By Daniel Hunter

With London underground maintenance staff declaring a three-day walkout from today (Tuesday), many small businesses across the capital will be frustrated at the potential loss of productivity and revenue from staff unable to make it into the office.

Meanwhile, talks continue with fuel tanker drivers over possible strikes that have the potential to stop employees all over the country from being able to commute to work, due to petrol shortages.

Despite the significant impact transport strikes have had on UK businesses during the last three years, many SMEs have still not put in place contingency plans in case employees are unable to make it to work.

A poll of 225 small businesses and enterprises by the remote access provider LogMeIn, found that 53% of small businesses are unprepared for events that could prevent employees’ access to the office, compared to just 18% of enterprises.

“The customers I speak with are concerned about the impact that disruptive events like transit strikes can have on employee absenteeism and their business,” said Armen Zildjan, Vice President — Sales and Marketing, LogMeIn EMEA. “But having a plan in place can make a big difference.”

“Not only do businesses lose out financially as the disrupted commute eats into normal office hours, the strikes also mean that employees walk into the office tired and frustrated from their journey. Instead, employees should be encouraged to work from home and be given the tools that enable them to stay productive when out of the office–from communications to remote computer access. This can not only minimise the impact of strikes, but can actually allow companies to be more flexible in their approach any disruption.”

The tools that employees need to remain productive outside of work are available today — from smartphones and tablets, to remote access and screen-sharing software. But SMEs need to ensure that they have the IT infrastructure in place to support remote working, and that their employees are familiar with best practices for its use.

How can employees ensure the remote connection is secure? Is it acceptable to host a client meeting in your home? Will your home phone and internet charges be reimbursed? From inexpensive netbooks to free remote access, the technical and cost barriers to entry for remote working are almost non-existent. However, by setting a remote working policy, businesses can help employees understand when it’s acceptable to work remotely, what’s expected of them while doing so, and best practices for productivity and job satisfaction.

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