For many companies and public sector
organisations, unforeseen events can have a
catastrophic impact. In fact in the UK, even
well-predicted events can bring work to a
Back in February, we found that for
much of the country, 'snow business = no business".
In April, while our leaders descended on London to
save the world's economy, the host city ground to a
standstill as demonstrators in fewer numbers than a
premier league football match came to town.
now we face the prospect - or not - of a flu
These are the kind of event that have
big impact on mobility, and stop employees getting
to work. How does your company react?
must make an effort to get in!
One company in London, with both the snowstorms
and the G20 protest, sent an email to all staff
instructing them that they had to make the effort to
come in, even defining what constituted a 'good
effort'. This was despite the fact that most
employees already have remote access available.
Another company notified staff that if they lived
within 5 miles of work they had to come in, with the
alternatives being to take a day's paid or unpaid
It is worth thinking through what is
required. Someone could make the effort, and
fail - perhaps spending half a working day trying to
get to work. Taking out time, in fact, when
they could have been sitting at home by the fire -
and working efficiently.
Of course, many people
simply vote with their feet - and a good deal of
common sense - and stay home whether they can work
remotely or not.
Remote working is a key
ingredient of continuity planning
Even if having large numbers of staff working
remotely is not your company's preferred normal way
of working, it is something well worth including in
business continuity planning. The events
referred to above were short-lived interruptions -
but what if there were an event making the office
unusable (floods, fire, terrorist attack) for a long
period? Or a long term disruption to people's
ability or willingness to be mobile (train strike,
The advice given by companies to
struggle in would be particularly inappropriate in
the event of a pandemic. Requiring people to
travel through public places and in public
transport, to sniffle and cough amongst colleagues
would be very irresponsible.
And the likelihood in
a pandemic is that that the authorities would choose
to close down or scale down public services such as
schools, leaving almost a third of the workforce
with childcare issues to deal with.
How do you
plan for this?
Companies that already have strategies and
technologies for enabling staff to work on a remote
or mobile basis will probably be in a better
position to extend the offering to more of their
For other companies, it's a question of
examining what people do and where they do it, and
planning for people to be able to work remotely on
an 'as needed' basis.
This involves having work
processes accessible afar, and reducing the factors
that tether staff too firmly to the office. It
also involves having the technologies available to
allow remote working, and protocols about the
legitimate use of home computers if needed as a last
It also involves having a clear idea about
what people should be doing when they work at home.
For some people, this may not be an issue. But
for some people, it may mean reorganisation of the
tasks they do to prioritise those that can be
There also needs to be a clear
telephony strategy, to ensure that the phone can be
answered by staff who, at least for the duration,
morph into 'virtual call centre' staff.
This is an
issue for all staff entrusted with emergency
planning - integrating remote working as a response
should be integral to business continuity and