You must all be aware by now of the swine flu pandemic that has gripped the country (and in fact the world) over the last few months. You can’t turn on the TV, grab a cup of coffee in the canteen or even walk down the street without overhearing someone talking about it. But what we are going to discuss is the effect of this pandemic on our industry, your businesses and the UK economy as a whole.
So first off let’s discuss swine flu and the Internet. Contrary to several reports the pandemic is highly unlikely (never say never) to bring the UK’s Internet crashing down. Well, why would anyone think that in the first place you may ask? Concerns have been raised that if the pandemic reaches the worst case scenarios recently described by leading health officials it would have a huge impact on many of our fundamental services such as transport. With significant numbers of transport staff affected the rail and road networks would struggle to cope, possibly restricting services and making it difficult for unaffected people to get into work. This would mean more and more people would need to work from home, therefore putting increased strain on the Internet in the UK.
- The Guardian: As Britain falls sick, will the economy fail?
However, BT has confirmed that it is confident its networks can cope. Stopping short of stating that speeds would not be significantly affected the incumbent stated “BT’s network is in a strong position to cope with the expected demands of home working.” We don’t disagree, BT and many other network providers (including Entanet) are more than adequately prepared for such incidences and despite the scaremongers best efforts, the Internet will survive swine flu.
- ISPreview.co.uk: BT – UK Broadband ISP Network Can Cope with Swine Flu – Hopefully
- The Register: Swine flu will [enter scare words here]
In reality, your concerns should be more focused on your own company’s ability to cope with the strain of minimal office based staff and an increased number of home workers and that brings me nicely onto my second point; swine flu and your business. Experts are advising that at its peak (which is expected between late August and late September) swine flu could affect 12% of the workforce. Despite our best efforts to minimise the spread of infection with our sanitizer gel and quirky “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” mottos, the number of reported cases continues to rise. You need to ask yourself “Could your business continue to operate with 12% fewer staff?” and “Can your infrastructure support an increased number of home workers?”
If the answer to either question is no then now is the time to start implementing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Although it is unlikely to reach this forecasted “worst case scenario” it is always prudent to plan for the worst and it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up plan. Now is the time to discuss the implications of such an outbreak with your IT department or consultants and don’t be afraid to ask your connectivity providers about their own DR plans, after all your business is reliant on them being able to keep your company connected. You need to know if your network has enough capacity to cope with a potentially significant increase in bandwidth demands, if your network has the resiliency and required security measures in place to support home workers and if your employees have the equipment, software, resources and communications in place to work from home. For example, Entanet’s DR plans involve provisioning suitable connectivity and telecoms services and providing secure access to Entanet’s internal systems to enable affected staff to be able to work from home assuming they are well enough to do so. In the case of a major outbreak key members of staff (e.g. a selected number of customer facing support staff) would be ‘quarantined’ at home to minimise their chances of contracting the virus (by tammy). They too will be given access to Entanet’s internal systems in order to work from their own homes, ensuring the continuity of the business with minimal disruption to our customers. Whether you believe the media hype or not, in terms of business you cannot afford to be unprepared. If it turns out to be just hype, well at least you were ready and you can possibly re-implement those DR plans when the next killer virus set to end the world comes along 😀 Practical tips for minimising the spread of infection in the workplace Here are some practical tips to be aware of which could help your company minimise the spread of infection. They were compiled from http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/2009/swineflu.htm which provides a lot more advice and guidance and a number of helpful documents.
- Infected employees should remain at home until all symptoms have gone
- Visitors and staff should be reminded of symptoms and discouraged from entering the premises if any symptoms are present
- Where possible non-essential travel should be minimised (e.g. using home working and use of conference calls instead of face to face meetings)
- Good hygiene practices should be encouraged with sufficient facilities to regularly wash or sanitise hands
- Hard surfaces should be sanitised regularly
- Where possible physical barriers such as screens and counters should be used and physical contact within 1 meter should be minimised
- HR policies should recognise good practices and encourage self isolation if symptoms are present
What are your thoughts? Tell us how swine flu has or is affecting your business, how you are prepared for an outbreak or if you think it is all being blown out of proportion by leaving us a comment below. Further information
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