With so many companies going remote first, our home office is now an extension of our employer’s office. Companies will think long and hard about what that means for their liability. We’re going to see changes in the requirements they place on their remote workforce. Here are five ways that companies will get serious about remote work over the next year.
Pop-up Offices in Retail Spaces
Those malls and retail spaces that have been shuttered by COVID? Wait for them to re-imagine themselves as pop-up office spaces. Companies like WeWork and others may have already taken office spaces in this direction. But owners of large retail spaces will get in the game by offering meeting and work space that is nested within their large, planned spaces. Those spaces already have food options and other small businesses that can support workers (such as shipping stores and so on). They’ll also reconfigure the public spaces to offer experiences that are both safe and relaxing.
Private businesses invest in public internet infrastructure
Some companies are paying for or are subsidizing their employees’ internet access today. However, the real problem is that not everyone has access to “good” internet. Heck, a part of the workforce doesn’t even have access to internet.
Internet and communication infrastructure in the US has been problematic. It’s largely been driven by what private telecom companies wanted to invest in. Think large urban areas with businesses and users willing to pay top dollar for fast internet. Small municipalities that have tried to provide this service to their communities have been stopped by aggressive telecom lobbies. (Check out this story on the town of Wilson, NC trying to become its own internet provider)
Large private businesses will stop investing in their own real estate and start to invest in state and local infrastructure to bring better internet to underserved communities. This not only ensures that the workforce has access to internet but that the access is affordable.
Return of tax deductions for home offices
The home office deduction was eliminated in the US with the last big tax code revision. Many newly remote workers will get an unpleasant surprise next tax season when they realize investments they’ve made to their home to add or expand their dedicated office space cannot be deducted. US companies will lobby their representatives to bring this back to benefit their workers.
Business insurance directed at the remote worker
Many companies already require remote workers to add additional coverage to their personal policies. Usually this is additional auto insurance to cover trips made in their personal vehicle, etc. But these times mean new risks and the insurance market will respond with new types of policies for things like:
- personal cybersecurity,
- business equipment,
- loss of use of their home office along with a salary replacement element, and
- new types of personal remote worker liability coverages
These types of insurance are not new to the market; however, they are only available for insureds that are businesses today. Enterprising insurance companies will quickly fill this need.
In addition, employers will ask employees to add additional coverages to their homeowner’s policies to cover risks like workplace injuries, personal liability, and so on. Some are already doing this.
Home office audits
Companies are taking on a certain amount of liability in having their workforce work from home. The home office is an extension of their office. Home safety, reliability of business equipment and so on will become more of concern. Companies will not only start to request and require certain standards of safety requirements and equipment but will enforce those through home office audits.
Companies and their remote workforce are just starting to come to terms with “remote first” looks like. What other things do you think will change over the next year?