Working from home (WFH) was the rabbit many CIOs and their teams were able to pull out of the hat when lockdown struck. But it’s not the solution to long-term resilience many think it is.
By Wickus Cronjé, Business Development Manager, ContinuitySA
When the totally unexpected strikes, coming up with a solution rapidly is an indication that your organisation is resilient. Many IT departments pulled off amazing feats in getting administrative and call centre staff equipped to work from home in an amazingly short time. But that doesn’t mean that this stopgap solution is a viable long-term resilience plan.
While there’s no doubt that many workers will elect to work from home to avoid commuting and achieve greater flexibility, companies need to look at what WFH really means from a resilience point of view. The following points need to be considered:
- Have you done a proper productivity analysis of WFH? Anecdotal evidence is not enough. While it’s true that many have found themselves working longer hours during lockdown, extended working hours are not sustainable (or desirable) over the long term.
- What measures have you put in place to manage the performance of WFH staff, and have you factored in the long-term impact of remote working on collaboration and team morale? (Clue: there’s no one-size-fits-all conclusion.)
- Do you have the capacity and budget to secure each WFH site to the necessary standard to prevent them becoming back doors for cybercriminals? Do you have systems in place to monitor whether WFH is associated with increasing infections or hacks?
- What will the impact of load-shedding be on a distributed workforce? At the very least, it might be necessary to provide financial assistance to ensure the homes of key personnel have some kind of power alternative. Prolonged water outages are likely to become an issue too.
- Have you properly accounted for the capital and operational costs associated with providing WFH staff with VPN connections, telecommunications and office equipment? Will you provide financial compensation for WFH staff using their own fibre connections and office equipment?
In short, before deciding that what was an on-the-fly response to an emergency serendipitously turns out to be a long-term solution, subject it to a thorough review. Think like an auditor and put your WFH environment through three tough tests used by auditors. Is the design of the solution fit for purpose and does it align with your business impact analysis and disaster recovery plans? Is the plan fully implemented, documented and is it continually updated? Has it been tested to ensure that recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) can be achieved, and therefore effective?
Based on the experience of many of our clients, a hybrid solution that may include some WFH employees presents a highly achievable resilience solution. These clients are looking at establishing a satellite office at a work-area recovery site so that in an emergency, a significant portion of the workforce can be relocated to a genuinely resilient site where RTOs and RPOs can be met and teams can continue to work as before.
In this scenario, carefully chosen employees are suitably equipped to work from home as part of the strategy while avoiding the numerous pitfalls involved when large numbers of staff work remotely, as described above.
Even smarter companies are looking at taking advantage of the managed workspace solution offered by ContinuitySA to create a fully resilient primary site from which staff can work all the time.
Now that’s thinking resilience!