We’ve found that many businesses were caught off guard by COVID-19 and state-mandated shutdowns because they weren’t prepared to move their employees to a remote workforce.
Things like USB headsets, wireless keyboards and mice, PC monitors, and even servers became a hot commodity….and instantly twice as expensive.
Now, months after the initial outbreak and shutdown, many states are talking of more shutdowns, causing businesses to ask more questions:
- What does more shutdowns mean for my business?
- How will more shutdowns affect my IT department?
- Do all my employees have everything they need to be safe and productive?
That said, COVID has forced all of us to confront our response to more shutdowns and address things like technology inside your business. Here’s what your business can do from a business perspective if and when another shutdown happens, to make sure you and your employees are safe, productive, and happy.
Preparing your business, second time around
The first shutdown forced businesses to consider what they would do if employees had to work remote.
If working in the office couldn’t happen, client visits ceased, and normal activities were canceled, then how would your company survive?
Our clients didn’t struggle, but many businesses we’ve talked with had to learn on the fly. We found that many weren’t prepared; they lacked hardware, and their line of business software was inaccessible because of a lack of cloud and physical infrastructure.
Most had simply not considered a crisis, let alone a pandemic.
So, how can your business prepare a second time around? Here’s some technical and business items that you can implement to help you keep your operations moving, in the event another shutdown is put in place.
Review your Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
A BCP is nothing more than a documented plan that you and your business will execute in the midst of some sort of crisis. But, it’s also very important to have this created, documented, and stored safely in a place where you can easily access and execute it once a potential disaster strikes.
Questions you need to consider are:
- Does your BCP include how to handle different crises and even a pandemic?
- What went well during the first shutdown?
- What should you do differently or better?
- Is your existing IT team ready and equipped to handle the strain of a remote workforce?
- Do they possess the right skillset?
- Do you have a communication plan in place, including a customer communication plan?
Creating this is the first step in successfully tackling another shutdown. We can guide you in creating it.
At Solution Builders we publish a monthly newsletter that allows us to communicate really important things that are relevant to our existing clients and customers.
In the midst of a shutdown, or some sort of crisis, are you doing the same? Your customers care about you and you care about them, so why not craft a plan to communicate with them? Do your customers know what you’re doing in response to a shutdown? How much you should communicate with your customers? And alongside communication with your customers, you should be communicating with your employees: have you reviewed and disseminated your work-from-home policies with all employees?
Your customers are important to you and talking with them is important for everyone’s efficiency and safety.
Partner and manager communication
Do the managers inside your company know the steps of how you’ll handle another shutdown? Do all your managers understand the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing? Do all of your business partners understand your response and the reasoning behind it? Is everyone aligned?
When crafting your shutdown response plan, consider these points and make sure everyone is clear about who’s doing what and when.
Perform an IT Risk Assessment
A Risk Assessment is a plan where you identify any gaps in IT or security that may need to be addressed before allowing your workforce to work remotely.
This assessment should address aspects and questions like:
- Do all employees have proper permissions and access to your business network data and applications?
- If yes, how do they do that? VPN, Remote Desktop, or Cloud/Online access.
- Are your employees able to comfortably work remotely? Do they have the hardware they need (laptops, monitors, webcams, keyboards, etc.)?
- How are you protecting your network connections?
- Are you using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or a robust password policy?
- Are your employees trained to spot and handle phishing attempts and to practice IT safety in their home offices?
Once you have this Risk Assessment done, you can now effectively execute and ensure your team has all they need to work well.
Cross-train your employees
If your business experiences a shutdown, or some sort of crisis, and your IT manager is on PTO, who steps in to manage your technology?
Do you have anyone to replace him or her? If your office closes, can your office manager be trained to perform other roles? Do you have a backup or augmented Managed Service Provider who can step in and help, on a project basis for a temporary period of time?
Addressing this is vital to your operations and we understand that AND have a solution for you, at Solution Builders.
Support your employee’s health
The pandemic we’re going through has been hard on people. That’s the truth.
Even though we’re not mental healthcare professionals, we do care about our employees and want them to stay healthy and safe.
Some best practices to consider are:
- Have a way to check on the mental health of your employees through some sort of communications plan with regular check-ins and updates.
- Engage with your team members regularly.
- If your business remains open, ensure that you have ample supplies on hand to keep employees and customers safe and healthy.Most importantly, make sure employees stay home if they’re not feeling well, and discourage your employees from “playing through the pain.” There’s no shame in being sick and we all need time to recover. Ensure your employees are comfortable staying home if they need to.
Using the Business Continuity Plan model in your personal life
COVID-19 has been really, really hard on people from an emotional and mental health perspective.
Business owners are hyper-sensitive to what’s going to happen next and anxiety levels are at all-time highs.
While your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is great for business, it can and should be applied to your personal life, too.
Here are some things we’d suggest taking an inventory of to assess the nuances of being stuck at home, in the event of another shutdown:
- What’s your strategy or plan to avoid complacency, depression, and stress?
- Does your family have proper supplies, toiletries, and games to stay busy?
- Are you taking time to rest, relax, and recharge?
- Develop a way to stay in the loop with healthcare updated from your city and county.
- Stay in contact with your family to make sure they have the necessary services in the event of another shutdown.
- Video chat over FaceTime, Zoom, or Teams to stay in contact with loved ones and neighbors.
- Get fresh air and stay active, if possible.
- The road to addiction is boredom and an idle mind is a devil’s playground…stay productive with tasks like painting your home office, bedroom, finishing that home improvement project, or a new fitness routine.
Shutdowns are going to happen, we have to expect it. Being prepared is crucial to the success of your business and technology.
At Solution Builders it’s our job to guide you to technology success by being your technology partner. To talk with our team about how your business can best prepare in the case of another COVID shutdown, complete the form on this page.