“Snowpocalypse”, “Snowaccaine”, “A Pain in my Rear!”…. Whatever you called the series of winter snow storms that pounded the Metro and Greater D.C. areas, the closing down of most businesses and the federal government put a strain not just on the backs of thousands shoveling snow, but on the various telework programs which had never been tested to this degree. And while I’ve heard a plethora of horror stories as well as a few positive ones, a very consistent (and commonsensical) theme has emerged: the more preparation, planning, and employee training an agency has under its belt regarding telework, the less of a disruption they felt during the storm.
While I did not conduct an official survey to come to this conclusion, dozens of conversations with clients at agencies and companies told a similar story. Those with established telework programs where employees had already configured home computers or laptops to access the network reported relative ‘business as usual’. Those with no formal telework program or where the telework program was only provided to an elite few had stories of unproductively, missed deadlines, and ultimately lost time and money.
While there are differing schools of thought with regard to the degree in which organizations should implement telework, one thing that cannot be argued: Although rare, “Snowaccaines” come in many forms and whether you call it a telework program or a COOP strategy, every agency and organization needs to have a tested, thought-out plan to avert a complete shut-down. Given the technologies, access to bandwidth, and (historically speaking) the time we have between these types of disasters to prepare, the onus is on agencies to make this a priority. As the old adage goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”