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Remote working is an increasingly common practice among organizations, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a necessity for many more. As the novel coronavirus spreads, companies are setting employees up for work in remote locations, such as their homes, in accordance with social distancing guidelines. In this article, we will go over remote business continuity techniques and offer tips for maintaining business operations when large numbers of staff are working off site.
This is not just an issue when facing a pandemic. If your business continuity plan addresses only short-term disruptions, such as those that last less than a month, it may not be prepared for an extended outage. Your technology disaster recovery plan may need to be activated, assuming outages occur due to insufficient IT staff available or technology disruptions that occur due to a shortage of vendor personnel.
Fortunately, many data centers are designed to operate without human intervention or with remote access to system administration functions. Technology vendors frequently use managed IT resources such as cloud-based systems to support their service offerings. This reduces the likelihood of outages as long as the managed service providers are able to keep their systems operational.
As many organizations use remotely hosted applications, users can keep using those systems, so long as their vendors are able to keep their operations working. The real challenge for organizations that have mostly locally hosted systems and databases is to remotely manage those assets. If a problem occurs that requires an on-site employee visit to, perhaps, replace a server or reset a backup power supply, IT managers must decide if an employee should be dispatched to the site.
Managing business continuity remotely
Technology issues aside, assuming organizations use the "managing by walking around" style of management, new approaches will be needed. When it comes to managing off-site employees, effective remote business continuity techniques may include scheduling regular individual calls and team conference calls to assess how employees are performing. It will also be necessary for internal teams and project managers to access conference bridges so they can manage their projects.
Management dashboards, often built into today's business systems, help managers at all levels keep a real-time eye on their responsibilities. Administrative teams will need access to dashboards and other performance-related activity so they can be prepared to coordinate different company activities. Whereas, previously, it was a simple matter of walking into someone's office or cubicle, now it will be necessary to schedule electronic meetings of all types and sizes, so universal access to individual calendars will be essential. Video conference facilities will also enhance the human factor among employees, managers and project teams.
The aim of these types of remote business continuity techniques is to replicate how business operated before the disruptive event occurred as closely as possible. This means understanding things from a process level. Data from a prior business impact analysis may be helpful, as it can identify the key processes, the employees needed to manage them, technologies needed, and any internal and external dependencies.
Business continuity professionals in the organization must be proactive in helping departments and teams collaborate to get things done. Employees working remotely on business continuity should speak or video conference regularly with business leaders, senior management and project teams to ensure they are accomplishing tasks. They can also identify any impediments to workflows and recommend remedies. Be sure to partner with HR in this activity. Depending on the cause of the move to go remote, such as a pandemic, HR can be a helpful resource to keep employee mental health in mind as well.
When employees are working remotely, data gleaned from business continuity activities can be useful in managing workflows, technology issues and ensuring that priority business activities are performed when needed. Business systems in use today include many tools for effectively managing projects, workloads and other activities remotely, using dashboards and other similar visual tools.