The pandemic has accelerated a long-emerging trend: the shift towards remote work. Businesses globally have adapted to this new modality, with employees conducting operations from their homes. But this flexibility comes with its own set of risks, including cybersecurity threats, liability concerns, and operational challenges. As companies prepare for a future where remote work will likely be a permanent fixture, commercial insurance providers are also evolving. This article examines the risks of remote work, and how commercial insurers are tailoring their offerings to minimize these vulnerabilities.
The Rise of Remote Work
The Pre-pandemic Scenario
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was generally considered a perk rather than a necessity. According to a pre-pandemic survey, only about 7% of U.S. workers had the option to telecommute. The numbers were even lower in other parts of the world.
Acceleration Due to the Pandemic
With the onset of the pandemic, these figures have skyrocketed. Remote work became not just an option but a necessity for many businesses. A recent study revealed that up to 42% of the U.S. workforce is now working remotely full-time.
The Permanent Shift
As companies and workers settle into new routines, a substantial portion of businesses are planning to make remote work a permanent or semi-permanent arrangement. According to a Gartner survey, 82% of company leaders intend to permit remote work to some extent as employees return to the workplace.
The Risks Attached to Remote Work
Remote work has exposed businesses to new cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Workers accessing company networks from various locations and often from personal devices have increased the potential points of entry for cyber attackers.
Data Privacy and Compliance
Employee Wellbeing and Liability
Remote work has also blurred the lines between personal and professional life, leading to mental health issues among employees. This new setup also raises questions about workplace safety and liability when an ‘office’ can be a kitchen table or a home desk.
The Commercial Insurance Response
Cyber Insurance Policies
Insurance companies have started offering comprehensive cyber liability policies tailored for remote work situations. These policies often include coverage for ransomware attacks, data breaches, and even social engineering schemes targeting remote workers.
General Liability and Worker’s Compensation
Insurers are now reviewing and updating their general liability and worker’s compensation packages to account for remote working conditions. These policies may now cover incidents occurring in an employee’s home when they are on official duties.
Health and Wellbeing Programs
With increased focus on employee wellbeing, some commercial insurance providers have integrated mental health support and wellness programs into their policy offerings.
Understanding that one size does not fit all, insurers are increasingly offering customizable packages that allow businesses to select the types of coverage most relevant to their remote working conditions.
Case Study 1: Tech Company Adopts Comprehensive Cyber Insurance
A mid-sized tech company faced a phishing attack that targeted its remote employees. Thankfully, their tailored cyber insurance policy covered the financial losses, provided legal consultation, and also offered credit monitoring services to the affected employees.
Case Study 2: Marketing Firm Expands Worker’s Compensation
A marketing firm expanded its worker’s compensation policy to cover remote employees. When an employee suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome due to long hours on the computer, the updated policy covered her medical expenses and therapy.
Preparing for the Future
Risk Assessment and Training
Insurance companies are offering more than just financial coverage; they are providing risk assessment tools and cybersecurity training programs to help businesses and employees understand and mitigate risks.
Collaboration with Tech Companies
Insurers are collaborating with tech firms to offer secure hardware and software solutions as a bundled package with their insurance policies.
Global Policies for a Global Workforce
For companies employing remote workers internationally, insurers are beginning to offer global policies that account for different regulatory landscapes.
The shift to remote work has opened a Pandora’s box of risks and challenges that businesses must now navigate. Commercial insurance providers are stepping up to this challenge by tailoring their offerings to the unique risks presented by a remote workforce. These changes signal a broader shift in how commercial insurance providers are thinking about risk in an increasingly digital and decentralized work environment.
In preparing for a future where remote work will be commonplace, a multidimensional approach that encompasses robust cybersecurity policies, comprehensive liability coverage, and employee wellbeing measures is crucial. As we move into this new normal, the collaboration between businesses and commercial insurers will play a pivotal role in shaping a resilient and secure future of work.