Earthquakes? Snow? Pull out your Plan B

When an unexpected disaster strikes and we cannot go to our traditional workplace, do we have a Plan B?
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

When an unexpected disaster strikes and we cannot go to our traditional workplace, do we have a Plan B?

Three months after the event, the Canterbury earthquake has left significant aftershocks.

Businesses are crying out for government aid, hundreds of homes and premises still await repair, firms are at risk of going under and job losses are threatened.

But how much trouble stems from being unprepared? Did enough people pay sufficient attention to disaster recovery and business continuity?

Judging by the extent of the bleating, it seems not, though for most employers, apparently it is business as usual. They will have made their preparations.

Such disasters are a test of leadership, and while customers might be forgiving if everyone has suffered from a disaster, they will not be so if the company is suffering alone.

That is the view of a company called Plan-b.

As well as the usual disaster recovery offerings, like online backups and so on, Plan-b can supply alternative premises should a company's office be damaged or destroyed.

Other natural disasters besides earthquakes can strike and impact on the workplace.

Britain, for example, has been engulfed by the worst snow in years. Transport is in chaos, schools are closed and most employees are either turning up late for work, or not at all.

Fearing the high costs of lost productivity to the economy, its transport minister this week urged companies to allow people to work from home.

Over in the United States, it seems telecommuting is already taking the fun out of snow days.

The well-prepared can work from home, or anywhere where there is electricity and internet or mobile phone coverage.

This is what we need to do — be prepared and have a Plan B.

New Zealand does have "snow days", occasionally, though I guess they are a rare beast in Australia.

But Australia will have other disruptive natural disasters like floods and bushfires that will sometimes prevent people from going to work.

Whatever the disaster might be, employers will have to assess how they can ensure the continuity of their business, see how easily their staff can work from home or elsewhere if the office is suddenly inaccessible or out of action.

At least the growing prevalence of laptops, mobile broadband and cloud computing will make such efforts all the more easier.

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