Can Enabling Remote Work Save Lives?

Mother Nature is both miraculous and cruel. Over the past few years, we have sustained devastating fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Some of our customers have been affected by fires and floods. Thankfully none of them experienced injuries or loss of life.

Human Kindness + Technology Take On Natural Disasters

When a natural disaster strikes, we often see the best of human nature, as those unaffected unite to help the victims. These are always moments that make me feel proud – when we set aside our differences to help each other recover.

Technology can play a role in that recovery too. One of our customers – Dudek – is a multidisciplinary design/build firm with an extensive drone practice. In a natural disaster, such as the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, the Dudek team sends in their drones to survey the situation and help guide geologists and vulcanologists who make decisions that protect lives. Similarly, during hurricane Dorian in 2019 – an unprecedented disaster for the Bahamas – Dudek’s ability to process complex drone data in just hours to help guide first responders took them to the Carolinas to be ready for damage assessment as Dorian approached the U.S. You can learn more about this in our video.

Enterprise IT teams invest considerable time in business continuity planning, and preparing for a natural disaster is part of that effort. All kinds of scenarios are considered, with the aim of keeping employees safe and getting the business back up and running.

Technology Must Play a Bigger Role for a Different Type of Disaster

Mother Nature inflicts other forms of abuse on us too. Every year, the flu strikes millions of people – and everyone is a target. According to the CDC, in 2020 in the U.S. alone there have been at least 26 million cases of influenza, 250,000 hospitalizations, and 14,000 deaths so far this season. Now we are also seeing the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that has been unfolding in China and increasingly around the world. The global number of confirmed cases now is at 75,117 as of this writing, with more than 2,000 deaths. Taking care of each other becomes very tricky because of the risk of contracting the disease.

Governments and corporations are taking strong measures to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as it verges on pandemic status. In the news this week, many major corporations, among them NTT and Rakuten in Japan, have encouraged remote work –  their employees may work from home for the next two weeks – the incubation period of the virus. That, plus the cancellation of large public events, is exactly the kind of leadership that is needed at this time. But what if, rather than merely being “encouraged”, working at home was a mandatory part of a business continuity plan during a disease outbreak?  So when that first person in the office shows up with a virus, everyone just immediately retreats to their home offices for a week or so to wait out the incubation period rather than stay around the office, pick up the virus in the lunchroom, and transmit it further? In this way, remote work just becomes part of a routine. Similarly, when the kids bring home the flu from school, parents just automatically stay home and work, again, isolating themselves from co-workers for a few days while they may be contagious. If this were the norm, could any of the estimated 290,000 to 650,000 deaths worldwide from influenza each year (World Health Organization) be prevented?

The technology to allow this to happen, of course, is available today. When people use cloud desktops, they can access their work from anywhere, using any device. So technology is definitely not the roadblock to change that could save lives. It’s well-accepted that if a hurricane prevents people from reaching the office to work, they should stay safely at home and work there, using their own device, securely accessing corporate apps and data to continue working once they are safe. IT teams are providing these capabilities today, and they can be activated with one click for instant productivity. With more natural disasters occurring, enterprises are prioritizing disaster recovery preparation higher than ever before. Why should it be any different during the flu season? Keeping its people safe should be paramount for companies, and allowing them to avoid the risk of catching a potentially deadly virus by staying away from the office at a particularly risky time should be a best practice for business continuity, and for keeping people safe. The COVID-19 outbreak is driving home the need to think differently about remote work.

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s CEO, said, “The crisis is a very, very big challenge to the society but also . . . gives people a chance to try [a] new way of living and a new way of working.”

The Workspot team wishes everyone affected by illness this season a fast and complete recovery.