Last year, Yahoo made headlines for rescinding its once-liberal work-from-home policies in the interests of "productivity" and "accountability." But not having a plan in place for keeping the business running if your employees physically cannot get to the office — in the event of a winter storm, hurricane or even day-to-day concerns like a family illness or car trouble — could put you at a significant disadvantage.
Here's how you can prepare your workforce — and your business — for the inevitability of employees working from home.
Business As (Un)Usual
The good news is that most organisations already embrace technologies like the cloud that ease employees' capability to connect and collaborate from almost anywhere.
The key to keeping "business as usual" when the weather is anything but usual is to make communication and collaboration possible regardless of their location, says Sven Denecken, vice president of SAP Cloud Strategy, and to make that anytime, anywhere connectivity the foundation of your business platforms, he says.
"Our strategy is to make it possible for people to collaborate and communicate whether they are offline or online, in the office, working at home, traveling — wherever," Denecken says. "We've made this part of the design of our solutions, and it's not just about availability, it's about helping people cross barriers to productivity," he says.
In this respect, Denecken says, keeping employees communicating and collaborating should be the focus of your business strategy as a whole and is much more important than their physical location.
If you focus on collaboration and communication as the rule rather than an exception demanded by weather or other life events, these events will be much less disruptive when they do happen, he says.
"Our strategy is that there are many triggers that can set off business interruptions and anomalies — weather events, changes in the organization, sick days, emergencies, what have you," Denecken says.
"If you've designed your strategy around anytime, anywhere access, you'll be able to handle that seamlessly; you won't have to make separate plans for 'one off' events and you'll always be able to connect and make crucial business decisions at the right times," Denecken says.
Think Beyond the Next Storm
"The tools and technologies that can help support employees coping with an adverse weather event have business relevance that extends beyond weather impacts," says Chris Duchesne, vice president of global workplace solutions, Care.com.
Tools such as conference lines and Web meetings, video and VoIP solutions, instant messaging, and collaboration tools like wikis and sharing platforms close the virtual distance and help teams feel like they're together even when they're not, Duchesne says.
These tools "support employees working remotely in the regular course of business, offering workplace flexibility that, studies have unanimously shown, increases productivity, engagement, loyalty and morale," Duchesne says.
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