Factoring teleworkers into business continuity planning. Part 2

Eight steps for starting business continuity planning

Last week's column introduced the idea of using telework staff and technologies as part of a company's disaster recovery plans. It's a concept ITAC tackled at last month's WorldatWork conference in New Orleans.

To recap, WorldatWork is a nonprofit association focused on human resources issues such as benefits and compensation, and ITAC - formerly the International Telework Association and Council - is the telework advisory group for WorldatWork.

ITAC's new research delves into motivations and methods for incorporating telework as part of a business continuity strategy. On the motivation front, ITAC dispelled some myths and uncovered some unexpected findings in its research, says Jennifer Verive, CEO of White Rabbit Virtual in Carson City, Nev., which specializes in helping companies implement flexible work programs.

For one, telework is cheaper than maintaining a dedicated workplace recovery office. In addition, telework-based plans let employees remain at home and stay close with family during and after a disaster. "Your workforce is safer -- and this isn't something to sniff at," Verive says.

"Telework has a significant positive impact on business continuity plans," Verive says. "It helps you stay in business. It allows organizations to recover more quickly, because folks and systems are more agile. And it reduces the disruption of a dispersed workforce."

For the how-to portion of the conference session, June Langhoff, author and telework evangelist, walked attendees through eight tips for getting started, gleaned from experiences ITAC chronicled at companies including Eli Lilly, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente and MasterCard, along with government agencies including the departments of Justice, Defense, Agriculture Education, State, Interior and Treasury.

The time to think about it is now - after all, telework needs to be operational before a disaster to be an effective part of the recovery strategy. "People need some time to work out the bugs, learn how to work from distance and communicate with people they're not going to be seeing, and learn how to use their technology," Langhoff says. "One of the first things that everyone said was, 'Get the stuff in place before you need it. And then practice.' "

Here is a summary of ITAC's eight-step process:

Step 1: Lay the groundwork. Preparation involves forming a dedicated, cross-functional team to identify corporate goals such as how to mitigate risk, reduce employee stress levels and more quickly resume business operations.

Step 2: Analyze risk factors. Companies need to investigate risks -- location-specific risks related to weather trends and utility services availability, for example -- and identify how telework can help reduce those risks, Langhoff says.

Step 3: Identify key resources. This stage involves inventory and analysis of people, equipment needs, support services, training and facility requirements.

Step 4: Consider the costs. ITAC looked into how telework costs compare to the cost of contracting for a hot site that can serve as a workplace recovery center in the event of a disaster. It found telework is cheaper than a dedicated workplace recovery office -- averaging about $2,200 to set up and support each teleworker, vs. about $15,000 per year, per workstation for a dedicated hot site, Langhoff says.

Step 5: Decide on a direction. At this stage, assemble your cross-functional team to determine the best way to incorporate telework into your business continuity plan, Langhoff says.

Step 6: Develop procedures. This stage includes writing specific telework procedures for emergencies, developing a communication plan and asking employees to create a personal emergency back-up plan.

Step 7: Sell the plan. Summarize the key benefits for leadership and staff, with evidence of the cost justifications and examples of similar companies that have successfully married telework and business continuity plans. "As you know, nothing happens until you get sign-off," Langhoff says.

Step 8: Maintain readiness. Make sure you exercise and test the plan, update it regularly and provide training, Langhoff says. "Once you've gotten approval, don't take that plan and put it on a shelf."

To learn more, check out the ITAC Web site for details about its new report, “Exploring Telework as a Business Continuity Strategy: A Guide to Getting Started."

Learn more about this topic

Factoring teleworkers into business continuity planning, Part 1

05/30/05

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