‘We can work from home’ is a phrase I am often presented with when discussing continuity options with organisations. On further investigation I usually discover everything ranging from people who can do little more than be at the end of the phone to people who are regular remote workers and well versed in the skills and dynamics of being fully productive in their roles from any location.

I witnessed an interesting incident some years back. Everyone left the office after a hard day’s work. Just another ordinary day followed by another ordinary day tomorrow.

Throughout the night water was slowly leaking into the building from a rooftop tank. This went unnoticed until it eventually found it’s way into the electricity supply rendering it unusable as well as causing flooding to the office areas.

Staff were notified promptly of the office being closed and advised to work from home in accordance with the plan.

A small team was present on site to liaise with the landlord about how and when the building would be ready for reoccupation. One of the first issues the onsite team had to deal with was the queue of employees at the front door asking if they could collect their laptops and other essential items so that they could take them home.

So the first question is whether your organisation is always ready to switch to a work from home solution at a moment’s notice?

Apart from the people who work remotely on a regular basis, how many of your people will have kept themselves familiar with the steps required to access the service? I am sure we can all recall instances of forgetting passwords that we haven’t used for some time let alone a process that often involves a number of steps. The last thing your IT Helpdesk will want during an incident, not forgetting that it may well have impacted them as well, is dozens of people contacting them for set up instructions and support.

What is your strategy for home working? Do you provide it for everyone or just for critical staff? How many licences do you need? How many concurrent users can you support?

I was working in a large London Office when heavy snowfall prevented a significant proportion of the workforce from getting to the office. This had a dramatic effect on the number of people making use of the remote access service. Planned procedures were in place to increase capacity and monitoring was continued throughout the incident to ensure this was not exceeded.

When I test work from home solutions I always uncover numerous actions that need to be addressed before the solution can be deemed fully effective. This is particularly the case when dealing with processing teams of any nature.

The capability has to support the end to end process. It is simply not enough to be able to see the required systems, applications and data. Consideration must be given to the inputs that start the process and the outputs on completion of the process.

The key points to consider:-

  1. Decide which of your people need to be able to work from home
  2. Make sure they are always ready
  3. Test that they can be fully effective
  4. Check you have sufficient capacity
  5. Get your managers to consider the issues they would face.

….and finally if you are working from home due to snowfall, don’t send a picture of a snowman to your boss until after the weekend!