Recent media reports from Spain of the first case of the Ebola virus being contracted by someone in mainland Europe are concerning in their own right. They have also been accompanied by a flurry of comment from the US and UK governments about their plans to prepare for the worst.

This got me thinking about a similar situation in 2010 when we faced a potential outbreak of Swine Flu, and the impact it potentially would have on business.

Fortunately, Swine Flu never gained a stranglehold in the UK as a pandemic which impacted our working day, even though hundreds of people were affected, and I'm sure neither will Ebola. 

However, during 2010 we also experienced heavy snowfall on a number of occasions that led to vast parts of the country coming to a standstill. I recall a conversation with one customer on a snowy morning who was trying to purchase remote worker licenses to deploy to staff, in order to remain functional as a business.

Ironically, the supplier of these licenses had also been unable to travel to their offices. I'm pretty sure they were busy trying to hire a snowplough in order to make it in!

But the worst day possible to hire a snowplough, to test your remote working capabilities, or in fact to buy additional remote worker licenses, is the day of unexpected heavy snowfall. 

So as we track towards yet another winter of increasingly unpredictable weather, and the risk (however remote) of a major health issue, now is the time to be planning ahead. 

Building, deploying and testing a cost-effective remote and flexible working strategy that can be invoked "en masse" across your workforce to allow consistent use of technology, a robust contact strategy and a cohesive plan that all staff are aware of, is not difficult.

And for most organisations, the ingredients of such a solution already exist. With the right advice and support, IT teams across the country can enhance their business continuity and disaster recovery plans, for minimal cost and maximum benefit in the event that a large number of employees are unable to get to work. 

As the old adage says, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. So here’s what we’d recommend you do to ensure your business is fully prepared:

  1. Review your existing strategy and identify gaps or staff members not currently included. Often companies can overlook critical functions like credit control, finance and facilities.
  2. Talk to departmental heads about their requirements in the case of a business continuity event.
  3. Engage with your trusted suppliers to form a strategy and fill those gaps.
  4. Communicate your new and improved plan to all staff.
  5. Don't wait for a critical event like heavy snow to test your plan. Pick test days and inform individual departments or functions to stay at home and work to familiarise themselves with flexible working, and to identify and failings in your plan.

Doing this at short notice works better, as it creates a more compelling sense for everyone of having to deal with the unexpected.

Then when a disruptive incident occurs, invoke your plan quickly and communicate to staff, customers and suppliers in accordance with the strategy. And forget about the snowplough.

TOPICS: Remote Working

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