The Role of Flexible Workspace in Disaster Recovery Planning

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on how vulnerable businesses can be when faced with unprecedented challenges, and the demand for flexible space for contingency purposes is only (we think) going to increase.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on how vulnerable businesses can be when faced with unprecedented challenges.
  • As a result, demand for flexible space for contingency purposes is likely to increase in the near future. 
  • Space-as-a-Service offerings make for ideal disaster recovery workspaces because they are furnished, managed and, crucially, connected, meaning businesses can move in and be operational almost instantly.

Back in 2019 (although it was only last year, I think you’ll agree it feels like a lifetime ago), Goldman Sachs set up a disaster recovery trading floor in one of WeWork’s London offices. 

Situated in Holborn, Central London, the backup site is close to the company’s global headquarters and is designed to enable the bank to continue operating should its HQ face significant disruption.

Flexible workspaces have been piquing the interest of large corporates looking for secure yet flexible disaster recovery facilities – and other types of workspace – for a while now. 

In fact, IWG’s 2019 Workspace Survey found that 75% of FTSE 100 companies incorporate some element of flexible workspace into their property portfolio. 

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on how vulnerable businesses can be when faced with unprecedented challenges, and the demand for flexible space for contingency purposes is only (we think) going to increase.

All companies should be reviewing, testing and updating their business continuity and disaster recovery plans to minimise disruption to operations in both the short and long term, if they aren’t already doing so.

After all, the longer it takes to rectify an issue, the harder it is to recover. 

What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is part of an organisation’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP). It outlines how work can continue effectively following a major disruption that damages or destroys a business’ assets, including IT infrastructure, data and physical workspace.

From natural disasters to cyber attacks, a comprehensive DRP will factor in as many potential disruptions as possible. It will describe a series of solutions that will ensure critical systems are protected and the business remains operational. 

In the case of Goldman Sachs and other banks and financial services groups, regulators have outlined broad guidelines for Business Continuity Plans designed to maintain the resilience of the financial system. 

However all businesses, regardless of sector, should have a disaster recovery plan that can be executed at a moment’s notice. 

DRP: Key benefits

  • Potentially saves lives
  • Protects jobs
  • Builds stakeholder confidence
  • Ensures compliance
  • Mitigates financial risks
  • Protects brand reputation

Types of disasters to plan for – examples

One of the first things a DRP should include is an analysis of potential disruptions. Every scenario should be considered, even if it isn’t likely to happen. 

As the business begins to list potential incidents, they should organise them in order of how likely they are to happen. Afterwards, they should consider how each of them may affect the business and all its stakeholders, including employees and customers.

Natural threat examples

  • Fire 
  • Flood
  • Hurricane
  • Earthquake
  • Landslide
  • Typhoon
  • Snow & ice
  • Insects & Rodents

Human activity examples

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  • Lost data
  • Vandalism
  • Civil disorder
  • Theft
  • Terrorism
  • Strikes
  • Epidemic/ Pandemic (e.g. COVID-19)

Technical hazards examples

  • Software failure
  • Gas leak
  • Toxic spill
  • Building structure failure
  • Biological contamination
  • Sewage failure

Why are serviced offices suited to disaster recovery?

Disaster Recovery Office Space is a crucial part of any DRP. Simple put, it is an alternative workspace a business can move into should a disaster strike– much like Goldman Sachs’ contingency trading floor at WeWork in Central London.

Serviced offices make for ideal disaster recovery workspaces because they are furnished, managed and, crucially, connected, meaning businesses can move in and be operational almost instantly, keeping disruption and downtime to a minimum. 

Flexible disaster recovery space is available across the globe and can accommodate businesses of any size, from small startups to teams of 100 or more. 

But that’s not to say businesses need to secure a space and keep it empty until disaster strikes. 

Although some affluent firms spend large sums of money to secure backup offices, doing so isn’t financially viable for most companies.

To prepare, the following measures can be taken:

  • Keeping track of all flexible workspaces in the area and availability
  • Outlining a remote working plan for employees
  • Renting space in a local coworking space temporarily
  • Making an agreement with a neighboring business to share space in case of disaster

Things to factor into a DRP

As well as finding alternative office space, businesses should consider the following steps. These are applicable when planning for a disaster that could result in the loss of physical workspace (but not necessarily your production capabilities).

1. Highlight critical jobs

Make a list of all the critical jobs that would have to be relocated to an alternative location in order for the business to remain operational. Also, identify all the roles that can be done remotely, either from home or in a coworking space. 

2. Create an inventory

Create an inventory of all the necessary office furniture and equipment people will need to be able to do their jobs, from furniture (e.g. chairs and desks) to technical equipment. Then consider “behind the scenes” equipment such as backup servers.

3. Outline a budget

Businesses will also need to estimate how much it will cost to relocate their business and provide staff with replacement equipment. Disaster Recovery Office Spaces in flexible workspaces are convenient as they typically involve a monthly fee.

4. Inform other people

Sharing should also be part of the strategy. After all, what use is a DRP if it gets erroneously deleted or destroyed in a fire. It should be shared with others and  copies should be stored securely both offsite and digitally. 

If you’d like to learn more about disaster recovery offices, particularly in light of recent events, we’d recommend the BBC’s article, How Firms Move to Secret Offices Amid COVID-19 by Chris Baraniuk.

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