Businesses should take time to learn the lessons of the Covid-19 lockdown

Geof Robinson, Chief Information Security Officer

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult for organisations and employees across New Zealand. The key disrupter during this time has been business’ ability to rapidly and effectively adapt to remote working and deal with the challenges it brings. We find ourselves in a world where we should stop saying 'unprecedented' and 'ever-changing', as change is the new normal and nimble is the competitive advantage that New Zealand businesses need.

What we’re seeing with many organisations today is that the ‘remote work’ they’ve shifted to is a demonstration of disaster recovery plans in action. Their employees have laptops. They can send emails from home. They can use video conferencing. However, their operations aren’t optimised because their business continuity mindset was one of ‘we have a Plan B’, rather than a practised process.

As one of our corporate customers says: “The key for us has been that we haven’t wedded ourselves to any single provider, of either hardware or software. By equipping our staff with the right tools and setting the tone for our flexible work style, we’ve been able to move quickly from office based, to remote work, and back again. When this is ingrained in your rhythm, your business continuity really is so close to your baseline that the transition is seamless.”

Most organisations talk Disaster Recovery (DR), which is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff – it’s about keeping the lights on, but not about business as usual. Some talk Business Continuity Planning (BCP), which is a set of processes to enact when they find themselves in adverse situations, but is often different processes to business as usual, so again, sub-optimal.

There are five key considerations for organisations to ensure they and their team are well-equipped and resilient during a crisis and moving from working to optimised.

Don't Become Complacent

Okay, so your BCP is up and running. What now? A common mistake made by businesses is assuming their systems and their teams are running like a well-oiled machine. The success of your BCP will be determined by how effectively it’s managed and monitored both in business as usual and throughout the entire duration of the crisis. Remember that it’s not just a crisis you’re in practice for, its more mundane happenings as well – it’s when the office toilets get blocked or you have to work from home while waiting for that delivery man expected between 7am and 7pm.

Secure Your Systems

Enforce strict security protocols to protect your business and client information when its being accessed away from the main office. Include provisions for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and multi-factor authentication. Make sure your teams understand the operational side of security, too. A VPN isn’t going to protect you if your sales team fall victim to social engineering scams. Most importantly, check in with your team to ensure they know how to securely access their documents and email via a secure network at home.

Support Health and Wellbeing

It’s important to keep track of what your employees' capabilities are to work from home. Now, more than ever, it’s vital you keep in touch with your team to make sure the technology and equipment each person has is working and enabling them to do their job comfortability and confidently from home. If you can’t assess in person, use secure video conferencing to set up virtual ergonomic assessments for each employee. Also make sure your staff are taking the time to switch off during the day to have lunch or exercise.

Stay Connected

Working from home in the short term can feel productive, however over an extended period it can cause people to feel disconnected and lonely, especially for those living alone. It’s vital you encourage your employees to use the video function during meetings and check in with each other throughout the day. You can also remind them they are able to use work video conferencing tools to stay in touch with their loved ones.

Communicate Frequently

To ensure your remote working plan is robust requires diligence. Maintain frequent and consistent communication with your team and IT advisor. Set up frequent tests to ensure your technology is secure and ensure your staff understand the importance they play in keeping themselves and the business safe.

Having robust business continuity practice not only puts businesses in a better position during a crisis, but helps alleviate stress and uncertainty for your team. Ultimately, an organisation that can quickly and seamlessly operate from anywhere will have a significant competitive advantage and be able to continue delivering products and services to its customers.