Overcoming the “Plague”: Team Work, Disaster Recovery, & Staffing Model

Hooray for Spring!  I’m so thankful for the warmer days, longer sunshine and the smell of fresh landscaping. Hope you feel the same. The winter seemed never ending, particularly during a three week period in March.  During that stretch, we felt like a plague struck the office. Muscle aches, high fevers, fatigue, congestion, and much more descended upon our team in ways we’d never seen before. For a few of those days, some 40% of our support staff was out at the same time! I’ve been thinking a lot about that challenging season, and wanted to share my insights.

First, I’d like to express my admiration and gratitude for our team. Each of those who were healthy enough to work put in extra time and effort, so to maintain service to our clients as well as possible. In truth our service wasn’t perfect, but I’d guess that we met our target response times for some 90% of our issues in that period. That’s amazing considering how short-staffed we were, and a tribute to our team’s effort.

This experience also reminded me of the importance of our disaster planning. We frequently help clients with preparing their infrastructure for backups and security, but it would be wise for us to consider every business process and how prepared we are for ‘disasters’. That might be in technology or finance or insurance or physical infrastructure and more. Our staff works extremely hard to cross-train on various client issues and maintains detailed documentation, so to reduce risk of any one person being the only one who can serve a client. This obviously served us well when the plague hit our office. 

Finally this experience got me thinking about our staffing model. During our staff lunch on April 5, I shared the first two points above with our team and congratulated them on their collective awesomeness. I also joked with them that we were 40% over-staffed! That’s not true and we will not be laying anyone off, but I did challenge them to think about our productivity capacity. If we can maintain our service level with 40% less staff, then can we be more productive than we’ve been when everyone is here? Our business cannot afford to be so tight that we leave no margin for error, but we should also explore ways we can consistently perform at a high-level. Our team rose to the occasion during this three week season and we’re trying to challenge ourselves to perform at similar levels more consistently. 

What about your business? Here are a few questions you might think about:

  • Does your team rally around each other when some are unavailable or struggling? 
  • What can you do to foster greater team culture?
  • In what areas have you considered disaster planning?
  • Do you have your critical business process written down, such that others can carry on the work?
  • How reliant are you on key individuals for critical business functions, and what would you do if that person was unavailable? 
  • Can your business, processes and staff be more productive than they are currently? 

I love our team and am so grateful to work with them. This recent experience validates our collective confidence, and yet reminds us that we’ll always be on the lookout for disasters. 


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