Zoom is not new. I had my first encounter with it a few years ago, pre-pandemic. I attended college in Boston, and weather-related shutdowns were not uncommon. For most students, a snow day is a nice break, but I have to think they’re a godsend for college kids. That is, until Zoom came along and *sigh* Chem101 was still in session from the stiff comfort of my dorm. Hindsight is always 20/20, thus I realize now that I’m grateful for those snow days turned class days. My professors had a contingency plan to deliver the knowledge that I was paying to learn, and I still got my tuition’s worth of education when Covid-19 hit.
The Climate Action Collaborative has had a few articles now on the benefits of remote work, but my reflections on Zoom and snow days made me realize that we need to elaborate on another important piece of it: resilience. If students can continue to learn in anticipated and unanticipated scenarios, businesses (with functions that allow for remote work) can continue to operate successfully too.Smaller risks have always been there: snow days or icy roads, an office cold or flu going around, a basement flood, etc., and they’re worth planning for. However, Covid-19 was a wake-up call to massive interruption, and even if we were able to hit “snooze” on that this summer, climate change is sounding another alarm. In our mountain communities, we’ve seen fires, mudslides, and extreme weather events shut down highways, thus cutting off the commutes of many. Higher frequencies of these events are in the future forecast (see the 6th IPCC Report, and temperature projections for Eagle County). Your business needs to not only expect but be able to adapt to the unexpected. If you can do that, you are more likely to stay profitable during a disaster.
Having a remote work policy in place before setbacks occur is risk management. It is both a resilience and adaptation strategy. Maximize the benefit by establishing a remote work policy early. You can get an understanding of who in your company is able to conduct remote work, and which components of your business are critical functions that you may or may not be able to continue.
You can also ensure smoother operations by assessing the productivity and success of remote work prior to a disaster. You’ll be able to make any necessary technology improvements (i.e., VPN access, Zoom accounts), finetune your policies, have communication plans in place, and allow your employees to simply adjust to working from home without additional stress. These precautionary actions can facilitate an easier transition and improve business continuity when a future shock occurs.
As the Boy and Girl Scouts of America always say, “Be prepared.” If it is feasible for your business, incorporate a remote work policy into your contingency plan to stay afloat when faced with uncertainty. Keep in mind that there is no rigid structure for these policies. You can formulate it in a way that best suits your business’s needs. Need to see some examples? Or want to talk to your team (or your boss) about the policy first? Head over to trendswithbenefits.org and click the “Business Resources” button at the top of the home page, where you’ll find everything you need to know.
Claire Kantor is the Climate Action Associate for Walking Mountains Science Center.