Does your business operate across a number of different countries?
Or are you looking to expand and open new offices internationally?
No matter where you operate from, or your clients are based, or your supply chain links to, keeping your business running during a disruptive event is critical for cash flow and customer retention. Investing effort to identify and minimise risks beforehand, both at home and overseas, need not be an expensive activity and we have identified some easy activities to help you prepare for and respond to unplanned disruptions.
1. Regulations. Let’s get the mandatory legal bit out of the way first…in the UK, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, every business that employees five or more employees must conduct and record a workplace risk assessment. Under the Regulations, every employer must make a “suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work”. If there are 5 or more employees, the assessment must be recorded. Details are at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/regulation/3/made. This document should be shared with staff. Why is this important – put simply, if everyone understands the risks in their workplace, they are more likely to avoid them and thus reduce the possibility of the disruption and of any injury to a colleague. If you are required to do it in the UK as a tool to safeguard your staff, it is logical to apply the same standard to all your offices, however do check what the local regulations say as well so that you comply with the most stringent one. A simple activity that can make a significant difference.
2. Emergency Response capability. Bad things happen, so if they happen in one of your offices, do you have appropriately trained staff who know how to respond, rather than simply rely on Head Office that might be in a different time zone? Is there a notification protocol in place that clearly articulates what events must be reported immediately and what can wait to the routine reports? Do all your offices have robust communications with alternative options for example, VOIP and analogue as a back-up?
3. Communications. In the event of an emergency, do you have effective communications with all your staff, wherever they may be so that you can efficiently account for them and provide appropriate reassurance? Given that mobile communications may be prioritised to the Emergency Services or in some countries simply switched off, do you have an alternative option? Second, can you contact your key clients/customers and your key suppliers to reassure them that you are still open for business or provide an alternative delivery address?
4. Portable Appliance Testing. In the UK, most businesses will have a programme of regular PAT in order to comply with insurance stipulations. Should you seek to apply a similar standard for your international offices? Second, with the growth of mobile appliances, have all your employees’ laptops and telephone chargers been PAT tested? If not, could they pose a fire risk and invalidate your insurance?
5. Working from Home. Many businesses enable or encourage Working from Home. Is this appropriate in the international office’s culture and if it is, have you checked your colleague’s home working environment – a DSE assessment at home? In an emergency situation affecting your offices, for example a severe weather or natural disaster event, do you fully understand the scale of some of the non-UK weather events? If you had many staff having to work from home simultaneously, can their server and connectivity cope? Do you have sufficient IT staff available to support employees as they struggle to connect?
6. Critical Supplies. Do you fully understand your critical supplies? For example, you may need a regular delivery of “x” to make your product. If the company delivering “x” fails to deliver, what are your options? Stockroom/warehouse with a few days of stock? Alternative supplier on retainer? Given the supply chain will involve many links from raw material production to shipping and road haulage, there are a number of potential disruption points – are you sure your “just in time logistics” plans are robust in the new location?
Much has been written about cyber-security and GDPR so I will consider a couple of other areas.
7. Work in Progress. In an emergency, laptops and PCs could be lost or significantly damaged. Are all your staff trained to save documents to a “Work in Progress” type folder on the server rather than on their desktop?
8. IT Help Desk. In a business disruption event, most people will be told initially to work from home if they can. However, for the IT Department to enable home working could require significant work. In addition to resolving any Disaster Recovery issues, other IT considerations could range from: who has lost their laptop/PC and thus needs a new one – bought, configured, delivered to employee; can everyone connect to the server/folders; do Heads of Department know how to manage Conference Calls to support and coordinate staff and activity? With an international footprint, who staffs the Help Desk with the correct language and IT skills, where is it located to fit with time zones, does everyone know the number?
9. Practice and Familiarity. The Deeming Cycle refers to “Plan, Do, Check, Act” and this cycle has been adapted by the Business Continuity Institute. Once you have completed your planning and training, are you confident it will actually work in an emergency when everyone is under stress – can you communicate effectively with the international staff and really understand the issue and add value? The only way to assure this is via regular exercising. It is too late to discover that an element of your plan doesn’t work when the survival of your business is at risk.
Inverroy Crisis Management Ltd is passionate about ensuring that your business is ready to respond and recover from any disruptive event, whether that event is in the UK or overseas.