The hybrid workplace model is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Business continuity professionals need to be sure their recovery plans and strategies are fully adapted to the new reality.
Related on MHA Consulting: Home Alone: When Disasters Affect Staff Who Are Working Remotely
A Stopgap Measure That Became a Permanent Fixture
When the hybrid workplace model first emerged at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was seen as an emergency solution to a crisis situation. Organizations scrambled to set up tools and systems that would enable employees to work from home. Business continuity management (BCM) professionals hustled to adapt their recovery strategies and plans to the new workplace model. In most cases, those adaptations were carried out on a crash basis and with a short-term perspective.
Now, however, we found ourselves in a new situation. As of this week, the COVID emergency is officially behind us. But the hybrid work model remains (since many people discovered they like working at home at least part of the time and the practice has become entrenched at many organizations).
Optimizing BC for Permanent Hybrid
The debate underway between employees and executives regarding how much time employees need to spend in the office has potential ramifications for companies’ resilience. That’s an issue that might be worth a blog post of its own another time.
The topic for today is, now that the hybrid model appears to be a permanent fixture, do BCM offices need to revisit their recovery strategies and plans? The answer is yes.
Since the organization will be relying on those arrangements for a long time to come, the BC team needs to make sure that all program elements implicated in the remote work scenario are sufficiently robust.
The situation is similar to drivers’ using a donut spare to make it to the service station after getting a flat. Previously the “donut spare” version of a hybrid-oriented BC program was good enough. Now that the hybrid arrangement has become a permanent aspect of business life, those programs have to go the distance. The hybrid-related aspects of the BC program need to be reviewed and, if necessary, strengthened.
Things to Consider in Making BCM Suit the Hybrid Workplace
Here are a few specific points to consider in ensuring that your BCM program is optimized to handle the hybrid model over the long term:
- Work from home does not “solve BC.”
- Hybrid reduces some vulnerabilities and increases or creates others.
- Hybrid adds complexity.
- Hybrid means many organizations now have exponentially more work locations. From the BC point of view, this has pros and cons.
- Hybrid increases cybersecurity risk. The more work locations you have, the more potential inroads there are to your data.
- Hybrid changes the office, too. These days many people go into the office—and still do all their meetings via Zoom or Teams because some of their colleagues are at home.
- Hybrid means that many people who are not technical now have the job of ensuring their technical environment (device security, internet, etc.) is capable of supporting their work.
- From a BC perspective, hybrid is no different from work from home.
- You can’t assume that people who are not at the office that day are literally working from home. They could be working from anywhere.
- The big challenge of hybrid from a continuity perspective is ensuring that recovery plans integrate the people working in the office and those working at home.
- One of the biggest problems we see in creating robust BC plans for a hybrid workplace is solving the problems around sharing paper documents (such as those where stamps are required) and other physical resources (as in courier and logistics scenarios).
Tips for Optimizing BCM for the Hybrid Model
Finally, here are a few tips for helping you make sure your BC plans are robust enough for the hybrid long-haul:
- Dig into your equipment and locale dependencies and think about them from the BC perspective. For example, are you reliant on a specific office-based printing capability that is necessary to support remote workers? What will you do if a building or location issue makes that printer unavailable? Will employees be able to print from home? (Usually the answer is no.)
- Understand your organization’s hardcopy and pick-up and delivery needs. If a facility associated with physical exchanges becomes unavailable, will remote workers be able to take over that function? How will the public, vendors, and couriers be able to obtain the physical materials they need?
- Ensure that the infosec and cybersecurity arrangements for your remote workers are as robust as you can make them. Review the implications for data protection and cybersecurity when adjusting processes and implementing business continuity actions. An example of a situation where this might be an issue is when remote employees generate PDF documents or special reports that include sensitive data such and personally identifiable information or HIPAA information.
- Identify the office resources that your remote workers are dependent on. Those items need to be a separate piece of your recovery plan. Two common resources in this category are printers, especially large volume printers, and plotters. Also, think about how mail delivery will be handled during a continuity event. The organization might need to make arrangements for delivery to remote workers or set up a site where mail and deliveries can be picked up.
Accommodating the Hybrid Work Model into the Future
At many companies today, the hybrid workplace model has evolved from temporary stopgap to permanent fixture. As a result, business continuity professionals need to optimize their recovery plans and strategies to ensure they are fully adapted to the new reality.
Cybersecurity risks increase with the hybrid model, and integration between those working in the office and those working remotely is a significant challenge. The means BCM programs need to be reviewed and built up to handle the challenges of remote work over the long term. By considering these points and following the tips provided, organizations can optimize their BCM programs to ensure they are resilient and capable of supporting remote work for the foreseeable future.
For more information on the hybrid workplace model, and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting:
- Making the Most of the Hybrid Emergency Operations Center
- Home to Stay? Adapting to the Next Permanent Workplace
- Safe at Home: Fight Pandemic Fatigue by Improving Work from Home
- Home Alone: When Disasters Affect Staff Who Are Working Remotely
- Homefront: The New Hot Zone for BCM Is Employees’ Home Offices