For the last few days, I have been hearing rumors of a winter storm hitting the Willamette Valley in Oregon. People are posting on social media both their excitement and concerns with the potential snow storm hitting our valley and shutting down or impeding travel. Well, today is the day of the big winter storm. As of 10am the snow was just working its way into a flurry and I was skeptical. As of noon, the snow was sticking and freezing rain was starting to fall. For our current conditions, check out this post’s photo (taken at the Oregon State Capitol).
Three friends of mine are working from home, the schools have closed, and even I am a bit concerned about getting home later today. What does your organization do when travel to or from work is anticipated to be dangerous? Have you started building a plan to keep your business running while most, if not all, employees are home?
Step One: Ensure you have adequate information on the weather and road conditions. Don’t just rely on Facebook or one news source. Check with your employees that live outside of the city or in areas that are more prone to snow and icy conditions (e.g., hilly areas).
Step Two: Review your policies and update as needed. If employees are sent home or asked not to come into work, do you pay them for the day or can they use PTO for that time off? What about a work at home policy? Have you created limits and clear policies about who and how working from home is managed?
Step Three: How do you communicate an office closure (or reduced staff) with your employees? Ensure that all employees understand what the communication method is. Email is a common method, but employees often don’t have access from home or the power is out. Do you have a master list of the cell phone numbers of all your employees for a quick text or messaging? Some larger organizations have an employee digital board like OfficeAccord (www.officeaccord.com) through which you can trigger an employee wide alert via text messages.
Step Four: If the office is completely closed, ensure that you are informing your clients in a timely manner. Email is usually the most effective method depending on the type of business. If larger, often a posting to the company’s webpage is done to notify clients and potential clients that offices may be closed or phone wait times may be extended due to inclement weather.
We are fortunate to have many technical options today that allow us to communicate without power (e.g. cell phones, battery backups, etc.). However, we need to ensure that our plans and technology is in place prior to the storm.
Above and beyond all else, stay safe!
We’re out here on the Oregon coast and it’s hailing like crazy. We’re a bit concerned about Aunt Beth getting back to Portland over the icy Van Duzer corridor. It’d be great to have a business-wide alert system to be in touch with all employees in one easy step. We’ll be looking into OfficeAccord. Meanwhile, thanks for the heads-up, and stay safe this winter season.