The covid-19 pandemic was/is not a ‘normal’ disaster; a normal disaster generally affects a single company whereby it is left unable to trade (normally) and amongst other things, faces loss to its competitors. Covid-19 affected the majority of businesses and thus competitors were also closed or subject to equally disruptive service offerings. There was hence no benefit to look for alternatives – none were available.
Home working whilst popular is beginning to show its foibles. De-centralised working in terms of technology alone is hugely problematic and requires significant and continued investment and management; The social aspect is the subject matter of many professional scholars with numerous articles circulating; Those relating to BC focus on the cost comparison of the increased HR + IT requirement against that of an out-sourced BC contract; a quote taken from a recent media posting provides a view: “Each home has its differences, each person has their differences. Combine the two and multiply by the additional tasks needed per ‘home-working-employee’ and there you have an immense management requirement which continues almost infinitum. Each house move, each home improvement, each new employee, necessitates some employer involvement. Even in times of economic calm, the involvement is likely to cause constant grief for the employer, throw in an unforeseen event, when it is critical that differences make no difference, and the potential for business damaging mayhem is all too apparent”
Other studies have focused on well-being and in particular mental health issues brought about by isolation which is widely publicised as being on the increase. Managing such issues in a centralised office is demanding enough but doing so on a widespread campus of decentralised home workers is fraught with complexities for which the employer is responsible and liable. Again, the problems of management become magnified when dealing with a company-wide crisis brought about by an unforeseen event.
Lockdown closed/disrupted 99% of businesses. Everyone became frustratingly patient – but this was because they had no choice; In a ‘normal’ crisis – where only one or a few businesses are affected – the ‘frustratingly patient’ person no longer remains ‘as patient’ – why? Because there is choice; The businesses that are closed, risk losing business to those that are open. This is evident when seeking to buy something as simple as a sandwich; if your normal sandwich shop is closed, you’ll go elsewhere – you won’t wait.
In a ‘normal’ crisis the first few days, leading up to the first few weeks are critical. Decentralise people with decentralised systems and there lays a good recipe for disaster. Essentially decentralising anything creates additional tasks; and no matter how much automation or planning is engaged, it is extremely unlikely the overall tasks will ever be less or even close to those of a centralised version or error free. Keeping tasks to a minimum (and simple) in a crisis is paramount to success. Ideally the task is singular – invoke contract and carry on with business (as normal). Centralising as much as possible is absolutely key to a smooth transition from normal-to-crisis-to-normal.
DSM’s view: Home working is an essential BC tool – it’s one spanner of a set – however, it isn’t a spanner that fits all. Try to make it fit all and serious damage may result.