Over the past few months, treasury departments have had to quickly adapt their processes and technology to an environment in which many employees are working remotely. AFP’s latest Treasury in Practice Guide explores the changes that organizations are making and how they are folding them into their broader business continuity plans (BCPs).
CHANGES TO WORK PROCESSES
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, AFP has reached out to our members to see how they are addressing it. Industries that are deemed “essential” may still have many employees working in their facilities. On the whole, companies generally have as many employees working from home as they can.
AFP Chairman Bob Whitaker, CTP, is senior vice president of corporate finance for DHL, an essential service provider. Logistics companies are designated as essential because they’re a key cog in the supply chain; they make sure the products arrive on time in stores. “So from an operational perspective, we're trying to keep it as much business as normal,” he explained in a recent video interview with AFP.
That said, treasury and other functions in the back office who are not directly part of the operations have been working from home. Whitaker’s team is based in Florida, so they tend to be a little bit ahead of the BCP curve because they need to annually prepare for hurricanes. They were already set up with laptops and phones so that they can remain in contact with one another.
However, when a function such as treasury has to work from home for an extended period of time, Whitaker has some recommendations. First, treasury should create a phone tree. “Make sure that there's an accurate, up-to-date list of everybody's phone numbers, and build a tree of who should call the next down on the line, etc., just to check in from time to time make sure everybody's okay,” Whitaker said. “That's less necessary when you're not facing power outages and whatnot because you can check in online.”
Additionally, he recommends that leaders provide their teams with regular updates about what’s going on with the department and the company. “I think there's a lot of nervousness out in the marketplace on how companies are weathering this and how this is going to ultimately impact employees,” Whitaker said. “So lots of communication is always important to keep folks focused on doing the job and to take out some of the nervousness.”
Working from home also can put a strain on technology and systems, and companies need to plan accordingly. DHL, like many companies, uses a virtual private network (VPN). But with so many employees logging into it at once, DHL quickly realized that its capacity is severely limited. It never envisioned this many employees at the same time trying to dial in from home. “So we've had to take measures in the company to instruct people how to limit their usage and log off when they're not needing it,” Whitaker said.
Additionally, because work is all done on company computers, access to the internet is running through the VPN. Therefore, DHL began blocking websites to prevent people from using the VPN and work computers to surf the web, catch up on the news, etc. “They should be using their home computer through their home internet service for that,” Whitaker said.
Finally, because DHL is a global company, it has been shifting capacity where it is needed. “So when the Europeans are working, we can shift over and use some of our U.S. technology when the Americans haven't started the workday yet,” he said.
For more insights, download Agile Business Continuity: Keeping Operations Running in Unprecedented Times, underwritten by Kyriba.