“Dear Mark, we have a work from home strategy and think this is sufficient for our continuity plan. However, I recently spoke a friend who’s organization barely survived Superstorm Sandy and is cautioning me otherwise. What are your thoughts on “work-from-home” strategies, especially when it comes to smaller organizations?
That’s a great question. Many organizations have or are beginning to use technologies that allow certain employees to work from home. As a result, this new ability for organizations has quickly become a top selection for how to answer the critical question of how an organization should recover following a disaster. Unfortunately, the work-from-home strategy by itself is too simple of a solution to be the answer to such a complex problem.
A successful recovery of an organization has 3 minimum requirements: data, technology & people. Let’s skip to the third and most complex component of recovery…the people. The goal of every business continuity strategy should be to return as many key employees as possible to work in the most effective manner. When evaluating options for business continuity, a great question to ask is: “Does abc strategy allow us to return our key employees to work effectively for any scenario we’re likely to face?”
Your employees are your most valuable asset; however, this value comes at the price of complexity. They have different skills, approaches and needs which shouldn’t be ignored in recovery. An effective business continuity strategy should consider these differences and provide employees with flexibility.
Many organizations believe working from home offers flexibility, but we’ve seen quite the opposite in recoveries. While from a technological perspective it’s flexible, from a practical point of view, this strategy often places increased responsibility on employees to make sure they have access to an environment that has power, Internet, minimum distractions and adequate materials to do one’s job.
How do your employees do this in a crisis that affects an entire community or region?
They go to Starbucks. When they arrive they find dozens, sometimes hundreds of other “work from homeians” standing in line trying to access the same bare necessities to execute the strategy their organization expects of them: power, technology, Internet and caffeine.
What does this look like? Google “Starbucks Superstorm Sandy.”
If organizations asked if working from home effectively returns your employees to work, I believe they would find that most of the time this solution, as a standalone option, does not adequately achieve this goal.
The crux behind missing this goal isn’t the selection of this particular option, but rather the reliance on this strategy as the only option for recovery. Organizations, regardless of size, should evaluate working-from-home as a part of their overall strategy that is focused on multiple ways to bring key employees back to work no matter what.