Remote and hybrid workforce models add another layer of risk and complexity.
By Simon Kent
The challenge of delivering compliance across a remote and now increasingly hybrid workforce is summed up by Robert Hicks, group HR director at Reward Gateway: “The easiest way to think about it is if you have 100 staff, you have 100 locations, and you need to make sure each one is managed as you would just one location,” he says.
From tax and insurance to health and safety, compliance has become more complex following the pandemic. According to global talent mobility platform Topia, work location is just one issue businesses need to contend with. The company’s survey found that 67% of global respondents were not reporting when they worked outside of the state or country they were assigned to, even though 60% knew about the rules around this. Additionally, only 20% of HR respondents globally were absolutely confident they had the right information on hand to manage compliance challenges.
“The pandemic has added another layer of complexity to managing compliance,” says Steve Black, chief strategy officer of Topia. “It used to be that only a small subset of employees were considered mobile or distributed. Now, you have large portions of a company’s workforce working remotely—and with that, the possibility they could be working in a location HR teams are not aware of, potentially creating major tax or immigration issues.”
To combat this, Black recommends communication, education, and transparency. The responsibility should be shared among HR leaders and other executives in the organisation who are held accountable for HR compliance.
Nadia Vatalidis, director of people at global HR solution provider Remote, believes being transparent with employees about where and how they are working is key to ensuring compliance. “We need them to overcommunicate what they’re doing,” she says. “We’re all adults and we’re fine with where you want to work as long as it is done in a safe and secure way.”
At Remote, the onboarding system has been designed in such a way that it ensures new employees are brought in with consideration for compliance-related issues such as finance and data privacy. The business currently has employees in 37 countries with plans for more. By using a process of understanding local compliance requirements and designing these into the business-wide system, the company can deploy a single effective onboarding solution across all jurisdictions.
Remote also ensures everyone is working in a safe and healthy way from their particular location by communicating with employees to explain possible risks and respond to concerns raised. The company has also budgeted in order to provide ergonomically designed chairs, tables, and tech to employees. In one instance, the company assisted an employee’s relocation to a new home where they would have a more consistent internet connection and dependable electricity supply.
This level of care is also delivered to the talent Vatalidis sources. “If I’m bringing in people for a short project, I will treat that person as I would if they were a full-time employee,” she says. “In every case, we need to meet these requirements and employees need to work from a single sign on.”
The ability to cover multiple compliance demands with one approach is also illustrated by Reward Gateway. “We operate in four geographies, and we have three social distancing rules that include two metres, 1.5 metres, and six feet,” Hicks explains. “The rule was to set compliance with local social distancing requirements so it’s much easier to understand by everyone.”
In other areas of compliance, Hick advises good partnerships both internally and with external experts. These include information security teams, IT teams, legal teams, finance teams, and any other relevant stakeholder group. “To maintain compliance, communication is key to helping every employee in the organisation be part of compliance standards,” he explains. “Your communications and L&D teams can help by creating great communications that reach each employee and learning programmes that ensure all of the teams are equipped with the training they need.”
Those organisations that are looking to attract and retain the best talent will go beyond the basic standards of compliance. Darren Hockley, managing director at learning compliance business DeltaNet International, agrees. “Compliance is not just about adhering to government rules and regulations such as data protection,” he says. “It also highlights the responsibility organisations need to take for looking after their employees.”
Hockley notes that the switch—or the ongoing switching—between work and home locations for employees means HR needs to take greater care in ensuring that everyone everywhere complies with local health and safety regulations. He advises offering employees refresher training on relevant guidelines, which are especially important for those employees who are returning to the office. “As employees have been out of their traditional working environments during the pandemic, using adaptive learning such as refresher courses is a great way to get staff back up to speed quickly,” he says.
Multinational organisations naturally have to do this on a location-by-location basis, ensuring training materials are accessible in regional languages. Hockley also points out that time differences across the regions of a global business could influence the best method or course of information delivery. “Having flexibility with online learning allows employees to access the compliance training materials at their own time and their own pace, and enables HR to tailor learning to the individual needs of employees across their regions in EMEA,” he says.
“I think everything—and I mean everything—will have three lenses: the remote worker lens, the office worker lens, and the hybrid worker lens,” says Hicks. “We, the HR community, need to embrace this and create sustainable and long-term solutions for all of this, and we also need to see the value in having a flexible, hybrid workforce.”
Delivering all this alongside the ongoing changes in the business world is no mean feat, but the way forward is to find solutions that accommodate local differences and specific role demands into all-encompassing rules and resources. This way HR can be certain that everyone at the organisation is aware of the issues they need to address and aware of what they need to do to be safe and compliant.