As more lockdowns are possible, you should be thinking about how your business should prepare during another shutdown. Many local and regional governments are continuing to use shutdowns as a tactic in reducing the spread of COVID, 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?
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, if and when another shutdown happens, to make sure you and your employees are safe, productive, and happy.
Preparing Your Business, Another Time
The first shutdown forced businesses to consider what they need to do when employees had to work remotely. If working in the office wasn’t an option, client visits ceased, and normal activities were canceled, then how did they survive?
Our clients didn’t have issues working remotely, 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 either because the software was not cloud-based or they did not have the proper physical infrastructure so employees could access their software remotely.
Most had simply not considered a crisis, let alone a pandemic.
So, how can your business prepare for further lockdowns? Here’s some technical and business items that you can implement to help you keep your operations moving, in the event one is put in place.
Review Your Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a documented recovery plan that your business executes in the midst of a crisis or disaster situation. It’s very important to have this created, documented, and stored safely in a place where you can easily access and execute it once a disaster strikes.
Questions you need to consider are:
- Does your BCP include how to handle different crises such as fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, riots, and even a pandemic?
- Does you BCP include provisions for your vendors failing and their vendors failing?
- Is your existing IT team ready and equipped to handle the support needs of a remote workforce?
- Does your IT department possess the right skillset?
- Do you have a communication plan in place, including a customer communication plan?
- What went well during the first shutdown?
- What should you do differently or better?
At Solution Builders we publish a monthly newsletter that allows us to communicate 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
Are your managers aware of the steps of how you’ll handle a shutdown? Do all your managers understand the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing? Have you informed all of your business partners and do they 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
Risk assessments are 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 vacation, 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?
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.