Now that we’re through January (and all of the 1099’s and payroll-related information returns), we take a small breath … but then things start ramping up again for us here at Emelia Mensa, CPA.
So let this serve as an early notice that it would be a very good idea to get on our calendar as soon as you’re able.
And I’m well aware that this takes time for business owners. But this is also what we’re here for — feel free to reach out with any questions about what we’ll need from you to begin our return preparation processes.
(And also, you don’t have to wait to get your books in order or your tax records organized or your tax strategy optimized. We can do that all year long, and it really helps to take a year-round approach to this part of your business so that tax season is less stressful, and you don’t have to delay getting everything submitted to the IRS.)
Leaving all that aside, I’ve been thinking about how lockdowns, whether locally or nationally, gave us all a taste of the work-from-home (WFH) life and shifted so much of the American — and global — work world. As a business owner, you’ve likely been forced to find new footing when it comes to hiring and managing employees.
More and more people want a work-from-home option (wearing stretchy pants instead of office wear and time flexibility are too alluring to give up so easily). It seems like many office-based businesses have struck an accord with this reality, most offering hybrid work options if not fully remote work jobs. (And some, of course, have no provision for this … plumbers can’t WFH in stretchy pants.)
But if your business is built to handle WFH, there are new concerns to think about. Yay!
With the move to fully cloud-based business operations, your business via remote workers could be vulnerable to cybercrime. And then there’s “workplace” safety to consider, time-wasting, communication struggles, and (what I want to talk about today) insurance coverage for your workers.
Let’s dive into business insurance policies.
Remote Work & Your Business Insurance Policy
“Out of sight, out of mind. The absent are always in the wrong.” – Thomas a Kempis
Not long ago, your insurance needs were clear for protecting your workers and your company, but workforces changed in the past few years: Chances are good your company has more remote workers than ever.
Surveys say that post-pandemic workers still expect to work remotely at least one to three days a week. Workers say they’re happy, saving commuting time and bucks. Most remote workers think their bosses will let them keep working outside the office — and many would even take a pay cut to keep working that way.
But when exactly is a worker toiling away “remotely?” And what does a far-flung staff do to your need for your business insurance, an expensive level of protection that’s dictated primarily by physical presence?
Not all off-premises work is the same. “Work from home” often involves part of a workweek in a company location and part in the staffer’s home or other location. “Remote work” is working from home full-time.
Recognizing this difference partially dictates how your business insurance needs might change. A common insurance concern for employers used to be an employee (full- or part-time didn’t matter) falling in the office due to negligent maintenance. Still a worry, of course, but no longer as common since remote workers aren’t around to trip on a loose floor tile.
With a staff of remote workers, your danger of potential damages has changed. More likely today is cybercrime; company equipment in your worker’s home is also more likely to suffer damage from anything from a spilled coffee to a living room window left open in a rainstorm. (Your remote workers might be slow to admit it, but they’re more likely to be distracted at home.)
Are you responsible?
Yes, practically speaking: Injury during employment may fall under Workers’ Compensation. Your potential liability is unchanged – though a case always depends on circumstances and state workplace laws regarding proof that the injury happened due to employment.
(The same generally holds true for property damage and other types of insurance. Employees’ homeowners’ and renters’ policies typically don’t cover work-related claims, by the way. Your health and dental benefits for worker will probably remain largely unchanged by remote work, too.)
But a worker not being on your premises multiples the variables. When and when in their home did the injury or accident occur? What distracted them at that moment? Was the person hurt doing your business or doing their laundry?
Note one other pandemic-related break in your liability: If you don’t force them to come into your office, they can’t factually claim that they contracted Covid on your premises or during their employment with you.
What you can do
So your business insurance needs continue more or less the same given remote work, at least for now. But insurers have always been known to give a break on premiums if you do things to lower their chance of parting with money.
Will your carrier cut you a deal if you verify (in writing) that work you’ve asked for can be done safely in a home? If you helped your employee create a safer work-from-home space and you gave them the right equipment to safely do the job? (Document this — always document everything that might make your argument for lower premiums.)
While bending the ear of your insurer, confirm whether your business insurance policy covers work equipment that’s not on your premises. And ask about a remote-worker break on your biz insurance — a relatively new idea for carriers, but it could be time for a smart insurance company to offer it and lock in customers.
- Establish written procedures for reporting a work injury at home, including specific instructions on who an employee should contact at your company and by when.
- Revisit your telecommuting and job description documents, just to make sure nothing in them increases your liability unnecessarily.
Your biggest hole runs right through your remote workers’ computers. Off-site, these machines are beyond your real control even if you mandate cybersecurity measures. (They’ll get around to it …)
The price of cyber insurance generally depends on your risks and the information/data you handle, anywhere annually from the mid-three to the mid-four figures, or more. As with other types of coverage, you can argue for a break for good practices (strong firewalls, for instance, or for documented training of staff in cyber security).
Inspect all the devices of your staff, by the way, because it’s pretty clear that work gets done everywhere now.
The remote work world is a cutting-edge complication for you and your business insurance, we know, but we’re here to help with your concerns old and new.
Helping you make the shift,
Emelia Mensa, CPA