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How can business manage the financial cost of rail strikes?

Colin Dean, major accounts director at M-Files, offers some advice for those struggling with the transport strikes

We have already had five days of planned disruption so far this month, with three days of national rail strikes and East Midlands Railway striking for an additional two. With Scotrail and Avanti West Coast announcing another set of strikes across late October and early November, unions seem to be gathering momentum, rather than relenting their charge.

To avoid suffering further losses, businesses must identify and address financial vulnerabilities that strike action exposes. This involves diligent planning well in advance of a pending strike so that when travel is halted, businesses can continue working seamlessly.

With negotiations between the government and the RMT union at a standstill, disruptions look set to continue all the way up to Christmas. Therefore, it is foolhardy for businesses to fail to prepare for further strikes, and they are highly likely to incur financial costs if they favour this approach.

The organisations that will minimise the impact of industrial action are those that leverage all available technology. This involves stamping out any potential threats to profitability and embracing collaborative tools, to ensure that employees are equally productive sitting at their kitchen table as they are in an office chair.

Don’t get complacent

Businesses should have a heightened awareness of the very real threat of ransomware attacks, with bad actors looking to take advantage during periods of disrupted activity.

According to recent research, ransomware attacks now impact one in 40 organisations every week, a rise of 59% from the previous year, with geopolitical tension and the prevalence of remote work pinpointed as key factors responsible for this increase.

When employees are lured away from the safety of the office, cyber criminals view this as a prime opportunity to strike. The disruption caused by industrial action will raise the threat of ransomware attacks, so businesses must ensure they are appropriately protected.

The cost of a ransomware attack can be extremely damaging, as businesses will suffer from downtime while tending to data breaches. Also, news of a ransomware attack can negatively impact an organisation’s reputation, meaning businesses affected may haemorrhage customers in the wake of a breach – another severe drain on profits.

Employees often use their own devices when working from home, making them far easier targets for cyber criminals, with breaches due to malpractice increasingly likely away from the watchful eyes of more experienced colleagues.

To neutralise this risk, businesses should equip all workers’ devices with a safe and secure document management platform, to ensure private information isn’t saved on hard drives with minimal protection, where it could easily fall into the wrong hands.

Don’t leave employees stranded

Rail strikes brutally expose businesses that do not have a reliable, efficient and easily accessible remote working network for all employees. If staff are unable to make it to work and aren’t equipped to perform their day-to-day role as a result, this is an immediate waste of resources and a financial hit.

Also, if workers cannot access the necessary resources or files when they are away from the office, this will have a direct impact on efficiency and will translate into monetary losses.

Remote working has been a prominent topic for a few years, and you would expect all organisations for whom this is possible to have their working-from-home strategy functioning without a hitch. However, according to XpertHR, the reality is that 95% of businesses have encountered challenges in implementing a hybrid working model.

Organisations should rise to this challenge by promoting the use of collaborative tools. This will facilitate clear communication between teams, even with staff away from their desks, so information is not misrepresented and no costly blunders are made.

Businesses should also employ an innovative document management strategy that makes all files accessible, regardless of whether employees are on-site or remote. By doing so, data won’t be stuck on office desktops or in filing cabinets, eliminating bottlenecks resulting from an inability to access crucial files.

Show clients you’re still up and running

During this turbulent period of strikes, recession and an energy crisis, clients want to know that the business they are paying for a service won’t crumble at the first sign of adversity.

Businesses can reassure clients that they are undeterred by strike action if they grant access to specific files, where the client can actually view the work that is being done. This makes it abundantly clear that companies are effectively negotiating any disruptions, and that productivity isn’t diminishing just because the office is out of reach.

The businesses that are best prepared will be unperturbed by any strike action, and external stakeholders will not notice any change in the way they operate compared to an average day.

The key to minimising financial implications is to ensure that remote or hybrid working models are watertight and that all employees feel comfortable performing their roles away from the safety of the office. Planning well in advance of any disturbances will set organisations on the right path to overcoming even the most challenging barriers.

Colin Dean is major accounts director at M-Files, a global leader in information management. He is an entrepreneurial executive who has worked in the insurance and financial services sector for over 25 years, with experience in business development of high-end complex IT solutions in the insurance software industry, including Content Services Platforms and Guidewire.

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