Remote worker risk has too much of an impact to ignore. Remote worker risk can arise in the form of personal setbacks, financial loss, and mental anguish from severe weather.
Remote worker risk increases exponentially with a geographically dispersed workforce. The rise of remote work brings with it areas of concern that employers may not have considered, such as:
- limited – if any – risk mitigation efforts a remote worker might choose;
- exposure and lack-of-preparedness employees will take on;
- the risk of natural disasters impacting the work-area/office;
- natural disasters’ impact on employees;
- natural disasters’ impact on productivity;
- the risk of natural disasters impacting the work-area/office.
When a remote worker’s “office” is damaged or the home is unlivable, how is an employee supposed to remain focused and present “at work”?
A recent BenefitsPro article examined how the risk of severe weather and other natural disasters might create remote worker risk. This impacts employees and their ability to meet the demands of their jobs while working remotely in the aftermath of such an event. According to data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, cited by BenefitsPro, the contiguous U.S. states experienced 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2021. That’s just two events shy of the record set in 2020. And over the last five years, weather-related disasters were declared in all 50 states. These natural disasters left a swath of destruction and disruption in their wake, and millions of people who were forced to deal with internet, water, power, and other utility outages.
According to BenefitsPro, “Having workers functioning away from a central hub certainly has its benefits. For example, when talent is distributed in various areas, work won’t be impacted by the same disaster event at the same time. [In this case, remote worker risk decreases!] The investments companies make to maintain a secure, connected workplace are a moot point when a sizable portion of its workforce is operating from a personal dwelling they don’t control.”
Additionally, the cost to recover damaged homes and properties is high for employees. Not only does it result in personal and financial devastation, it can also create financial and emotional stress that renders employees unable to work. Moreover, many homeowners don’t know about the gaps in their homeowners insurance coverage or how long it may take for their claim to be approved or to receive benefits after a disaster. Employees “may also be unaware that disaster deductibles can cost anywhere between 2–20% of a home’s value or of the underinsured exposure they may have when taking into account the rising cost of materials and the increased demand and cost for labor and supplies.”
Indeed, many American households aren’t financially prepared to manage such a disaster. The average household savings is less than $4,000, according to data cited by BenefitsPro, and few households have emergency funds. Employers can help support remote employees’ financial well being by providing relevant tools and resources before and after severe weather events.
According to BenefitsPro, “This helps employees build resilience, recover quickly and regain personal and professional health and productivity.” Employers can also incentivize employees to be proactive about creating disaster resiliency plans, such as family preparedness and disaster education. Offering disaster insurance and the ability to save for emergencies as part of the benefits menu is another way to help employees maintain financial stability. After a disaster strikes, employers can offer employees solutions to stay safe and plugged in, such as subsidizing temporary housing or providing backup power alternatives.
While impossible to mitigate the risks of Mother Nature. remote worker risk can be mitigated. Employers can recognize and try to manage to the best of their ability the impact of remote worker risk. Employees should take proactive steps now to help their workforce remain financially resilient, present, and productive in the face of severe weather.