COVID -19 : Optimizing telework in the business continuity and pandemic plans
The last pandemic that threatened companies like COVID-19 was H1N1, or swine flu, which occurred a decade ago. Ideally, companies keep their pandemic plans up to date, testing for business continuity issues. A lot has changed since then in the way companies operate, including increased remote work, increased use of software as a service and other cloud-based applications, lean just-in-time production and production strategies in supply chains. In addition, companies today are more global in terms of workers, customers, salespeople, partners and suppliers, making business continuity and contingency plans much more complex to test and execute.
So, where should organizations start when they try to anticipate a pandemic or prepare for the next contingency? Organizations must create and execute a pandemic preparedness plan in the workplace, along with business continuity plans. To familiarize employees and emergency responders with the plan, companies must exercise annually, if not more often.
Because companies are so dependent on suppliers in all aspects of their business, they must understand and test suppliers’ pandemic plans. For example, if the supplier’s own workforce is affected, it is important to know how it will maintain the high availability of its service or respond to problems in service delivery. In many companies, managers are directly related to service providers; therefore, they must be trained on how to include them in pandemic plans. It is also important for organizations to centralize service providers relationship information if managers themselves are unavailable.
One of the most important elements of planning for coping with a pandemic, especially when assuming a high rate of absenteeism, is understanding how the skills of employees complement each other. Conducting a skills inventory will illustrate which employees can back up others if they are affected by an illness.
Then, one of the best defenses, company has, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace is to have a comprehensive Teleworking strategy that ensures that all users can safely access the tools needed to work remotely. This includes access to business systems, as HR, payroll, ERP and CRM, unified communications and collaboration tools, as well as email and files.
It should be considered that IT professionals from all sectors, including pharmaceutical and healthcare, must be responding in real time to requests from business and users related to Telework.
On the other hand, some companies before the pandemic already had work at home policies that corresponded to network configurations with sufficient bandwidth and licenses, but most still foresee the use of VPN by 10% to 20% of the team. They do not normally have estimated figures such as the absenteeism rate of around 25%. Therefore, a pandemic can easily overwhelm the VPN and affect worker productivity.
In this vein, the need for greater support for a wave of remote workers during and in the post-COVID-19 period, including how to work with suppliers to meet an emergency strategy, must be considered.
In this sense, IT needs to understand how user requests will be different in a home environment compared to support users in the office. For example, IT will likely have to allocate time to help users with basic tasks, such as setting up home computers and connecting to the network securely.
One way to easily support remote employees is to use desktop models as a cloud-based service. Workers can log in to their virtual desktops from anywhere, potentially making supporting a remote workforce more efficient.