As a business risk, an infectious disease doesn't attack your infrastructure or property - it attacks your employees. In a flu pandemic, therefore, perhaps your first priority is to protect your people.
Plan ahead and get the upper hand in preserving workflow even if your offices are inaccessible or employees are unable or scared to come in. It will help sustain your business. And your employees will greatly appreciate both your management foresight and humanity.
Many unique aspects of business continuity need to be considered. But for many businesses, having a distributed computing capability will be critical. RIGHT NOW, set in place the policies and tools needed to support telecommuting for your organization.
If a serious flu pandemic occurs, telecommuting* may become extremely important to how well your business thrives and survives.
How important might it be for you? Think It Through. Consider two things:
DISRUPTIONS: How a pandemic might keep employees away from the workplace
First, what pandemic situations might cause you to lose access to your office or send employees home or elsewhere for an extended period?
- The flu begins spreading among your employees or elsewhere in your large office building. To stem the spread, you discontinue normal office operations.
- As above, the flu becomes a threat to your employees. To stem the spread, local authorities direct you to discontinue normal office operations.
- As a protective move, you don't keep all of your eggs in one basket. You apply "social distancing" and divide your workforce. As soon as a pandemic begins anywhere, you relocate some employees to alternate work sites. Options: other existing company locations, temporary satellite offices, home offices.
- Some employees ask to work from home, either because they need to care for children (schools and day-care centers are closed), care for sick family members, or they're afraid to come to work.
- Local authorities temporarily discontinue mass transit. Employees who rely on mass transit may have difficulty getting to their normal workplace.
- In extreme cases, your workplace temporarily becomes unusable because it's contaminated with the flu virus, has unreliable utilities, or some other disruption.
DIGITAL WORKFLOW: Is your workflow computer-dependent?
Second, do you rely on digital information, but could operate with a physically distributed workforce? For example, do you:
- Use computers to access, create, exchange, and manage information?
- Sample activities:
- word processing
- customer service/support
- accounting & bookkeeping
- R&D or design
- graphics design
- Sample departments or disciplines:
- Human Resources
- Sample businesses:
- Insurance agents
- Medical offices
- Advertising agencies
- Investment advisors
- Travel agents
- Engineering & Design firms
- Accounting firms
- Work with shared dynamic databases (e.g., sales contact tracking, project design files, order tracking, financial files)?
- Need access to digital reference materials (e.g., parts libraries) stored on a company server?
- Otherwise need frequent or constant access to the PC and office network?
Given the above, do those employees who require PCs and/or information-sharing absolutely have to be:
- Physically on your business premises??
Especially think in terms of covering your critical core functions. In a pandemic situation, you may scale back to just core functionality for a while. (That contingency should be part of your pandemic plan, by the way.)
If this describes all or part of your business, telecommuting will be a business lifeline during a pandemic.
Tomorrow: Gartner Research on the need for advance planning. Plus, a sampler of key tools for telecommuting.
Related Telecommuting posts
Telecommuting - A business lifeline <---YOU ARE HERE
Telecommuting Tools - Using PCs by remote control
Telecommuting Tools - What is GoToMyPC?
Telecommuting Tools - Web-based group conferencing (GoToMeeting)
Telecommuting Tools - USB flash drives
Telecommuting Tools - Portable applications
Telecommuting Tools - Portable applications for U3 smart drives
Telecommuting Tools - USB flash drives vs. Other portable data storage
Telecommuting Tools - USB flash drives vs. remote computing (GoToMyPC)
Telecommuting Tools - What size USB flash drive?
Blog Category: "Telecommuting"
*Telecommuting refers to working in a place other than the traditional business office - typically working from home or an alternate "remote" office. You communicate with the main office via telecommunications networks - telephone, fax, and Internet-connected PC.