My best wishes go out to those in Sandy’s path. Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, CT and has a strong New England presence. Five of our offices are closed today. I’m always happy to see workmates from the hard hit regions posting on Facebook or sending email. Even if it doesn’t have to do with the storm, I can tell they’re OK. It’s ironic how many of the postings say “the power just went out.”
After people have secured home and family, thoughts of teleworking begin to set in. The New York subway system is still flooded and other parts of New England are impassable due to flooded roads or heavy snow. It’s times like these when companies with minimal commitment to work-at-home programs regret not having teleworking infrastructure and processes in place.
A business continuity plan should address how employees will be able to work if the office is inaccessible. Gartner is a more distributed organization to begin with so it’s a bit easier, but many still work in offices. For example, most of our Research Engagement Services staff that normally work in offices is working remotely today. The answer lies in technology (VPNs and VPN-accessible applications, access to e-mail from mobile phones, laptops, web-based administrative systems, access to content) and process (distributing the right equipment and training, communication and supervision, etc.).
In Chicago, where I live, we don’t get nor’easters, but businesses downtown learned a lesson last year when the NATO summit (and protesters) came to town. I documented its impact in What it Takes to Get Employers to Try Work at Home Practices in Chicago: NATO and Handcuffs. In particular, I was amazed how companies had 11 months to plan for this, but some still seemed caught off guard. And now that Chicago’s forced experiment with telework has passed I haven’t heard of any organizations that have decided on an ongoing commitment to it.
So, in summary, I hope everyone is well and that businesses don’t take too much of a hit at a time when the economy really needs more confidence and productivity. To the extent that the technologies my team covers (collaboration and communication) can help I hope that they are used and maybe establish some successes that encourage teleworking even in calmer times.