Mitigating Pandemic Impact Through Telework: Direct Experience with SARS Provides Valuable Continuity Lessons

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As officials warn the public about potential health consequences of pandemics, attention is shifting toward its impact on organizations. Gill Advisors Inc. and Streamlogics Inc. will provide a live webcast on December 15 that will offer public and private sector participants tangible ways to enhance their continuity planning with telework being integrated as a key component. This webcast is free and available by registration.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office suggested Avian Flu could impose a $675 billion hit to the U.S. economy, underscoring the need for organizations to adequately plan for the continuity of operations. Gill Advisors Inc. and Streamlogics Inc. will conduct a live webcast on Thursday, December 15 at 9:30 a.m. discussing how the economic impact of an outbreak might be better managed by integrating telework as a core component of a business continuity plan. They will be joined by a Senior Official of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) who will discuss GSA’s telework initiative. For Gill Advisors Managing Director Tony Gill, it’s a case of déjà vu all over again.

The 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto began in a hospital located within two miles of his home where he had been taking his father for physiotherapy after knee replacement surgery. The first significant business casualty was the Canadian operations of a global IT firm, whose headquarters were visible from the window of his daughter’s pre-school classroom. The proximity to the outbreak’s epicenter forced him and his wife to remove their daughter from school, stay home, and try to maintain work productivity using a home broadband connection when deadlines were looming.

“The company where I worked was trying to meet an end of the week deadline on a major proposal,” Gill recalls, “I was one of the point people on a team of seven, and the thought of being away for an extended period would have been inconceivable a week earlier.” The team quickly went into improvisational mode using broadband to exchange emails and documents that required constant revision. “We were on the phones constantly” he continues “but within a short time we set one rule: if you leave your desk, have your cell phone on so if we need you, you’re no more than a call away.”

The experience was illuminating as it showed that an improvised adaptation of telework could be used to carry out work, and proved telework could be applied within a broad spectrum of industries beyond IT firms. “The key was identifying tasks, systematizing them and mapping them to the most appropriate available technologies,” Gill says enthusiastically, but adds that since 2003 the potential for telework has exploded, “Broadband’s here and today there are so many more tools that replicate face-to-face contact such as webcasting and desktop sharing.”

The webcast will discuss tangible ways in which telework can be integrated into a wide range of industries to mitigate the economic hit associated with a potential outbreak. The webcast is available by registration and can be accessed through the following link:

http://events.streamlogics.com/gill/dec15-05/index.asp

Those unable to attend the live webcast may access the archive by clicking the above link.

When asked how an improvised telework arrangement affected the outcome of the proposal during that trying week, Gill says "It forced us to concentrate on time-sensitive deliverables," with a smile he adds, "we won the business."

About Gill

Gill Advisors Inc. provides workplace continuity consulting services internationally to public and private sector clients, whose threshold for operational downtime is minimal. The company has recently launched a continuity planning program targeted toward the educational sector (http://www.campuscontinuity.com) as well as a similar program for local governments (http://www.municontinuity.com). For more information about Gill, call (905) 940-5399, or visit the company's website at http://www.gillinc.com.

About Streamlogics

Streamlogics is a leading provider of webcasting applications and services to more than 500 enterprise, government, and non-profit organizations. The company's solutions include managed webcast productions, self-service webcasting and conferencing applications, and streaming media hosting. Founded in 1999, Streamlogics is based in Toronto, supporting regional offices throughout North America. SaskTel (http://www.sasktel.com), a leading full service communications company, holds a significant minority stake in the company. For more information about Streamlogics, call (416) 642-6533, or visit the company's website at http://www.streamlogics.com.

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Tony Gill