At Dr Logic, we’ve been closely monitoring the developments and reports from HM Government. On 5th March, the latest announcement was that the UK is now preparing for the “delay” phase to try and minimise the speed of the infection rate. Whilst we want our own preparations to be pragmatic and proportionate, our approach has been to help our clients prepare for a situation where staff may not be able to come into the office. This is a big concern for London-based companies and indeed any businesses based in large cities.
If you are reviewing your own Business Continuity Plan or BCP, here are our top 10 tips to help you to prepare your team and your business to minimise any disruption from the Coronavirus.
1. Computers for home working
If you have office-based staff who only have access to a desktop, do they have a home computer that they can use for work? If so, will any of these need to be configured for remote access to your business systems? For example, you might want to consider giving staff VPN access or ensuring that your server can be accessed remotely. You should also check that they have the latest Operating System installed and an appropriate Antivirus. You will need to ensure that your staff have agreed in advance to your BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy if they will be using their own computer as it would be accessing business data.
If you have staff with laptops, you may want to think about asking them to take their laptops home each evening. If they don’t normally take their computer offsite, ensure that any laptops have the appropriate levels of encryption and device management enabled. Also, make sure that files which are confidential are not stored locally on the computer; move files to the server, or your cloud-based file-sharing system.
3. Internet Connection
Do your business-critical staff have robust home broadband connections or can they access a good connection locally? If your staff need to access your server remotely, having a slow connection is going to make working very frustrating. Ideally, any connection should be at least 40Mbps download and 8Mbps upload. This would mean that working on something like a Word or Excel document should be fine. However, presentations with large images or graphics files may be more problematic. If you have an IT team, it would be worth consulting with them on your requirements and consider upgrading the home connections of key personnel. Some providers will allow you to increase the service speed with a simple phone call rather than requiring a completely new connection.
4. Appoint an Incident Manager
Do you have a dedicated incident manager who will take the lead on coordinating staff and resources should you need to invoke alternative working arrangements, or update a business process in an emergency? This person should be the single point of contact for staff queries and any risk assessments which need to be carried out, in conjunction with the relevant department.
5. Update your staff records
Are your HR records up-to-date; do you have a home address, phone number and mobile numbers for all staff and emergency contact details for next of kin? Ensure this information is accessible to the Incident Manager and key personnel.
Do you have a telephone cascade set up should you need to update staff outside of working hours? Do you have permission from staff to share personal and home numbers across the team for use in the event of homeworking arrangements? Or, do you need to consider setting up softphones (usually an app available from your VoIP provider) on laptops?
If you have a VoIP system, you may want to consider diverting numbers to key staff mobiles. Talk to your phone provider to see what options you have available to you. An answerphone message with alternative contact numbers could also be used.
7. Risk Assessments for staff
You may have vulnerable staff (pregnant women, diabetics etc) who may want to request to work from home. Do you need to consider any users in your business as a priority for a home set up? Carry out risk assessments for the different roles in your company. You may want to seek additional expert advice about how to do this and what steps you could take to support staff to reduce risk.
Ensure your staff are familiar with the latest NHS advice and provide hand sanitiser and desk wipes for staff.
8. Dealing with suppliers
If your business is reliant on key suppliers, ask them what they are doing about their own business continuity plans. Are you happy that they can continue to meet your requirements and if not, what alternative arrangements can you make with them? Ask about emergency contact numbers for the key people you deal with. Do deliveries need to be diverted to alternative locations, do you need to consider increasing or decreasing stock levels?
9. Informing your customers
If you can and it’s appropriate to do so, let your customers know what arrangements you are making for Business Continuity. Keeping customers informed about any potential impacts and how you’ll deal with them will give them confidence about your preparations and the ability to minimise disruption.
10. Communicating with your teams while remote working
If you do decide to ask your team to work from home, think about what technology you can use to help staff collaborate and work together remotely. You could use FaceTime for video calls, or consider Zoom for having meetings internally and with clients. If you’re already using something like Slack or Teams for instant messaging, create channels for the Business Continuity team, or updates. Discord is another alternative (which is actually popular with gamers), but it allows you to have live voice channels which you can speak into at any point, without having to dial in.
At Dr Logic, we’ve taken the decision to have all of our team working from home from Monday. Whilst some of our team is office-based, our field engineers are visiting clients on a daily basis and travelling between sites on public transport. We felt that this presented an increased risk to their own chances of infection, but also that they could potentially transmit any undiagnosed infection to our clients.
Ultimately, our priority as a business is to ensure that we can continue to deliver IT support to our clients. But we also want to safeguard the welfare of our staff and their families. We feel that by reducing the risk to our staff, we can minimise the risk of people becoming ill and being unable to work, which may then have had a knock-on impact on our service levels.
We’ve already communicated with our clients to let them know about our working arrangements and what this means to them. As always, the more prepared we can be with our clients, the better service we can provide; this current situation is no different.