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How to successfully reopen and future-proof your SME following COVID-19

SMEs have been widely affected by COVID-19 related shutdowns, but things are slowly returning to pre-pandemic conditions. By taking business continuity planning steps when reopening, you can future-proof your organisation and help keep it afloat through these uncertain times.

What are the unique challenges facing SMEs?

Business continuity planning isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Some of the issues that commonly affect small SMEs include:

  • A lack of real estate professionals to help with downsizing office space and redesigning traffic flows
  • Limited area to allow for social distancing
  • Scarce storage space for securing equipment and records
  • Difficulty supporting remote staff in the absence of digitally automated workflows
  • IT departments that are unprepared to support large numbers of remote workers on a long-term basis

Once loathed by many employers for its lack of accountability and transparency, remote work has gained newfound respect during the pandemic, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Many organisations now realise they can operate just as efficiently with a partly or fully remote workforce.

“Some businesses are even closing down several locations and going 100 per cent remote,” says Doug Wick, an Iron Mountain product manager and leader of the company’s Clean Start workplace transformation service.

How much office space do you really require?

Given the widespread success of remote workforces, one of the best business continuity planning steps to take initially is determining how much office space you need.

Some employees may want to work remotely full time, while some may be satisfied with coming into the office on alternate days. Other employees may need — or want — to be on-site, full time. When accounting for a range of preferences, you may find that you have a larger office space than you need. You can reclaim this space for social distancing, use it to consolidate multiple offices, sublet it or release it to the property owner.

Also, look at how much space is taken up by equipment that can be donated or passed off to a trusted third party. For example, many paper files are rarely accessed or are kept on hand solely for archival purposes. Digitising or storing these files off-site allows you to remove bulky filing cabinets and free up space, which can then be used for desks that allow for appropriate social distancing. 

If you go down this route, you’ll probably find that only a small fraction of your paper files requires scanning. “Customers may say they want to digitise ten filing cabinets, but we can determine that maybe only one drawer needs to be digitised,” Mr Wick says.

Can any of your workflows be automated?

This is also an excellent time to look at implementing digital workflows. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a change in culture, Wick notes, since employees tend to become set in their ways. Digitising important records makes them accessible from anywhere, but this solution won’t benefit your organisation if employees hold onto old habits. “You’ll find people creating files electronically and then printing them to store in a file,” Mr Wick explains.

So, when you’re adopting a new digital workflow, take a disciplined approach in planning which tools will be used, how they’ll be rolled out, and how they’ll be taught to your employees. Ideally, you’ll want to avoid some of the inventive workarounds used during the pandemic to share and store information, as these aren’t necessarily compatible with security and compliance standards. For example, snapping a photo of a sensitive document with a smartphone and sharing it via email can create a huge security gap if the photo isn’t deleted from the device.

Iron Mountain Clean Start® can be a lifeline for SMEs as they navigate this new normal. The Clean Start assessment provides recommendations necessary for organisation leaders to assess their readiness to reopen. Iron Mountain’s experts are also on hand to recommend workplace adaptation strategies, provide tips on creating efficient traffic flows, suggest processes that can be digitised, and identify assets that can be moved to low-cost off-site storage.

Clean Start brings enterprise-class resources to small and midsize organisations, enabling them to implement business continuity planning steps that can restart operations safely, efficiently and with an eye toward the future — whatever it may bring.

More about Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) is the global leader in innovative storage and information management services, storing and protecting billions of valued assets, including critical business information, highly sensitive data, and cultural and historical artifacts. Founded in 1951 and trusted by more than 225,000 customers worldwide, Iron Mountain helps customers CLIMB HIGHER™ to transform their businesses. 

Through a range of services including digital transformation, data centres, secure records storage, information management, secure destruction, and art storage and logistics, Iron Mountain helps businesses bring light to their dark data, enabling customers to unlock value and intelligence from their stored digital and physical assets at speed and with security while helping them meet their environmental goals.


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