Snowpocalypse – Another Reason for Organizations to Have a Telework Plan That Includes Video Conferencing
Officials estimate that closing the federal government for a day costs roughly $100 million in lost productivity and opportunity costs. That means that this month’s “snowpocalypse” has already potentially cost tax payers at least $350 million for the recent closures. The untold costs of business closings due to the snow storm are bound to be far greater.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. As we continue to experience natural disasters like snowpocalypse, earthquakes and hurricanes, or health disasters like H1N1, the need for a strong teleworking infrastructure in business and government is becoming more and more apparent. No company or agency wants to be accused of risking employees’ lives or health to improve the bottom line. Telework is a simple solution to help ensure workers stay safe and productivity stays high.
Integrating video conferencing into telework can yield even greater results because workers can interact face to face regardless of where they are located. This helps to increase collaboration and reduce confusion that can occur over email and conference calls. Video conferencing also helps keeps employees engaged in virtual meetings because they are speaking “in person” and don’t experience as many distractions. And, perhaps most importantly, managers who are often leery of teleworking have immediate visual access to employees so they can rest assured that their staff is maintaining business as usual, and not calling in from the beach.
While disasters like snowpocalypse are often what drive the discussion about telework, the fact is telework has long been recognized to be an effective way for businesses and government to not only maintain business continuity, but to also help reduce their carbon footprint and increase employee work/life balance and loyalty.
For example, at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which manages the Defense Department’s expansive telecommunications network, most employees are outfitted with agency-issued laptops with secure linkups and a suite of collaboration software — including video conferencing — to enable teleworking. This has allowed approximately 45 percent of DISA’s headquarters staff to telework on a normal day, “so in circumstances like [snowpocalypse], its not a big deal,” said John Garing, the agency’s strategic planning and information director, in an interview with Federal Times from his home in Northern Virginia. Rather than a challenge, teleworking en masse is an opportunity to test continuity of operations plans, he said.
According to Garing, so far, DISA employees have been as productive and effective as they would have been if they were all in the office. “The fact we have an ingrained teleworking policy does make a difference,” Garing said. “It makes it easier for us to adapt and continue to operate.” Despite impassable roads and a government shutdown, DISA is “pretty much business as usual,” said Garing.
Does your company have a telework policy to help deal with business continuity in situations like snowpocalypse? Do you use video conferencing?