New digital business trends have disrupted the traditional, full-time-employee business model, by providing companies and workers with a wide variety of new working arrangements to choose from. Short-term, freelance, and remote work have emerged to supplement or replace long-term jobs, often facilitated through a mobile app or digital platform.
This evolving workplace can be challenging, raising questions around liability and employee rights, as well as cyber security when remote or flexible workers have access to sensitive data. But there’s no denying the new model’s success, or that businesses have a lot to learn from its opportunities and challenges.
In many cases, new types of employee-business relationships are a positive thing. As businesses have found post-COVID-19, increased flexibility can be valuable. And the benefits go both ways, also giving workers the freedom they need to thrive.
However, flexible workers in some industries have faced low pay, a lack of security, and a poor work-life balance. So, it remains important to keep a focus on supporting employees — whether gig workers or longer-term contractors — even as technology becomes an increasingly important part of how business is conducted.
For example, many companies may hire additional staff on a specific project-by-project basis and often for relatively long periods of time to see a project through to completion.
For smaller businesses, digital platforms like Upwork or Guru can help them bring flexible workers on board simply and quickly. This approach allows a business to scale up or down its operations in response to workload without needing robust in-house human resources solutions.
The ability for businesses to bring on supplemental employees as required highlights the power that digital business trends have to reshape traditional workplaces. However, in order for businesses to take advantage of the opportunities available, it's crucial they be prepared to ramp up their technology infrastructure.
On one level, that means hiring specialized staff (or training existing employees) to make sure they have the skills necessary to work with the chosen digital platforms. But it could also mean investing in entirely new customer experiences or processes — for example, allowing a customer to book a driver, have a product delivered, or hire a remote consultant, all in seconds. These processes take the benefits that businesses can leverage from new technologies and pass them on to customers, for smoother, more streamlined relationships based around on-demand products and services.
Of course, there are challenges that come with embracing new technologies or jumping onto emerging trends like a flexible workforce. These include everything from having the right processes in place to keep temporary staff supported to making sure they’re trained on company platforms to avoid added cyber risk exposure.
This cyber risk is of particular concern when contract employees are working remotely. In order to protect against data breaches, or limit the access temporary workers have to sensitive information, businesses should take steps to ensure they have systems set up that aren’t just secure, but also allow for access to be restricted to only what’s relevant to specific workers. If this functionality isn’t in place, businesses could run the risk of their internal processes or information being visible to contract workers who shouldn’t have access.
If your business depends on remote workers — on either a temporary or ongoing basis — ensuring they have a properly equipped and ergonomically sound workspace is an important consideration. A poorly equipped and designed workspace can lead to accidents and injuries — and the potential for workers compensation claims. Fortunately, there are simple ways to help you and your employees set up a safe, healthy, and welcoming work environment at home.
Once an organization has taken steps to secure its stability, it can turn its attention to the future, using new technologies and flexible, tech-savvy employees to succeed.
This document is advisory in nature and is offered as a resource to be used together with your professional insurance advisors in maintaining a loss prevention program. It is an overview only, and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your insurance broker, or for legal, engineering or other professional advice.
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