According to a new study by Demon Broadband, nearly nine out of ten (86%) of the UK SMEs surveyed have experienced some level of disruption when staff are unable to get to the office due to weather, health or transport issues, and an alarming 37% of this group have experienced significant disruption or even total chaos in such situations.
Global insurer RSA recently estimated that December’s cold snap could have cost the economy £13.2bn from dented sales and business interruption, advising that all businesses should plan for the effects of adverse weather on their workforce*. Demon’s research reveals that many small businesses – which are particularly vulnerable to staff shortages and failed delivery of services – are underprepared for this kind of challenge.
Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they had no contingency plan for when staff could not get to the office, saying that when that happened they were simply unable to do their jobs. A further 12% said staff could only communicate with each other and customers using their own phone and email address.
Matt Cantwell, Head of Demon, says: “With tube strikes, illness and more adverse weather on the cards, remote working is no longer a nice to have but a necessity for many small businesses. This means ensuring relevant staff have access to a home broadband connection and PC, and that they can also access work emails and all necessary documents and applications. Our research found that many SMEs are still behind the curve in terms of remote working technology, but it's one of the easiest and most cost effective ways of introducing a business continuity strategy.”
“It’s clear that many employees want to be able to work from home whenever they need to,” says Cantwell, “yet our study found that many businesses are missing a trick when it comes to harnessing the enthusiasm of their employees and potential of remote working technology. So, to help SMEs develop a successful remote working strategy and improve their business continuity planning, we’ve come up with five top tips to get them started.”
Remote working: Demon’s five top tips for SMEs
How can you ensure that employees fit to work but forced to stay at home are as efficient and productive as when they are in the office? Below are five top business tips for remote working, which provide a starting point for small businesses looking at this urgent issue.
1. Review requirements: Which employees are key to running business critical operations, and what do they need to be able to access documents and applications remotely? By knowing who needs what, you can build your remote working plans.
2. Create the network: Ensure that employees have access to reliable, high-speed internet connections from the chosen remote locations, whether this is through traditional fixed line broadband, wireless broadband or internet dongles.
3. Provide communications: Employees working remotely should have a range of communication devices and channels at their disposal as they do at work, such as a mobile phone, email, VoIP, corporate instant messaging or even desktop video conferencing.
4. Check security: You should have network and communications security in place that will provide the same level of secure access to all workers, regardless of their location. Basic security procedures can help too, like restricting use of mobile storage devices for sensitive company data, and ensuring that cloud-based information is securely password-protected.
5. Communicate the policy: Formalise your remote working policy, seeking the advice of your broadband provider or IT Manager where appropriate. Then create easy to understand remote working guidelines and communicate the policy to all staff so they are comfortable with when and how they can work remotely.