Are you disaster proof?

Alien UFO saucer

Last week our virtual working set up came into its own, and really highlighted to me not only the additional benefits of having our entire workforce able to work from anywhere at the drop of a hat, but that when it’s put to the test.  It works. 

Although 80% of our staff permanently work remotely we have desks in a shared office just outside Liverpool Street station in London.  This is where we handle all client and delegate calls, making it the hub of our outplacement business.  However, after a small cable explosion on Wednesday the office was evacuated and we were unable to return for the rest of the day.

How would your organisation deal with this type of situation? What is your company’s disaster recovery plan?  What would happen if your office flooded or had a major power cut?  Could you carry on as normal? Could all your staff access everything they need remotely?

For many, company mobiles, cloud based email system etc are in place.  But is that for every employee, or just the most senior members of the team?  I know in previous organisations I’ve worked for, at least 50% didn’t have access to a company mobile, nor the remote email system.  Meaning, that if they were unable to sit at a desk within an office, they couldn’t do their job.  Of those that could work remotely, an even smaller majority would have access to any shared drives, files and databases.  Making it difficult for most to work at full capacity.

For us it made little, if any impact.  Our IT, marketing, finance and senior leadership team didn’t even know it had happened.  They were all happily and efficiently working in Swindon, Brighton, Oxford and Croydon. For those it did impact they simply went home…  Logged on and carried on as if nothing happened and still managed to hit 98% of their daily targets. Our set up means that wherever our members of staff are based, they can access everything they need to work.  To further prove the point, when we have all company meetings, our phones have in the past, been manned by someone based in France.

So how do we manage this?

Phones – we have a web based phone system so the whole team, no matter where they are based can be contacted on a single number.  We all have a work mobile, to which calls can be redirected when we’re not sat at a desk.  So, the lack of anyone sitting in our office last week didn’t mean that phones were ringing unanswered.  All calls were dealt with.

Email and files – we have recently moved to Office365 so all our email and files are now cloud based.  Wherever we are, as a team we can all access the information we need.  For example, we’ve fully embraced the planner tool, everyone can see everything they need for a certain project in one place. We can even have multiple team members simultaneously accessing and editing a single document.

Most large organisations will have some form of disaster recovery plan in place, and apart from an alien invasion or a natural disaster on an epic scale, it is very unlikely that a company of 500+ employees would all be impacted at the same time.  So, business to a certain extent could carry on. But for SME organisations, where everyone works under the same roof would that still be the case?  Would there be a contingency plan in place to allow staff to carry on?  I’m going to be bold here and say no.

While I am not suggesting we all have a plan on how we’d deal with an zombie outbreak. It is important that there are the tools in place, which allow staff to work, should their normal place of work be unavailable.  While this could be as simple as issuing staff with laptops rather than desktop computers, giving, at least key members of staff, a business mobile and ensuring that all files are backed and accessible, you could do as we have. Every member of staff has a laptop and mobile phone and all our files are cloud based. Meaning that we’re pretty much protected again anything, apart from maybe an alien attack!

Written by Mike Burgneay, Managing Director, Chiumento Consulting

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