The Impact of Hybrid Work Environments on Resilience Management

Today, business as usual isn’t the same as we used to know. While some companies sustained on-premises teams throughout the coronavirus pandemic—and some more have returned to that recently—many organizations still operate in a fully-remote or hybrid work environment.

As such, these evolving work environments have created new challenges for business continuity, including new and evolving risks for resilience management.

Unfortunately, many resilience and security teams were just not prepared to respond to challenges created by the rapid adoption of these remote teams. And while many have adapted over the past two years, the reality for most organizations is that remote and hybrid environments are likely now part of the new normal.

In fact, according to respondents in the 2022 Global BCM Compensation Report, about 60% anticipate having a hybrid work solution with one to four days in the office and the rest remaining remote.

So, how do you mature your business continuity program alongside these work environment changes? How do you know which new risks exist and how can your organization better plan to respond?

Understanding Remote Work Risks

Recently, the Federation of European Risk Management Associations (FERMA) announced it has released a new tool to help organizations better manage remote work risks. Organizations that complete the associated questionnaire can gain insight into their remote work risks and their potential consequences from the perspectives of:

  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Security and safety
  • Operations
  • Regulations and compliance
  • Technology

The goal here is more than just risk identification. It’s about determining how likely a risk may occur and what its impact on operations may be. This can help your organization better understand how to mitigate those risks and better align response plans to your existing policies—or identify areas where your organization should focus on closing gaps.

FERMA is not the only organization taking a closer look at remote work risk mapping. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are addressing measures focused on work-related issues created in these new remote work environments. That includes a brief addressing health and safety issues for remote workers.

Considering the rapid adoption of remote work for many organizations, the reality today is that health and safety for remote workers—and how to effectively continue important operations should either or both be affected—may be unchartered waters for most business continuity teams.  

Historically, for most organizations, these business continuity and operational resilience issues have been approached from an on-premises perspective. Not only is looking at these potential business continuity issues through a remote-work lens new, it’s also something that’s vast and difficult to get a handle on the range of circumstances a remote worker may operate in that could negatively affect an organization’s resilience—especially for workers who are remotely responsible for critical tasks and services.

Without proper planning, according to the report developed by WHO and ILO, the impact of these types of disruptions may have a significant impact on the resilience of all organizations, regardless of size or industry. That’s why the two organizations have come together to encourage others to give serious consideration and planning into issues that may affect remote workers’ health and safety.

Some of the key issues addressed in the report include concerns about the impact on remote workers for:

  • Burnout
  • Work-life balance
  • Isolation
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Home-based violence
  • Physical injuries

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Addressing Remote Work Risks

According to the BCM Compensation Report, only 6% of respondents anticipate that they will be 100% back in office post-pandemic.

So, how can your organization better understand new risks that hybrid work environments create, evaluate the impact on your operational resilience, and make plans to address these issues, while still also ensuring preparedness for other risks for on-premises and hybrid workers?

The WHO/ILO report makes some of these recommendations:

  • Ensuring employees have adequate equipment for relevant job tasks
  • Providing information, training, and support about the potential impacts of remote work
  • Train managers on how to identify and address remote work risks
  • Offer occupational health, mental health, and psychological support services

But what about other risks beyond those related to employee health and safety? Remote work also introduces a range of operational risks, especially in terms of technology.

For example, as we’ve seen since the pandemic, there has been an increase in cyber-attacks, specifically phishing schemes and ransomware attacks. This is often proliferating in environments where employees are allowed to use their own devices to complete work tasks at home.

Understanding these types of risks and establishing plans to mitigate or remediate them are paramount to managing your resilience management program. This was already a daunting task for teams trying to inventory and track on-premises technologies. It’s even more challenging in a remote or hybrid work environment.

Remember, if you don’t know which assets might impact your important services (and who uses them where for what) it’s impossible to build effective response and recovery strategies. If you’re using static documents such as spreadsheets or word processing tools to track all of this information, you’ll likely feel like this isn’t just a challenge; it’s impossible.

Instead, consider using a SaaS-based resilience management tool such as Castellan to help you identify and inventory all of your assets; understand and document your critical processes, services, vendor and customer relationships; conduct effective risk analysis and business impact analysis for those critical services; and make plans to mitigate security risks and gaps as they’re discovered. 

Need help understanding new and emerging risks created by fully remote or hybrid remote environments? Contact a Castellan advisor today and we can get you on the right path to better understanding all of your risks and how to close gaps to ensure business resilience.

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