Effectively Maintaining a Compliance Program Remotely
In the world of product compliance, sudden changes to regulations are fairly standard. For example, the European Chemicals Agency frequently announces new additions to its Substances of Very High Concern list. In California, major changes regularly are made to the Proposition 65 list of hazardous chemicals. In the environmental industry, clients add new sets of requirements to projects that may not be anticipated. These changes are happening all the time and are surprising, but should not be unexpected.
With the ongoing coronavirus threat—an unprecedented, unexpected, and sudden change—many of us are sitting alone in newly appointed home offices wondering several questions, including how can we effectively maintain compliance programs and complete tasks from home, how can we maintain product compliance in global markets, and how can we effectively manage a remote team during this extended quarantine period?
For many, remote work represents a huge shift from a traditional office setting. However, in our modern world, equipped with advanced and connecting technology, many of us can—and many full-time remote workers already do—work from home, and experience more benefits than struggles. From greater flexibility to increased productivity and improved contentedness, remote work may not be the future of all companies, but it is an experience you and your fellow employees can and should benefit from to the greatest extent possible.
While this may be a major transformational period for your business, it also is an opportunity to review your regulatory compliance program to assess the strengths, uncover any weaknesses, and commit to developing deeper expertise and robust compliance capabilities, regardless of where your business requires you to work.
Embrace Disruption to Your “This is How it’s Always Been” Processes
The coronavirus outbreak forced a new normal on us all for the foreseeable future. Business processes and financial income streams were disrupted overnight. However, even if we experience a major economic downturn, compliance must continue. Regulations and client requirements will never become optional.
Leaders of companies that have made the greatest economic gains over the past decade have spoken about disruption occurring often during the growth of the company—so much so, that it has become cliché. We are now living in a period of unprecedented disruption that is unfolding before our eyes. As it takes shape, some of us are noticing that the disruption is starting to create new opportunities.
Although the current situation is challenging, companies who manage the pandemic well will end up ahead of the competition with better systems in place that can withstand various business challenges in the future.
Now is the time to review your compliance program and ask your management and compliance team hard questions:
- Do we have a staff expert who can address our clients’ compliance needs?
- Is our compliance program proactive or reactive?
- Are our current processes feasible from a remote setting?
- What technology can we implement to ensure effective compliance?
- Does hiring an outside consultant to support us—while we focus on what we do best—make the most business sense?
Complacency is an easy trap to fall into. In the past, you may have operated on a quick-and-fast compliance program, or used barebones technology and made do. In today’s world, situations demand more robust preparations.
Equip Your Teams with Technological Solutions
During the 1930s Great Depression, as advancements in technology started to accelerate, economist John Maynard Keynes began theorizing that technological progress would allow for a future of 15-hour workweeks, with people awash in leisure and boredom by 2030 as machines and tools ran our world for us.
Technology has not, for many of us, eliminated or reduced our need to work, but it has certainly shifted how we do our work. The occasional technical issues aside, technology has revolutionized our work, enabling us to be productive no matter where we are or how wide-reaching the distribution of our organization and clients is. Technology increases collaboration. It enhances efficiency and accuracy. If rigorous enough, it can be used to rapidly inform team members regarding new updates or changes. In the time of coronavirus and beyond, asking the following questions can assist you in selecting the appropriate technology to maintain your compliance program:
- Does the technology allow for real-time updates?
- Does the technology tool live in the cloud so all compliance program stakeholders can always have access to the latest version?
- Does the technology stand powerfully on its own to assist you in managing comprehensive regulatory requirements and updates, and to allow your compliance team to address compliance issues? More technology most often does not equal more productivity or efficiency.
- Is the cost of the technology worth the benefit of potentially streamlining your compliance team and enabling team members to complete their tasks more effectively?
- How will your employees maintain their competence through training and professional development?
Software solutions, such as International Material Data System (IMDS), already exist for the automotive industry, and Compliance Data Exchange (CDX) exists for the aerospace, heavy equipment, and electronics industries, and more.
Leverage Remote Work Benefits to Level up Your Team
As we are living in the reality of having to work remotely—benefiting from greater capabilities and productivity, while embracing old and new technologies alike—now is an ideal time to invest in leveling up your team to better support your operations and compliance program.
Many managers will need to conduct team building remotely and continue to reinforce the corporate culture philosophies. Some employees will be searching for morale-enhancing opportunities, and others yet will find themselves with extra time on their hands that they want to fill with something meaningful. One way to answer all these needs is to invest in continuing education and expert resources. Your compliance program will thrive by supporting the people who will be seeing it through.
Tetra Tech is here to remotely help and support your compliance needs now and into the foreseeable future with:
- The most up-to-date information on how the product compliance community is best addressing these new challenges
- Actionable information on the greatest technologies, tools, practices, and processes to employ to remain compliant, even from home offices
- A team of compliance experts available to take on your compliance workload while you invest in helping your internal team members succeed in their new environments
Additionally, Tetra Tech is committed to helping support your internal team’s capabilities and expertise, working hard to meet your needs in this new remote work environment.
In the beginning of April, Tetra Tech launched a new online IMDS training program. With this program, our training experts are better able to serve your needs, even in these tumultuous times, and will be delivering even more value than before with online classes that incorporate quizzes to ensure comprehension of the material, forums to engage users, and regular coaching support, among many other new enhancements.
Tetra Tech’s training experts are prepared to support your compliance program needs regardless of your location, and we have plans to continue to design online training modules to eventually include the breadth of IMDS and CDX training, and more.