Teleworking policies must include these business continuity guidelines

BUSINESS CONTINUITY AWARENESS WEEK There are great benefits to allowing employees to perform duties out of a home office, but not if it introduces risk to your firm’s operations. Be prepared.

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Part of business continuity planning for any organization should include ensuring the ability of the organization to continue to function with the minimum of disruption after a serious infrastructure interruption, outage, emergency or disaster. This extends to those employees we have in the teleworking (home office) positions.

The act of introducing the teleworkers into the workplace for business continuity reasons has many benefits. For example a ‘risk’ mitigation strategy for staff who execute key processes is to redistribute or partition your workforce into multiple locations so if one workplace has operational issues, the other remains fully functional. A good example of this was SARS, where by separating staff it reduces the risk many spreading the virus which would result in greater numbers of staff absenteeism the office and for greater periods of time.

Regardless if business operations is conducted from an office tower (central place of work) , or executed from the home (where the employee lives) business continuity planning should be considered as unfavorable incidents is any event that could occur anywhere that can cause a period of total or partial interruption to normal business operations. This could be a fire or flood, furnace explosion or could be a much less dramatic event such as loss of electric power or telephone / cable service. Even short interruptions can have a significant effect on business and could result in loss of important data, or business records which can result in impairing your products and services from being delivered, and conclude with dissatisfied customers. .

Although developing a business continuity plan can time consuming it should be looked at as an investment rather than as an expense. In the long term, an effective continuity plan can save an organization a great deal of money and emotional stress.

It is essential that senior management support the development of the continuity plan for teleworking employees. Managers who oversee the teleworking employee should be directly involved in the preparation of a plan as they are intimately familiar with the operations and functions of the organization and are most likely to be aware of any weaknesses or vulnerable areas.

The first step is to define and inventory the teleworking business processes  that are currently executed from the home office and understand it relative importance to other work functions and or activities within the process it the output (deliverable) it supports. Determine what the criticality of each major process is and which ones need to be preserved and remain operational without disruption of any kind as they are deemed essential to business operations or revenue.

Once business criticality of the process is determined including required infrastructure determine the areas of risk exposure to the business.  A quick risk assessment should be conducted to identify the points of greatest risk and impact to business output, and revenue. Problem scenarios should be developed and analyzed to determine business continuance plan requirements and priorities.

Conduct simple problem condition/scenario simulation of single, compound and cascading failures, in order to define detailed plan content. Consider neighborhood environment potential impacts such as proximity to railways, refineries, airports, gas stations, etc.

Consider for each of the critical infrastructure components associated with each teleworking (home office process), would an interruption shut the process or work function down, or just degrade performance?  Would it prevent the key deliverable (e.g., customer bill) from being created and/or delivered? Also how much time is needed to recover the processing backlog of this remote executed process? Who does this impact?

After determining what risks need to be considered with the home office, each risk must be evaluated to determine the probability that it will occur and what impact it would have on the delivery of the process within the workflow to the organization. The probability of occurrence and the impact can be assigned point values or just a more general rating of high, medium and low.

Secondly developing a continuity plan for the teleworker is based on the various risks of greater concern for the ‘home office location’ to which the business process might be exposed such as loss due to fire, flooding,  severe weather, or loss of electrical power, natural gas, water supply and heating or ventilation. Secondly look at technology such as telecom services (wireline, wireless, cable, and internet services) and computing technology failures (computer, data loss, applications (business systems), cable modem and routers failures,)

In my experience the most frequent risks that have a higher rate of occurrence in the home office are utilities interruption (power loss), technology failures (computers) and telecommunications (loss of Internet access). The simplest continuity plan (response and recovery) to any of the foregoing incidents is have the individual establish an alternate place of work, or return to the central place of work (main office) to continue to deliver the work flow function. This assumes that a laptop has been issued (highly recommended) and all relevant business data and business systems remain operational including collaboration tool are available at the alternate locations.

The creation of a business continuity plan is not a one-time event. It must be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it reflects any changes to the facility or operations. Exercising/testing the business continuity plan will reduce risk exposure, and ensure the viability of the contingency solution and its implementation capability.  An interruption can be compounded by execution of an untested plan by unprepared personnel.

Hoping for the best is not a plan. You can’t predict a crisis disaster or emergency, but you can plan for one in advance.

Get a better idea of your overall state of readiness by trying our free online Business Continuity Assessment Tool

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