Swine flu forces remote work tool review

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Swine flu forces remote work tool review

Aussie firms should ensure that remote working and collaboration tools are ready to scale to meet higher rates of absenteeism in the event of an outbreak of Swine flu.

Gartner research director Steve Bittinger said the unfolding situation in Mexico is an "indicator to pay attention" to business continuity plans.

Most of those developed with Avian influenza or SARS in mind should be applicable in the event of a local outbreak or pandemic of Swine flu.

Those without existing plans should look to companies in the same industry or to existing knowledge libraries over the next few weeks to prepare, Bittinger said.

"Handling Swine flu from an IT perspective is about enabling people to continue to work together or collaborate with reduced levels of face-to-face interaction," he said.

"It's a good idea to have work-from-home capabilities ready for staff. Executives need to think about how they would do business if the level of face-to-face contact with customers and staff drops dramatically.

"For example, there may be high rates of people not wanting to come into the office because they don't want to ride public transport, or they have a sick child or are sick themselves.

"It may be that this all fizzles out or we may have a week or several weeks to get our act together before or if it hits. Organisations that have the ability for staff to work from home [in the event of an outbreak or pandemic] won't suffer as badly as those who don't."

Bittinger said it's "almost too late" for companies without remote working tools to put them in place in time - although he admitted some low cost options such as Google Apps might be suitable.

"It depends on the nature of the business," he said.

"Some will require all employees to access corporate systems through a VPN. But if you're on a mainframe not all applications might be accessible over the internet. You may have to look at fallback arrangements."

But he warned it was not the time "to try and reinvent the wheel" when it comes to business continuity.

Bittinger advised large organisations to appoint someone to stay on top of the issue internally, coordinate business continuity planning (and potentially implementation) and be "organisationally responsible" for the issue.

He praised government, healthcare and border protection agencies for their response so far.

"They've been through this before - it's part of the reason we're seeing a higher rate of response," he said.

"This is not something new. It's become practiced. A lot of applicable advice is already out there. It doesn't need to be created."

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