Ethics Engaged | Winter 2020
The Ethics of Remote Work
Changes to the ways we work necessitate a new ethical perspective.
Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner
Head of Finance, International Legal Technology Association
Organizations around the world have moved all or some of their staff to remote working
environments. While this change may be a boon for public health concerns, remote work
has different ethical implications and fraud prevention considerations than a traditional in-person
work environment. Here is how to evaluate how well your work-from-home practices
are implemented and where you can improve them.
Employers not used to virtual work environments may be concerned about their remote
employees’ productivity. One way to address productivity is to set clear goals and
expectations of what needs to be accomplished and in what time frame. Results should
be prioritized over the hours worked or perception of hours worked. Consider holding
weekly one-on-one meetings with your team members to discuss progress and remove
obstacles to increase efficiency. Highlight achievements and celebrate individual
successes—you might consider using a tool to record results and demonstrate ongoing
praise for accomplishments.
Some employers have implemented productivity monitoring software to determine how
much their employees are working; be careful with this kind of solution as it can send a
message to your staff that you do not trust them. You can remind your employees of using
their company-issued equipment for business purposes only, which should reduce time
spent on non-business websites. You can also forbid time theft in your internal code of
conduct and require employees to review and sign it. You can ask hourly employees to
complete detailed hours per project and assess how efficient they are with using their time
toward achieving goals; they can also sign timesheets attesting that their time is accurate.
Working from home has unique benefits and challenges, and your employees may still
need some time to adjust. By understanding your employees’ needs, such as taking care
of a family member, you can find ways to support them. Employees may benefit from
atypical working hours if the role allows them that flexibility. Consider setting up mentor
relationships within the company to offer additional support for your employees—
sometimes employees feel more comfortable confiding in colleagues from other groups. Additionally, set up an anonymous way for employees to give
feedback to management so the organization can address issues
in a timely manner.
Connect with employees to check in on their motivation and mental
health. Give culture attention as it is crucial to retention and job
satisfaction. Continue to hold organization-wide meetings and
promote teamwork through decision-making and project work.
Keep your organizational values visible; instead of having them
posted on a physical wall of an office building, post them online
and talk about your values in meetings to further create unity.
Discuss how remote work aligns with your organizational values
and highlight the benefits of remote work, such as reduced
commuting time, more control over your interactions, and more
personalization of your workspace.
When employees work from home, it can be more difficult to set
up effective controls to prevent fraud. Think through documentation
of how to show multiple people are involved in decision-making
and control of funds. Approvals must be maintained whether via
software, email, or chat message.
Another area of fraud to consider is workers’ compensation fraud.
As more employees work from home, it can be more difficult to
determine if an injury or illness falls under workers’ compensation.
You can mitigate risk of injury or illness related to work by
asking your employees to describe or photograph their work
environments, encouraging them to practice healthy habits—like
taking appropriate breaks—and having them agree in writing
that their work environments meet the organization’s safety and
Virtual environments lead to an increased focus on cybersecurity
and necessitate more care to safeguard confidentiality. Educate
your employees on correct password practices and other security
steps to protect their computers, routers, and other internet-enabled
devices. Ensure data backup processes are functioning
and that backup files are held in a secure location.
Some security measures could include asking employees to
encrypt their routers, preferably with Wi-Fi Protected Access
2 (WPA2) or Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3), and to use a
virtual private network (VPN) to access files on the organization’s
network. A VPN establishes a secure connection between the
employee’s computer and the organization’s remote server. Also
consider moving any Alexa-enabled devices out of the room and
turning off Siri when you are discussing confidential work
information. This extra step aids compliance with AICPA Code of
Professional Conduct Rule 1.700.001: “A member in public practice
shall not disclose any confidential client information without the
specific consent of the client.”
Finally, provide security training to your employees periodically to
remind them of the threats that exist and to inform them of new
fraud schemes they may encounter.
When done well, remote work can be beneficial to your
organization and your employees, both amid a pandemic and
afterward. By continuing to build a culture of ethics and excellence,
you can make the best of remote work.