
If your website gets hacked, you’ll have to take it offline for some period of time while a cybersecurity expert removes malware or viruses and gets your site back into safe working order. The cost of hiring a tech expert will have a severe negative impact on your nonprofit’s budget.
During downtime, you may have to put your projects and programs on hold because no one will be able to access the information they need online. Downtime on your website will also impact your ability to accept donations as many people regularly donate online. Any stoppage of work, whether it be in-person or online will cause reputational loss. You’re bound to lose credibility with your donors, supporters, and volunteers.
As people transition to working from home, it’s essential to have a highly secure website, secure communication channels, and secure file-sharing. Your “go-to” solution for these issues is a board portal.
Identifying and Addressing Diversity for Remote Workers
Diversity is an essential consideration for nonprofits. The people that you serve want to know that your nonprofit’s leadership reflects their culture, race, and lifestyle.
One of the risks that nonprofits may not have considered in transitioning to a home workforce is the impact of access to the proper equipment and technology for people of color. WayUP did a survey that showed that black and Hispanic college students and graduates aren’t as comfortable with virtual work as white young adults. Many of them are worried about being able to set up their home environments appropriately for a remote working environment.
Identifying and Addressing Physical Safety Risks in the Work-at-Home Environment
It’s just as important for nonprofits to be concerned about their board, staff, and volunteers being safe and well while working at home as when they work at a nonprofit facility or at a nonprofit sponsored event.
Nonprofit boards should be concerned with injuries and illnesses that can occur at home, as well as physical issues like fire safety, property damage to equipment on the property. There is also a risk of injuries to people that may come to visit nonprofit workers at their home.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidance for organizations on how to safely transition workers to a remote working environment.
When considering the safety and well-being of remote workers, it’s wise to consider ergonomics. Sitting for long periods can be stressful on various parts of the body. Office furniture and equipment is usually designed to help office workers feel safe and comfortable. Remote workers might be found working at a kitchen table or countertop or even with a laptop on their legs while working in bed. Ergonomics refers to the ability to increase comfort and efficiency and reduce discomfort so that workers are more productive.
Remote workers are also subject to injuries in their home workspace just as they would be while working at a nonprofit’s facility. Boards may opt to do a safety inspection of the worker’s home office space to address any safety hazards that might exist to prevent any related liability issues.
People that come to visit a remote worker on behalf of a nonprofit could be at risk of getting injured at a remote worker’s home. With the rapid spread of COVID-19, remote workers are at risk of contracting or spreading the virus to anyone that comes to their home for the purpose of nonprofit business.
Taking Steps to Mitigate Work-at-Home Risks
While risks are apparent in the work-at-home environment, there are specific steps that nonprofit boards can take to reduce their liability for them. Be sure that your board policies are clear and that you communicate them to remote workers.
The right insurance plans go a long way toward protecting nonprofits against risks for remote workers. Your insurance carrier may offer valuable tips for increasing safety in the home office environment.
First, inspect the remote worker’s workspace for evidence of safety. Do they have the proper equipment and furniture? Can they sit at a comfortable height at their work surface? Are they hunched over or putting stress on their neck or back? It may be worthwhile to invest in giving them an office chair or desk and ensure that they have proper lighting. Encourage them to use good body posture and take adequate breaks.
You may also want to propose specific hours of the day that are dedicated to working for your nonprofit to limit the nonprofit’s exposure to risk.
Considering providing remote workers with the proper electronic equipment and software to be able to work safely. Insist on safe cybersecurity protocols. Maintain board security with a BoardEffect board portal system.
Trust is a primary component when shifting to a work-at-home environment. There’s no way to micromanage people that work at home. Set realistic, well-defined goals and objectives for remote workers and keep the lines of communication open. The proof of your remote workers’ dedication and commitment is best assessed by outcomes.