Can letting employees work from home improve disaster recovery preparedness?

Feb 24, 2016

Tornado.jpgFor years, the only place to actually get work done was in the office. An employee could expect to be able to get a certain amount of their duties done at home, but this was a rare occurrence and certainly didn't pertain to a full-day's work. Advancements in technology have changed this, with more organizations beginning to allow employees to complete tasks outside the office. 

While this has a multitude of benefits, including boosting morale and retention rates, telework has another interesting advantage for the modern office in the form of disaster recovery. 

Remote workers already prepared for the worst

The big reason behind telework increasing disaster recovery efficiency is the fact that major events such as tornados and fires are known to completely level office buildings. CIO of the Office of Public Management Donna Seymour was brought up in a FedTech article as being in favor of remote workers due to the fact that they already have the tools and skills necessary to continue their duties even after an organization's building has been destroyed or IT systems brought offline due to something like a cyberattack. 

In a way, allowing staff to work from home now is training them to be prepared for the eventuality of having to continue their functions after the office has been damaged by a natural disaster. Waiting for a natural event like a tornado to hit before implementing such a solution will only cause panic and confusion, and it's best to start training early. 

In fact, an organization's facility doesn't even need to be destroyed in order to impede productivity. Snowstorms have a terrible tendency for reducing the number of people who can make it into work while also doing damage to property. Impact Forecasting, an offshoot of Aon Benfield, found that the winter storms at the beginning of 2016 cost the global economy $4 billion. With so much money being lost to infrastructure destruction, losing even more due to workers twiddling their thumbs at home simply isn't an option. 

Telework increasing in popularity

What's more, an increasing number of facilities are allowing their employees to work from home. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 has laid down ground rules that remote workers must follow,including training programs that need to be finished before an employee can complete tasks at home. While this act set up a lot of guidelines for workers, these rules are allowing more staff members than ever to work efficiently and effectively outside the office. 

On top of that, President Obama agreed on an executive order that basically outlined government employee rights when it came to telework. Under the order, employers are expected to give their staff the right to request "schedule flexibilities" that include the right to work from home. Office administrators also cannot instill the "fear of retaliation or adverse employment action as a consequence of making such a request."

The demand for working from home is increasing on the employee side, too. A analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that more than 80 percent of American staff members want to work from home for part of their week. Employees very clearly want a telework policy at the office, and doing so in the correct manner could prove useful in the event of a disaster. 

There are still some concerns

While there is quite a lot more that goes into a disaster recovery plan than simply letting employees work from home, it's a great place to start. That said, before implementing a telework policy into a disaster recovery procedure, office administrators need to clear up a few concerns. 

First and foremost, employers need to have a firm understanding of the home situation of each of their employees. Do they have solid internet connection? What's their plan if their connection goes out and they're desperately needed back online? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to these types of questions, and implementing such a policy is going to require some detective work on the part of business officials. 

Aside from that, employers should make sure their workers have the ability to connect to mission-critical tools while at home. This may include setting up certain functionalities in a cloud-based environment, allowing workers to access the materials wherever they happen to be at the time. Whatever the solution, it's important to ensure employees have everything they need to complete their duties if a disaster were to knock out their ability to go to the office.