A little over a decade ago, I drove out of New Orleans for the last time, with the winds of Hurricane Katrina at my back.
Of course, the real devastation was the loss of life and families losing their homes. However, the impact to local business can not be overstated. Everything stopped completely. I worked at a law firm on Canal Street at the time. All scheduled meetings were cancelled, all work was put on hold. We couldn’t very well hold a weekly case rounds meeting while the streets around the office were still flooded.
We couldn’t even adjust by substituting a conference call for the in-person meeting as we weren’t even sure where all the lawyers currently were. Everyone was scattered and bits and pieces of information were flowing through emails and text messages. It was so disruptive that many staff members decided to look for new opportunities rather than returning to the firm.
Keep in mind, Katrina happened before the iPhone came out. With today’s endless selection of communications and project management apps it is far easier to set up a business continuity plan. If we had this technology during Katrina, I think it could have mitigated the impact to business.
While creating a business continuity plan makes good sense, it occurs to me that today’s virtual offices are inherently set up to provide business continuity.
If your team meets every day over video in a virtual meeting room from their laptops or mobile devices, the meeting isn’t affected by weather. Virtual meeting rooms never get flooded. Right now I am in Florida and deciding whether or not to evacuate. Either way, I will make tomorrow’s team meeting.
Not only will I make all the meetings, I will continue to work on my current projects. Back in 2005, all my files were either on my office hard drive, or on paper. Today everything is up on Google Drive or OneDrive. It doesn’t matter if I am here or hunkered down in a motel out of the storm’s path, I can access and work on all my files.
In 2005, the attorneys at my firm tended to work with our office doors open. There was a lot of popping heads in for a quick question. That was how we shared knowledge and collaborated in real time. Today, we do this using messaging platforms whether it be UC or team messaging. The virtual chat room never gets flooded. Regardless of real world events, the team can always connect and coordinate immediately.
Business continuity may seem like small solace as a potentially deadly storm bears down on us. However, it is important to plan for these events on both a personal, and a business level. Work is a big part of our lives. If a business is disrupted, all of the employees at that business are affected on some level. Even if your employees all go to work in a physical office, be sure you have these virtual office equivalents in place, and that everyone is comfortable using them.