On March 11, 2020, The World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the Covid-19 outbreak, a global pandemic. Needless to say that this was an official acknowledgment of the reality that most nations were already aware of.
Suddenly the world came to a sudden stop; businesses were faced with a new reality as government-enforced social distancing measures and categorized activities as either essential or non-essential thereby affecting business operations and sustainability during this period. In addition, Government efforts were redirected to curbing the spread of the virus by initiating aggressive testing and contact tracing. These exercises are still going on the government COVID-19 information center
This article focusses on the nature of risks facing employers as employees work from home. The presence of COVID-19 has reshaped and brought to light the discussion on the future of work. Many businesses have resorted to digital technologies to deliver customer value and generate new revenue streams as physical supply chains have been disrupted throughout the world. Organizations have rearranged operations and are granting their employees permission to work from home in line with public health directives to reduce congestion and gathering thereby reducing transmutability of the virus.
Unprecedented is the closest term to use when explaining the response of the population while fighting Covid-19. And despite drawing reference from the Second World War, a time when countries were desperately seeking peace and most people sought refuge in their homes, it isn’t quite the same now. People have a more positive outlook, are well informed and are trying to remain productive while at home. The reason for this is because the rate of recovery from the virus is significant despite the increase in the number of infections. Also threats from neighboring and other countries have been reduced since most countries resulted in closing their borders as a measure to contain the spread of the virus.
One of the effects of COVID-19 is that it has resulted in the use of technologies and innovation between and among industries catalyzed by the demand for internet as employees work from home. In addition, businesses have resorted to use the digital space to enhance and ensure continuity and efficiency for information, physical and financial value chains. Undeniably, employers have been subjected to analyzing the effectiveness of this flexibility, the costs that they would incur and how this would affect the companies’ performance in the short and long run. The need for this could be compared with being pushed off a plank suddenly and having to learn how to swim there and then, in order to fight for dear life.
The use of certain technologies in innovation for business operations exposes the industry players to other risks that would damage existing systems if not mitigated the employers need to watch out for. For instance, the use of a virtual private network (VPN) has been expanded greatly making it possible for employees to send and receive data across a specific shared network. And while some VPN providers keep organizational data encrypted, some may not and data could be decrypted. This possess a great risk of data loss which could lead to confidential information landing on the hands of unintended recipients. In addition to this, the deployment of VPNs into environments that were not designed for remote workings poses new risks. The attack on information assets become greater and firewalls have become essential components now more than ever. Insurance in cyber risk management has become paramount. The insurance market has an important role to play in providing greater clarity about the possibility of coverage for cyber risk management.
It’s important to acknowledge that as employees work from home, they are exposed to other risks which may be different if they were ordinarily working in business premises. This fact will definitely result in employers seeking to renegotiate various insurance benefits/covers with their insurance providers in order to capture the changes in the nature of risks. This new phenomenon will also trigger contentious questions which both businesses that offer certain benefits to its employees and the insurance market must clarify. Notably, if an employee gets injured while working from home, will the employer still be liable or will the employee self-cover? In addition, if the employer is liable, to what extent will it be responsible? These are some of the questions that the insurance industry must anticipate as the nature of risks evolve. Potential benefits that could be affected in the future include; medical cover and property damage in the line of duty.
With the review of these risks, it is evident that there could be a need to develop a product that not only mitigates but also accurately captures the nature of these and other plausible risks, either through consolidating them into one or managing them individually. Partnerships between market players could strengthen positions by undertaking joint feasibility tests in order to assess product performance and customer satisfaction. A notable example of such a partnership is between a renowned telecommunication player and an insurance company, that led to a product which offered both telecommunication services and home insurance benefit. The insurance company in this scenario, comes in and indemnifies customers against the risks of property loss and damages, caused by several perils, while enjoying affordable communication services such as mobile data and calls. This product is an enhanced domestic package policy.
More partnerships between different industry players would lead to proper risk identification and indemnification as elaborated above, more so in cyber risk management. Insurance companies could improve product models in order to fill target gaps in cyber, medical and property damage risks, for workers in both formal and informal sector, and those working at home and in official spaces as well. When this comes to play, employers will find that the costs incurred for the deployment of employees to work from home will be significantly reduced. And through the management of these risks, employers can feel more comfortable pursuing their missions while conforming to public health directives.
Written by Elizabeth Kamuu