We are all trying to come to terms with the impacts and the enormity of the changes in our lives and businesses caused by the current pandemic. While some companies have benefited from already implementing digital transformation strategies thereby enabling remote working and being able to digitally connect and transact with clients, there is another important lesson learnt during this time.
The importance of having alternate offices available to relocate the work force to and continue operations. There are severe consequences to an organisation if any employee contracts the COVID-19 infection. A COVID-19 infection by an employee who is at the office results in the immediate evacuation of staff and deep cleaning of the site. This effectively closes the office until the premises are hygienically cleared for business use again. The employee or employees infected and those staff exposed to the infected parties are either immediately hospitalized or quarantined thereby further impacting the business.
In addition, the social / physical distancing required during the lockdown period also means that a business may have as few as only 30% of the usual workforce at the normal place of business. One of the earlier responses to the Corona Virus crisis has been to get as many staff as possible to work from home. However, a simple work from home strategy is not infallible. Some business functions simply cannot be done from home because of the need for supervision, shortage of security at home or specialised technology; for example, business process outsourcing and call centres.
A solution is to implement a distributed business model using alternate sites to cater for the reduced capacity for social / physical distancing and reducing the impact of an COVID-19 infection outbreak at a single office. The companies that have illustrated the best resilience so far are those that have employed a strategy of combining work from home, normal office usage and alternate office work strategies. This obviously does require a robust and secure IT infrastructure to do so. A strategy that uses only the regular office and work from home is a short-term solution for most organisations.
However, as the weeks of lockdown turn into months, other disruptions such as load shedding / power outages will hinder the work from home strategy. There are also the regular incidents or disasters that occur to companies during normal times which can also negatively impact the home working work force.
That is why to be truly resilient, organisations are considering working from alternative sites in addition to work from home. A resilient alternative site will have generators and uninterruptable power supply in place to cater for power outages and will be far enough away from the normal office premises to not be affected by disruptions at those premises.
Companies incorporating remote working and alternative site strategies need to ensure that their IT and communications infrastructure can cope with an increased number of people logging into the corporate systems from different locations at once. Remote or distributed working can be less secure which makes it necessary to have a renewed focus on cybersecurity. So, having survived the initial crisis of the Corona Virus, those organisations that have built resilient solutions that have included alternate recovery sites and have previously tested their business continuity plans and IT recovery solutions are in a better position to manage the current and future crises in the future.
Besides employing a distributed operation with alternate sites, it is important to remain positive. The uncertainty and various lockdowns around the world will have a depressing effect on everyone and we should keep in mind that this will pass with time and requires us to be patient and look after each other during this global crisis. Stay safe and comply with the lockdown regulations and recommendations so that we can get through the COVID-19 crisis as soon as possible.
Talk to a business continuity specialist about your alternative site strategy.