Enabling employees to work from home (“teleworking”) during a critical event is a business resilience practice being adopted or contemplated by many companies. Today’s mobile technologies make teleworking feasible. And, the idea that workers who can’t be present due to weather or other circumstances can continue being productive from home is appealing. However, making this a practical strategy requires solid planning, clear policies, and excellent communication.
Here are a few things to consider before implementing a business resilience teleworking plan, and how your mass notification system can support the effort.
It’s not likely everyone in your company is a candidate for working from home. Regardless of circumstance, many offices and production facilities still require onsite employees in order to stay operational. With this in mind, evaluate each position to determine which employees can practically work remotely.
Teleworking policies should be clearly defined and well-communicated in writing to employees. Your policy should clearly define a “work disruption event” so that your employees understand when teleworking is acceptable. Policies should be detailed and include the various circumstances where either full-pay, time plus, or PTO are applicable. Be sensitive to the inequity that some employees may feel when a portion of the company is released from duty during a disruption while others are expected to continue working. Also be clear on any union requirements or international worker regulations that may affect your teleworking policy.
In addition to identifying the employees who are able to work from home, it’s important to assess technology needs and document available resources in your plan. Decisions must be made on what equipment will be provided by the company and when it is appropriate for employees to utilize their own personal devices (e.g., personal home computer versus company-provided laptop). Proper security protocols must be addressed to protect the information being accessed away from your physical site, including provisions for a VPN and antivirus software. Make sure your employees know how to securely access their documents and email away from the office.
Mass notification services are valuable tools when planning for teleworking situations. During the planning phase, prior to a work disruption event, two-way notifications can help gather feedback from employees about their capabilities for working remotely. Using a self-registration portal is a great way to capture what home resources are available, in addition to providing a way for employees to update their personal contact information (e.g., home landline numbers, spouse cell phone numbers, etc.). Establishing an inbound message board, tied to the notification service, will allow employees to call in and hear the latest company updates prior to and during a work disruption event.
During an event, notification services can be used to confirm an employee’s teleworking ability (does she have power, internet connectivity, etc.), relay important updates, convey alternate work location instructions, or easily convene conference calls. Escalation features can be used to fill response team positions, continuing to contact employees until a particular need is met. As typical communication channels may be unavailable during a widespread event, the multimodal, two-way capabilities of a top notification service are essential.
After the event is over, notification services are perfect for communicating back-to-work instructions via all available devices. Confirmation questions can be asked, with feedback captured, to ensure all employees received the instructions. Online reports are available for after-action auditing and follow up
As with most things, practice makes perfect. Testing a business continuity plan is a key to successfully managing a real response/recovery. Given this, include work-from-home scenarios in one or more of your annual exercises to uncover gaps in your plan and provide a foundation for improvements to your teleworking approach.
Adding a teleworking plan to your business resilience arsenal can better prepare your organization to continue its mission in the face of a major work disruption event.