Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 44 seconds

 

In mid-March, regardless of traditional April 15 tax deadlines, everyone in America, accounting firms included, went home. Work didn’t stop; it just readjusted.

Like the famous statement from the Jurassic Park movies, “Life finds a way.” So, you and I and everyone else found the way. Workplace wardrobes gave way to nice shirts on top and sweats on the bottom, “COVID hair” and video conferencing. Many of us have upped our network bandwidth as we are forced to share internet bandwidth with our homeschooling and video gaming children. Our work from home time is not a break or vacation. We’re needed more than ever, and we’re working harder than ever before—and differently than ever before. Thus, we’re facing new challenges. 

Work from home Phase 2

In WFM Phase 1, from mid-March to around April 15, we’ve been in the new and honeymoon stage of working from home. We’ve established new work patterns and protocols. Video meeting etiquette has taught us the finer points of screen background, video or no video, muting, and chat window dialogues. Who can record? Should you record? We’ve experienced the joy of having our dogs start spontaneous bark fests with each other, sight unseen. 

But more importantly, as the crisis settles into new normal, for at least the time being, the bigger issues settle in. Two of the biggest: 1.) network bandwidth and security and 2.) compliance. 

Keeping wireless and internet access workplace safe 

On network security, our IT members or service providers have moved to high alert, finding ways to protect our work in the world of home Wi-Fi. VPNs, tunneling, proactive threat protection, the things we never expected to know, are now the themes we toss about day to day. But now, perhaps the even bigger issue emerges. 

Compliance in the #WFM world

 Client files. Laptop screens. Confidential documents. Particularly in the case of compliance requirements like HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability), we’ve heard the real stories of hospital staff who are threatened with loss of job or potential loss of career if someone so much as walks by a practitioner and sees a private patient record on screen. And in a home environment? We should all be hyper cautious Here’s a true story, as reported by TotalHipaa.com: Indianapolis oncology company Cancer Care Group agreed to a settlementof $750,000 in 2015 after a remote employee lost a laptop and backup drive when someone stole the individual’s car. The laptop contained the personal information of more than 50,000 patients. (Yes, as accountants, it leads us to muse that the unsecured laptop was most certainly worth far more than the car). 

How did the Care Group fail? 1) They failed to conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis when the breach occurred. 2) The company did not have a written policy about the removal of hardware containing Personal Health Information (PHI) from the company facilities. 

Thanks to the prevalence of SaaS, today’s businesses carry less potential liability by storing clients’ personal information in the cloud. And our written policies should guide employees in the protocol of client data in terms of email, hard drives, printouts or the information that can be overseen on a company screen. 

If employees have the need to receive or create printed documents with personal information, the company can provide them with a desk side shredder as well. 

And we must point out the value of a unified portal for accounting activities. Compliance policies are not only present, alerts can ensure the policies are current and keep them present for consultants at each of the moments they need to be seen. The portal itself ensures that only the authorized employee can open the screens, and the levels of security ensure they view and access only the information they need. 

Despite the challenges we face in every organization today, America’s indomitable spirit is making WFM work. But as remote work becomes our “new normal” it is equally important that we rise to the new challenges of ensuring our work from home is safe and compliant as well. 

As a final note: From now until at least June 1, 2020, Avii is providing the full version of Avii Workspace for up to 25 internal firm users with up to 1GB of data storage and unlimited client users. For more on this, visit http://www.avii.com/free .

Last modified on Monday, 18 May 2020
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Lyle Ball

Ball is co-founder and CEO of Avii, the unified workspace portal for tax, auditing and advisory. For more information, visit http://www.avii.com/free or call 801-365-2844.Ball lyle

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