Are Your Remote Workers "Safe" from Severe Weather and Power Outages?
If the months of January and February are any indication of what the rest of winter will look like, we may suffer many interruptions in power and internet access. In the first part of the month, many areas in Virginia, for example, suffered outages that lasted anywhere from seven hours to five days. As I write this, most of the northeast has just suffered from the impact of blizzard conditions, with power outages and flooding. In the next several days, another large storm is expected to hit the Midwest and New England.
For remote workers, such interruptions could be a disaster. Whether it's wind, ice, heavy snow causing trees to fall on power lines, there may be a power/internet outage in your future. Weather aside, however, there are other scenarios that could cause outages - accidents, a bad transformer, etc. Does your company have a procedure in place for remote workers who lose power and/or their internet connection? If not, it's definitely time to think about creating one.
With many employees working remotely, outages can make them non-productive and impact your bottom line. According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5600 per minute if a mission-critical app is down. Several hours of outages, therefore, can be quite costly if an outage continues for more than a few minutes.
A power outage procedure can help employees remain productive during an outage, at least temporarily, with some simple actions. Reminding employees of these actions may mean they can continue to work.
- In the event of severe weather situations, it's a good idea for employees to ensure that all their devices are fully charged so they can maintain power during a short outage. This is especially critical for cell phones, which may remain the only line of communication during the outage.
- When there is an outage (especially when it may not be widespread), employees need to know anyone and everyone to notify of their situation. If possible, they should try to find out the potential length of the outage from the power company and communicate that as well.
- When storms may possibly cut off internet access, it's a good idea to download and/or print all documents necessary to keep working. Employees should keep a list of tasks that can be done offline so they can continue to be productive.
- While some people may have generators, this certainly won't be true for many, unless they are in an area that experiences many power outages a month. Many employees, however, may have hot spot access or own a small portable charging station. The small charging stations are not expensive and may be capable of charging a phone up to six times, as long as they are fully charged. This capability may get employees through an outage.
Other technologies are available as well.
- UPS for computers that, if nothing else, will at least allow workers to save projects once the power cuts off.
- A portable charger that can handle the phone, computer, printer, and other devices. These are more expensive than the portable phone charger but may still be within the budget of some workers.
- TechRepublic provides an article about a remote work emergency kit that discusses six technologies that can keep workers online. You can view the article at Remote work emergency kit: Power through an outage with these 6 items - TechRepublic. Similar articles are available from other sources if you search with Google.
- If a power outage is not weather-related and limited to the employee's neighborhood only, other options to continue working include an internet café, a co-working facility, or even a friend's house in another neighborhood.
There are just a couple of months left of winter, but hurricane season is set to begin June 1, so there are plenty of opportunities for outages throughout the year. It's always a good idea to be as prepared as possible to deal with them so they impact your bottom line as little as possible.
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