Work in the United States has been rapidly changing in the past decade, and COVID-19 will only accelerate the trends. New work models have emerged as many businesses have been ordered closed, and it is increasingly clear that COVID-19 will have long-lasting impact on when, where, and how Americans work.
Risk management professionals face a unique challenge in the years ahead. Obviously, the health and safety of employees and contractors are under a new level of risk during a pandemic. But this crisis has also exacerbated many existing risk sectors, according to new analysis from Gartner. The traditional work model has changed, led by technology-enabled remote work, algorithm-optimized work schedules, and the rise of the gig economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further cemented the end of traditional work models.
As the distributed workforce becomes the norm across the country, risk management and H.R. professionals must adapt their approach to managing workforce risk. As “coming into the office” becomes rarer, and fewer people work a standard “9-to-5,” the need for solutions that keep employers informed and equipped is crucial.
Workers are more likely than ever to perform their job with no in-person interaction with coworkers.
Even before the coronavirus, remote work was on the rise:
- Nearly 6% of total American workers work entirely from home.
- More than 43% of Americans work remotely “at least sometimes.”
- The move to remote work is evident across industries, including transportation, finance, and entertainment.
- A third of workers favor remote-work flexibility over a higher salary.
Of course, over the last several months, entire companies have shifted to a remote work environment, and many experts are predicting permanent impacts to work models. Employees will continue to be encouraged to telework as a social distancing strategy.
In some industries, distributed work is part of normal operations. Truck drivers, home repair technicians, and in-home health providers all perform their job responsibilities away from a centralized office.
The rapid acceleration toward greater remote and distributed work upends a tenet of the traditional risk management model.
When regular face-to-face interaction goes away, it becomes more difficult to identify criminal activity among a workforce. There are fewer built-in signals that might alert an organization to an employee’s involvement in criminal activity and prompt the business to investigate further.
Although obvious, having employees notice that a coworker never sat down at their desk on Monday morning is an effective risk signal that a distributed workforce model lacks. Businesses benefit from coworkers looking out for each other. The availability of a coworker to ask, “Where’s Craig?” on Monday morning is valuable in being the initial signal that causes a business to investigate further. Maybe Craig is simply sick or caring for a loved one. Maybe he has been stressed out at work and needs work-provided intervention and counseling. But if Craig is currently in jail for domestic assault, his employer would benefit from knowing.
Irregular work schedules are on the rise.
The traditional 9-to-5 workday is becoming obsolete. Workers today are more likely than ever to work irregular hours.
- Growth of “gig” work and self-employment – The gig economy has grown massively over the last decade. Estimates on the percentage of the U.S. workforce in “gig” jobs range from 10% to 30%. Additionally, it is increasingly likely for gig workers to be active on multiple platforms, creating (from the platform’s perspective) unusual work patterns.
- Increase in part-time work during economic downturns – In 2019, around 17% of the labor force worked part-time. The economic impact of COVID-19 will result in a large growth in part-time labor in the U.S. During the 2008 recession, the number of part-time workers more than doubled. As businesses plan for phased reopening and reduced demand, an increase in part-time work is inevitable.
- Optimized schedules for hourly workers – Over the past decade, many businesses have turned to workforce scheduling software to optimize staffing levels for periods of higher and lower demand. As a result, workers’ schedules frequently change from week-to-week, and there could be long periods of time between shifts. A variety of studies suggest between 10-20% of the overall workforce and more than half of hourly workers have “irregular” work schedules.
- Flexible work time for salaried workforces – “Flextime” generally refers to employees having the autonomy to set their own hours, as long as they are meeting the expectations of the job. In the U.S. more than a quarter of employers allow salaried workers to change their schedule weekly. More than 30% allow employees to follow “compressed work weeks,” squeezing their work into 3 or 4 workdays.
The cumulative impact of these trends is that virtually no business expects its workforce to be working a “normal” 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday schedule. Instead, there are large gaps in employees’ work schedules that can range from days to months.
Irregular work schedules make it challenging for employers to identify criminal activity. The time between an arrest and the subsequent posting of bail and release can be only a few days, even for serious offenses.
With gig, seasonal, and part-time work, someone “not working” for 3 months is not a reliable risk indicator or signal to prompt additional investigation.
Continuous criminal monitoring fills a knowledge gap.
When workers are distributed geographically and work irregular schedules, risk management professionals need solutions that identify risky behavior. Because crime represents a significant risk to the safety of employees, customers, and business, employers need to know as soon as possible of risky behavior among their workforce.
The physical distribution of workers means that information about employee’s involvement in crime is equally distributed. Because most crime happens close to the offender’s home, criminal activity will show a similar distribution to the physical location of employees. But the timeliness of information is crucial, too. Since someone can be arrested, charged, post bail, and leave incarceration within 48 hours, more irregular work schedules create additional “unknowns” for risk management teams.
A centralized source of criminal workforce risk information is essential for employers looking to mitigate risk and operate a safe work environment. Continuous criminal monitoring fills an information void and allows employers to be proactive about better serving their employees and customers.