The Hidden Risks of a Flexible Workforce

Remote worker in coffee shop

The Hidden Risks of a Flexible Workforce

flexible workforce - working at a coffee shop

Changes in Workforce Flexibility

The workplace has changed more in the last few years than the last two decades combined, especially in terms of flexibility.

Only a fraction of the US workforce had access to remote work in 1985. Today, around two-thirds of American workers spend at least some time working remotely. As both employers and employees begin to see the huge benefits of flexible working hours, companies are expected to push for it to form a wider part of the workforce. In fact, INC cites that even Bill Gates believes that organizations which “give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge” in recruiting and retaining talent in the coming years.

And he’s not wrong.

More than 4 in 5 millennials now prioritize work-life balance, and more than half say they prefer flexible hours to achieve that. For companies, the increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and decreased overhead costs are just some of the perks a flexible workforce affords them. This can range from routinely allowing in-house talent to work remotely to delegating more tasks to outsourced and freelance workers.

Yet, some companies don’t fully understand the risks involved in maintaining and developing a flexible workforce. So, to fully maximize the gains of this change, here are some of the hidden risks you should pay attention to:

Cybersecurity Risks

The risks of connecting a rogue USB in your network is something that can lead to data loss or breaches when not monitored. Allowing employees to work remotely amplifies these cyber risks exponentially as they connect to your network from their homes – or worse, public places like coffee shops.

The Financial Times claims that to mitigate these risks for your remote workforce, you have to put proper data protection protocols in place. Software tools that can control their access and enforce encryption can be used to lessen the risks.

Compliance Risks

California recently passed a bill that turned the gig economy upside down. Affecting more than a million workers and a handful of big app-based companies, the landmark bill aims to establish employer-worker relationships between freelance contractors and these organizations. While some say that it’s just state legislation, it lays bare the compliance risks involved in maintaining a vague approach to remote work.

A similar move is being done across the pond where Deliveroo’s gig contractors are urging to be reclassified as regular workers. As more workers enter into the flexible workforce, more stringent regulatory initiatives are expected to keep its growth in check. Organizations engaging in flexible working arrangements should ensure not only compliance but also proactive risk management in this space.

Productivity Risks

While many studies point out that flexible work hours definitely increase employee productivity, some experts say too much flextime can be ineffective. Recruitment firm All About People’s Charles Mitchell says that too much flextime and the absence of structured hours can lead to a loss in productivity. He notes that external distractions and the gaps in communication that are present with a flexible workforce can negatively impact your bottom line if not handled correctly.

In an effort to be more productive, some remote workers choose to work from cafes or co-working spaces – in some cases provided by their companies by offering membership programs. Leading coworking space Industrious has sites all over the US and they note that when testing a new market or managing remote teams, providing these flexible workplace solutions can be very beneficial. Plus, these specialized spaces are designed to accommodate the needs of a modern employee. However, most of them still use open plans which Entrepreneur suggests could negatively impact your employee’s attention span. Of course, this differs depending on the person, and it’s up to the managers to gauge what setup works best for their team.

All in all, flexible workforces may sound ideal, but it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about the potential risks before jumping in. While headlines like ‘Microsoft’s 4-day workweek leads to a 40% gain in productivity’ might dominate the news, it’s still important to develop your remote workforce from a risk-aware perspective.

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