Whether it is a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire or disease, when disaster strikes, the impact can be unfathomable. If you run a business, you need to be ready to operate even following a major disruption. A continuity plan can empower your business to do just that. However, you will need to begin preparing and changing behaviors long before the next disaster strikes.
The Value of Planning
Your business’s building may be damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster. As in the case of COVID-19, your team may be forced to work remotely. While there are numerous tools that can help businesses to handle such a situation, many are not able to use them effectively due to the lack of a plan.
Furthermore, even small disruptions can have bottom line impacts. Additionally, you may now be able to predict exactly what form disaster may take. Having a strong continuity plan that will enable your team to work effectively even when normal routines are broken is the key to success in these circumstances.
As you begin to create a continuity plan, it is important to remember that you not only need to plan in advance, you also need to begin to implement the plan. For example, if you want to use a cloud backup to ensure that all your files are accessible during an emergency, you need to be actively backing up those files before they are needed.
The same is true for almost every aspect of a continuity plan. By integrating many of the key behaviors of your plan into your daily operations, you can ensure minimal impact from work disruptions. Creating redundancies in your processes will mean that you have backups when you need them.
Most businesses have important internal documents and files that need to be authored, shared, reviewed and updated. These could be plans for a new product, documents for getting financing, a marketing strategy or any number of other types of files. In short, business teams need to be able to share things with each other and collaborate on them.
Increasingly, teams are turning to cloud storage as part of their file-sharing techniques because it is a convenient and flexible option. However, if you are using on-premise servers, you need to consider either switching to a cloud solution, adding several remote backups or backing up to the cloud.
Options such as Microsoft One Drive and Dropbox can be very helpful for most teams. Choose one that will be resistant against disaster (there should be multiple data centers in different locations). Also, consider hosting essential applications on the cloud as well.
One of the reasons that businesses use offices is so that teams can communicate in person easily. However, this may not be possible following a disaster. Perhaps your team needs to distance, or your office space may be inaccessible.
Having a digital communication platform can be helpful even when you are working in an office space. For example, instant messaging can make it easier to find old conversation threads and to share files with each other.
Explore some of the options you can use to communicate. Most teams can benefit from a messaging platform and a meeting tool. You may consider options such as Skype for Business, Zoom, Slack, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams.
Work From Home Policy
Working from home is often the answer to dealing with a disaster. Having an established policy can help ensure that your people will know how to respond when they need to. Furthermore, giving the option to work remotely occasionally is a perk that many applicants are seeking. These are some guidelines for creating an effective policy:
- Set Expectations: Make it as clear as possible when people should be working and how they should be doing so. Some operational policies for working from home can be invaluable. For example, do remote workers need to be available during normal business hours? Can they modify their schedule?
- Set Security Systems: Many people working from home are on their personal networks and may even use personal computers. Create clear expectations about what technology can be used and how it needs to be secured. Typically, providing laptops for remote work and a strong VPN is the best option.
- Get the Right Tools: As mentioned above, you need tools for communication and collaboration. Making sure everyone has easy access to these will help ensure effective working from home.
Have a Plan for Support: What do remote workers do when they need help? How can they contact HR, IT or other key resources?
Overall, a good work from home policy is all about communicating how your people should be working remotely. The more questions you can anticipate and answer, the better.
Try To Keep Things Normal
The above preparation steps will help to ensure that your continuity plan is a true continuation. When your people know how to work remotely and/or with certain systems and locations unavailable, they can be ready to continue working in the face of disaster. Ideally, the result should be a continuation of normal operations just with everyone using the work from home policy.
One of the major underlying impacts of a disaster is the incredible stress people experience. They are worried, uncertain and may be struggling. Creating some normalcy and consistency can be very valuable. Furthermore, it is helpful to try to have some fun together. Little acts that can make your work routine more enjoyable can go a long way.
When you prepare, your business can be ready for almost anything. That is something to be proud of in the face of a disaster.