Unified Communications: Click to talk

Aug 23 2009   3:20AM GMT

Surviving Swine Flu Outbreak with UC

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

The United States government is warning schools and businesses to be prepared for a Swine Flu epidemic this Fall. VoIP and unified communications can be a critical component of business continuity during an outbreak like Swine Flu.

We got a brief taste of Swine Flu earlier this year, but it wasn’t really flu season in the northern hemisphere so it was sort of a flash in the pan. Even that brief glimpse wreaked havoc and caused panic around the world. Mexico completely shut down to prevent human interaction and contain the virus. Schools throughout the world were shut down to ensure the Swine Flu wouldn’t spread through the student population.

Pharmaceutical companies are hard at work cranking out the vaccine for the Swine Flu, but there may not be enough for everyone so high risk groups will get preference. Besides, you may not want to be at the front of the line for a brand new vaccine that was rushed through development.

The United States government has issued some guidance for how to prepare for and respond to an epidemic outbreak. One suggestion is to cross-train employees on critical functions to ensure that the function will get done. That reminds me of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I always wondered how everyone seemed to know everyone else’s job and be able to jump in at a moment’s notice. It would seem to me that being an engineer of a starship and being a navigator of a starship would be very different roles and that it would be tough to become expert at both. I guess it was in the script though.

Another suggestion in the government guidance is to minimize face-to-face contact. No face-to-face contact means no opportunity for germs to spread. That is where UC comes in. With audio and video conferencing, instant messaging, and VoIP voice service many job functions can be performed from anywhere. Those who think they may be getting sick should stay home and work virtually. If employees start reporting that they are sick, businesses should implement work from home even on a temporary basis to eliminate face-to-face contact and allow business to continue without risking an even larger outbreak among employees.

Make sure your company has a plan in place for how to prevent or respond to an outbreak, and make sure that unified communications is a key component of that plan.

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