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Continuity and Contingency Planning for Your Business

You are working on a major proposal for your firm, an opportunity to possibly make or break the budget for the next fiscal year.  It is due by close of business tomorrow.  You’ll need every minute to make this a winner.

In the frantic scramble to put the pieces of the proposal puzzle together, you overhear some of your co-workers discussing the weather.  You finally ask, “What’s up?”  A co-worker responds, “What the weathermen predicted to be a passing snowstorm a day or so ago, is now being deemed –SNOWMAGGEDON” “What?,” you ask.  “Yup, upwards of 18 to 20 inches coming in tonight, paralyzing the region’s road and transit networks,” the co-worker says.  A sinking feeling sets in and you realize that it looks like you’re sleeping in the office the next day or so.

But it doesn’t have to be that way if you and your company have a continuity of operations plan in place.  Such plans are developed to preserve business operations during natural or manmade events that may prevent workers from getting into the office for a day or more.

Surprisingly few businesses have examined such plans or adopted policies for implementing METRO Closescontingency/continuity plans…even when the prospects of short or long term shutdowns or slow downs can mean significant lost revenues and productivity.

DATA staff can assist you and your business in developing contingency plans, and have been doing so since the major disruptions that occurred during 9/11 and the subsequent sniper episode.  But interest has waned considerably since then – until Snowmaggedon and the recent surprise 24 hour shut down of the entire METRO system.  Without adequate preparations and contingency planning, many businesses struggled to get employees to work and thus lost important productivity during these episodes.

Although contingency/continuity plans are individualized for each particular business, most of these plans include some core elements.

Telework

Having employees who can work from home in the event of a natural or man-made emergency like the recent Metro shutdown is like your company’s electronic insurance policy.  No way to get to work…no problem!  Your employees can still fill orders, complete important projects (like our snowbound friend above) and even teleconference.  In addition, Global Workplace Analytics reports industry leaders like Dow Chemical, Best Buy and British Telecom find their teleworkers are 35-40% more productive, while a Stanford University study found teleworkers are 50% less likely to quit than employees who work strictly in the office.  Consider that statistic when it can cost you $10,000-$30,000 to replace a valuable employee!

And most teleworkers still spend more than 50% of their time in the office, so concerns about supervision, collaboration and team-building are unfounded.  Right now, the Telework!VA program offers free technical assistance to companies interested in starting or expanding a formal telework program…including helping you decide which jobs are suitable for teleworking, what kind of equipment and security you need, how to supervise your teleworkers and more.  There’s additional information on the many benefits of teleworking at www.teleworkva.org.

Transit Information

With the opening of Phase I of the Silver Line, many locations that were unserved by public transportation are now connected to the system.  Now you can take Metro from your home in Largo to your office in Tysons Corner.  But your employees may not realize how easy and economical it can be to leave their single occupant vehicle in the driveway and take transit to work.  Fairfax County now offers the Plus50 Program through which your employees can qualify for a $50 SmarTrip card to try transit if you institute the simple-to-administer Smart Benefits program.  And even though a major weather event can curtail transit service, it’s usually more reliable than trying to drive alone.

Ridesharing

When your employees share a ride to work – either in a cost-effective vanpool or a convenient carpool – you’re doing a lot more than helping reduce congestion on area roads and improve the environment.  With shared driving responsibilities, you’ll probably find your employees are late less often and arrive in a better frame of mind from not having to battle traffic each and every day.  In addition, you may be able to turn in some of those expensive parking spaces you’ve been leasing from the business next door or reduce the cost of the valet parking you currently provide!

And if one of the carpoolers has a four-wheel drive vehicle, ridesharing can become a pre-existing means of getting essential employees to work in an emergency.

Biking or Walking

Dust off your old two-wheeler or investigate Capital Bikeshare; biking to work is easier than you think…and there may be a $20 per month benefit available through your employer!

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association provides classes, seminars and events at a reasonable cost for cyclists of every skill and commitment level.  County websites can help you plan a safe route to work or to a transit terminus.  And with affordable Capital Bikeshare – soon expanding to Reston and Tysons Corner – you don’t even have to own a bike to take advantage of this efficient, environmentally conscious commuting option.

Or try hoofing it.  Walking a few days a week could replace the expensive gym membership you’re not using.  Think a mile walk to the nearest Metro stop is too time-consuming?  It can add as little as 15 minutes in beautiful spring weather to your commute!

How can DATA help keep you in business?  Making sure your employees are aware and familiar with these types of technologies can keep your business going, particularly in short term interruptions of transportation services.  DATA staff can provide insights on all of these services and conduct training, if necessary, in how to use the applications and technologies.

DATA’s experts will work with you to develop a continuity of business plan that suits your organization and your workforce.  There’s no charge for the consultation and no obligation.  We’ll probably start with a simple survey that tells us how your employees are currently commuting.  We’ll spend some time learning about your business…are you interested in green initiatives, do you like to conduct contests to motivate your employees, are your employees tech-savvy or more likely to respond to the traditional?

Then we’ll suggest the best way for you to keep doing business when you can’t conduct business as usual.  Call DATA at 703.817.1307 and get connected to Director of Employer Outreach Lynn Bostain or Director of Sales and Marketing Kelly Woodward.  We even have bi-lingual assistance available!

Think you don’t have time to talk to us?  Well, what would you rather lose?  A few minutes or a few thousand dollars?

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