Disasters can strike anytime. Wars, earthquakes, diseases — all these can put your company in grave circumstances. Especially if you’re not prepared.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread rapidly across the globe. While health is of utmost importance, business owners are scrambling to protect employees — and their businesses.
In fact, huge companies Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, have allowed remote working to limit physical contact among employees. More companies are following suit, cancelling conferences and implementing work-from-home setups.
This highlights the importance of having a robust disaster preparedness plan in place.
The question is — what plan is well-suited for your business? If you have remote workers, how do you account for every employee under your wing?
Let’s consider the various factors involved in developing an effective disaster contingency plan for your business.
Vital Steps to Safeguard Your SME from Emergencies
Is your organisation ready for disasters ahead? Review and improve your risk management and business continuity policies through the following steps.
Consider remote work
Shrugging off the possibility of remote working — simply because a crisis hasn’t happened yet — is not a strategy. You need a solid plan to prepare your business for the worst.
Remote work provides a lot of benefits, such as increased productivity and staff retention. In fact, many Singaporean companies already reap these benefits by allowing flexible working arrangements, including work from home. So, it isn’t much of a huge leap for the country’s workforce considering the current COVID-19 scare.
If remote work is the most reasonable option today for businesses to continue operations, it’s likely to remain so in future crises.
List down affected jobs and tasks
Not every task or position can be done remotely. Map out which roles and duties will work well even without physical presence. If you’re not sure, try to find a way around it.
For instance, administrative work may seem impossible in a remote setting. But they have tasks that can work even outside of the traditional office environment — such as reporting and other clerical work.
Prepare a solid plan for remote digital access
Remote work means providing your employees with secure access to all the company’s IT resources. Of course, this includes access to the internet itself.
- Internet access
Calamities can cause network interruptions in certain areas. Some employees simply won’t have adequate internet access at home.
As an employer, you need to be ready to invest in mobile hotspots and data plans to hand out to your workforce. There’s also the option to provide stipends for internet access plan upgrades, as needed.
Of course, not everyone will need this. So, you need to gather enough data about your workers — such as their access to the internet and specific bandwidth needs.
- Remote work devices
There are two options to consider when it comes to remote work devices. First, employees can use their own. Although this is the cheaper option, it puts the company in bigger cybersecurity risk.
If you want to make it work, make sure to assess each personal device if they are up to the task, then apply the right cybersecurity measures.
- Remote access to business assets
Provide virtual private network (VPN) solutions to secure user access to your business assets and elsewhere on the internet.
Before choosing a VPN vendor, make sure it ticks all the right boxes. Test the solution first on your employees’ devices, service providers, and locations. Create a VPN usage policy to guide your workforce when the time comes.
Further boost your security by getting two-factor authentication (2FA) devices. These provide users one-time PINs as additional authentication.
Now that you’re at it, it helps to audit your existing IT hardware and software. Review all user access to these assets and weed out those you don’t need. This helps fill in gaps that cybercriminals can use to their advantage.
Develop a communications protocol
Maintaining seamless communication within the company is one of the biggest challenges of remote work. Since there won’t be any physical interaction within the workforce, teams should have access to collaborative tools to get the work done.
Your enterprise may already be using productivity suites (e.g. Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite) and collaboration tools (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Asana).
For those that don’t, make sure to develop a unified system and train your employees ahead of time.
Set up flexible performance metrics
With remote work, businesses may find measuring employee performance a challenge. Managers won’t be able to observe and monitor whether an employee is working or not.
You may have to adjust your metrics based on flexible working conditions. You can use monitoring tools to track the number of hours employees are working on.
If it’s applicable to your industry, you can also use a results-only approach, where you measure your employees’ performance based on their output.
Embrace a cultural change
The remote working culture takes a lot of getting used to, especially for small businesses that haven’t fully digitised their system yet.
It’s not too late for SMEs to create a work environment that’s more suited for remote working. So when a crisis comes, workers won’t find it hard to make the big switch.
When trying out digital business processes, make sure to get everyone on board. Put a remote work support team together that’ll assist employees when needed.
When companies make a habit out of a daunting change, it’ll be easier to continue business operations when a disaster strikes.
Better safe than sorry
You never know what disasters bring until they happen. The last thing your enterprise wants is looking like a deer in the headlights in the face of crises.
Whether it’s due to a coronavirus pandemic or any other emergency, it’s best to prepare a safety net for your business — and your employees — ahead of time.