Getting Through The COVID-19 Pandemic?
Is Your Business Prepared to Continue Operating Through The COVID-19 Pandemic?
Date: 23 March, 2020
The Australian Government’s fantastic response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has protected our community, but it has also sent Australia into lockdown with very little forewarning. As office spaces are not protected under the exceptions to the social gathering rules, it’s up to your company or organisation to do your part in preventing the spread of the virus while enabling your employees to continue to work, likely via a remote work or work-from-home setup. Thankfully, a number of businesses already have a continuity plan in place to ensure work continues in the event of either a local or global disruption. These plans are constructed via a series of policies utilising technology to allow companies to continue to function despite the event in question, while also considering and mitigating the risks of remote work.
A successful Business Continuity Plan ensures your business continues to operate despite any disruption or disaster, while also prioritising the safety of each of your employees. First, you must consider the wellbeing of your employees, as the people that comprise your organisation are its most valuable asset. Your employees will be individually affected by the crisis in question, and everyone’s needs will be different. As such, you should ensure your plan is specific about everyone’s role. For instance, if a confused employee comes into your office during a pandemic without good cause, it is an unnecessary potential risk to their safety. If instead, you are clear about everyone’s role during the crisis, you can mitigate risk and help keep your employees and your community remain safe. However, it is essential to note that what may work for a pandemic may not work for another crisis, for example, a power outage. To be most effective, your Continuity Plan should account for a broad range of potential disasters, such as, but not limited to, pandemics, supply shortages, and economic failures. Obviously, a supply shortage may not require your employees to work from home, but it might force your business to reconsider its exports if your stock is dwindling and customers aren’t receiving their supplies. As such, your continuity plan needs to consider each aspect of your business, identify its vulnerabilities, and then prioritise the solutions to these weak points.
Allowing employees to work remotely requires you to have a stringent set of policies and technologies in place, both to ensure your employees can complete their work securely, and that company data is also secure. Whether your employees are working remotely due to a government mandate regarding a pandemic, or simply because they live in another country, these policies can benefit all staff. Additionally, these programs can be utilised at any time, which means if you couldn’t support international staff before the COVID-19 crisis, you will be able to after allowing your local employees to work remotely. However, the policies need to be clear, defining both the specifications of an acceptable workstation, as well as any other device requirement. For instance, if your company specialises in video rendering, then you might mandate that every remote employee works from a desktop computer with a discrete graphics processing unit. It is also vital you clearly outline the procedures every employee must undertake to secure this workstation. As an example, you should request your staff avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, and require them to install and utilise a company approved Virtual Private Network (VPN) to make sure your data is secure. Furthermore, it is wise to ensure data encryption is used where data can be shared, to keep your assets secure in any scenario. Sadly, even if your company implements an incredibly secure remote-work setup, there will always be a minor security risk inherent in allowing your employees to work remotely.
When you allow your employees to work while connected to networks other than your own, there are several risks that must be managed. As any system admin is aware, securing your office’s network is a constant battle. Between the risk of viruses and ransomware infiltrating your network, or your employees falling victim to a phishing scam, there are numerous vulnerabilities within your own network to consider. When your employees begin to work remotely, it can appear as though these risks are multiplying. Now, employees are forced to follow the best security practices on their own, and your system admin is not directly responsible for the security of the internet networks your employees are connected to. Thankfully, via the policies and technologies previously outlined, these additional risks can be heavily mitigated or outright negated. For instance, a VPN connection allows your system admin to enforce their pre-existing security practices on your employees, potentially installing group certifications that can limit network traffic to ensure your assets remain secure. Though remote work will always come with inherent security risks due to the nature of utilising an external network, they can be managed to allow your employees to safely work from home.
The current lockdown in Australia has highlighted the need for a wide variety of Business Continuity Plans to ensure your organisation can continue to function no matter what the disruption. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, employers must allow their employees to work from home, utilising a comprehensive set of policies and technologies to ensure they can do so safely and securely.
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