Business Continuity Tip of the Month

A remote possibility?

The plethora of mobile devices now available, along with “the cloud” and any number of associated apps, enables home or remote working for anyone and everyone who has access to an internet connection – at least if the hype is to be believed. And from the point of view of accessing technology, it’s difficult to argue against that.
But if large-scale, long-term homeworking were that easy we’d all be doing it most of the time. And most of us aren’t. Because there are reasons that organisations put people in offices rather than homeworking being the norm. Those reasons include :
  • Communication. Most people will agree that face-to-face communication beats ‘phone or web-based communication hands down. And not just for formal meetings. Consider those corridor or “water cooler” conversations, which are an important aid to collaboration and information sharing in many organisations;
  • Security. Particularly information security, which, whilst not impossible, can be much more challenging to manage when staff are widely dispersed in multiple (and often less secure) locations;
  • Paperwork. It may come as a shock to some, but the paperless office is still far from a reality for many organisations, for whom the loss of access to paper-based records would have a significant impact;
  • Management. Managing a dispersed workforce is different to managing an office-based one. And some people just aren’t cut out for working on their own, away from their colleagues;
  • Environment. The vast majority of people don’t have the luxury of a proper office at home. So homeworking usually takes place at the kitchen or dining room table. Which is often ok for short periods, but can adversely affect productivity in the longer term, particularly when you throw in the potential distractions of family life or the restrictions of the titchy screen on most mobile devices compared with the much larger one (or two) on the average office desktop. 
These reasons don’t just disappear in a business continuity situation. In fact, there’s a good chance that the inherent issues will be magnified, particularly if people aren’t used to regularly working from home.
The bottom line is that not everyone can do it, no matter how much of an “enabler” technology purports to be. There’s usually a lot more to remote working than merely being able to access IT systems via the internet.
So beware the sweeping assumption that everyone can work from home when what you really mean is that technically people could access (some) IT systems remotely via their ‘phone, tablet or laptop. The two things are just not the same.