We’re all reeling from the somewhat unexpected ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The world reacted to the novel virus primarily with shutdowns to reduce human-to-human transmission.
Businesses had to close down or else drastically change how they did things, including making workers telecommute whenever it was possible.
Many cities and states are still in the midst of some form of a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order, but there are also moves to reopen in most parts of the country.
This situation has led businesses to reevaluate how they work, how they manage their employees, and what they can do in the future when they face a disaster, whether it’s something like a weather event or another pandemic.
The following are things to do now to protect your business in the future from the effects of different types of disasters.
Formalize Your Telecommuting Program
One of the first changes that took place around the country and the entire world as we started to practice social distancing was the requirement that non-essential employees work from home when possible.
It’s something that many experts say may be increasingly here to stay.
Having a concrete and formalized telecommuting plan in place before an actual disaster strikes can be one of the best things you do for your business, to ensure continuity even in challenging times, but it’s something that a lot of businesses were unprepared for a few months ago.
Some of the most important things to remember and integrate with your employee telecommuting plan include:
- You need to have the proper technology already in place and make sure employees are comfortable using it, even if they’re only using it sparingly. Don’t wait until you’re against a wall to start implementing things like collaborative technology and AI-based tools. One of the big hurdles to working from home is either a lack of the necessary technology and tools or a lack of familiarity with using them. Regularly update your tools and make sure your employees are continuously trained on how to use them.
- Don’t forget about the importance of cybersecurity. There are greater cybersecurity risks when employees are in the unmonitored remote work world, so address these early on as part of your contingency plans.
- Go over the legal details of a work-from-home plan with your attorney. There are ways that you could find yourself in legal trouble otherwise. For example, you have to remain in compliance with state and federal compensation and overtime regulations.
- Formalize remote work policies. You don’t want confusion as far as what’s expected of employees in specific areas like work hours and productivity, so write your policies out and share them widely with employees.
Understand the Scope of Your Plan
The goal, when creating a business continuity plan, isn’t necessarily that everything keeps functioning exactly as normal.
Instead, you have a clear idea of what is most needed, what your business can’t live without, and what you may need to alter somewhat.
You want to reduce the negative impacts of any disaster as much as possible on your business, but when you’re creating a plan, you want to be realistic.
As you’re creating a plan and defining the scope, think about the business functions that are most at risk, and how individual disasters could impact them differently.
For example, you’ve likely seen the effects of a pandemic recently, but how might that vary compared to something more localized with more physical effects, like a hurricane or flood?
Check Your Insurance
A lot of businesses have been extremely frustrated with their insurance policies recently.
For example, businesses have had a hard time getting payouts when they make claims for business interruption insurance, but that doesn’t mean insurance isn’t a critical part of a disaster recovery plan.
It may mean that you need to go through your current coverage and make sure it offers what you need.
Read the fine print to make sure that what you think is covered truly is.
Look beyond simple property insurance because that will cover your equipment and damage to physical structures, but it may not be enough.
Theoretically, business interruption insurance should provide you with income following a disaster, but now more than ever, you may want to shop for a policy that doesn’t exclude pandemics.
Have a Communication Plan
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen not just how disasters can affect businesses quickly and horrifically, but how important communication is during times of uncertainty.
Have a plan that starts at the top for communicating with not just your customers and vendors but also your employees.
The human element is one of the most critical in a disaster recovery plan.
You never want to act like downtime isn’t happening if you’re hit with a disaster.
Your communication plan should aim to let the right people know what needs to be known quickly, and with transparency.
Train Your Employees
When you have a good plan in place that speaks to your disaster recovery needs, then you can disseminate details of the plan to all key stakeholders, and train your employees appropriately.
Your employees need to be trained on how they’ll continue their job even in the face of changing circumstances, and where they need to turn for resources and information.
You want to also go through drills of different types of disaster scenarios.
Finally, one of the core elements of a disaster recovery plan should always be data backup.
If it’s in your budget, you might consider a generator to reduce the effects of losing power, but even without a generator, you want to make sure that everyone who needs it will have access to critical business information and data no matter what.
You’ll also need not only backup data access but backup access to insurance policies, vendor information, and all banking information.
No one counts on a disaster, but as we’ve seen in the past few months, they happen, and the best thing you can do is do your best to prepare your business and employees.