By Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive,

The tube strikes are a serious matter. Not only will the 48-hour tube strike cause commuting chaos but companies are facing several days of disruption and a massive loss of profits. The Federation of Small Businesses estimated that the London underground strikes in early February cost small businesses, which make up about 99 percent of London companies, about £600 million ($1 billion) in lost working hours, business and productivity*. The financial impact of the strike was based on a poll of its members that found businesses took a hit of about £1,297 pounds each due to cancelled meetings, staff absences, and difficulty transporting good and services. However, there is also a loss of demand for goods and fewer customers which add to the problems.

Many businesses should rightly be concerned about the potential impact five days of tube strikes will have on their businesses. Businesses need to draft contingency plans for such events as these. So what can they do to safeguard themselves against events beyond their control such as transport strikes, snow and flooding that stop people being able to make it into the office and minimise their losses?

Many employees already have email ‘on the go’ through their smartphones, but while email is probably the single most important business tool today it is not sufficient for most businesses to work efficiently and most businesses require access to their accounts and systems as well as email. One solution for providing a full businesses solution which is remote yet safe is to upgrade the IT system to a cloud-based ‘Hosted Desktop service’ which will give employees access to all their business applications from any location using any device including smartphones, laptops and netbooks. Having access to their entire suite office applications, employees won’t need to be in the office at all and can carry on as usual working from home. Although many companies these days offer their employees access to their work emails at home, unless companies introduce a fully supported hosted desktop service, employees can’t access their usual desktop applications, limiting their ability to work at home as productively as they would in the office. Unlike Virtual Private Network solutions which are sometimes ‘bandwidth hungry’, the Hosted Desktop works well through regular home broadband and even using a 3G mobile network. Adding to the Hosted Desktop a Voice over IP solution allows the employees to call customers from home, using the office line which means that working from home provides not only a seamless IT experience, but a seamless telephony experience.

A hosted desktop solution provides businesses with a contingency plan for unforeseen events that make travelling into the office difficult and it also offers a whole host of other benefits such as cost savings on IT, the ability to offer employees flexible working and improved security. Most importantly, it ensures it can be business as usual at all times, even during tube strikes.

While I recognise it is not practical for all type of professions to work from home, there are jobs which can effectively be carried out remotely with use of a laptop, a mobile phone or a diverted phone. Perhaps if more businesses had cloud computing in place which enabled employees to continue working effectively at home during tube strikes and other types of incidents, the roads, buses and parking spaces will be clearer for those who really do need to travel into or around London.