With clients scattered all along the west coast, our hearts are heavy and our thoughts are with those who we work closely with that have been affected by the California wildfires that are still burning through the state. During times of natural disaster, organizations often face a state of emergency. With countless uncertainties stemming from these unforeseen events, it is nearly impossible to be fully prepared for a tragic event such as a fire sweeping through your region.
Particularly in regions where certain types of disaster or inclement weather is a likely reality (e.g., wildfires in the west, hurricanes in the south, blizzards in the northeast), it is important to have a few proactive steps in place to make certain that there is a balance between your employees being taken care of and operations and productivity being impacted as little as possible:
- Formulate a plan. Revamp your organization’s Inclement Weather Policy (if you have one). No business can afford to be ambiguous when it comes to how your business operates under poor weather scenarios. Depending upon your region, think through the types of weather scenarios, document clear expectations in your Handbook, and communicate those expectations to your employees as they arise. Your Policy should also plainly state who is responsible for announcing any changes to normal business hours or possible closures.
- Address the question of employee pay. Whether your office will have partial-day closure, or consecutive closure days, communicate to your employees how their pay will be affected. Follow your state’s laws regarding pay during closures, and outline your procedure as clearly as possible in your Handbook for both exempt and non-exempt employees.
- Ensure that there are reliable means of communication during inclement weather for informing employees if they should return to work or stay home. Some organizations set up phone trees, email, or even use social media to keep their employees up-to-date. Also, just because your business isn’t physically open doesn’t mean it is shut down. You may consider training your staff to use Skype and Google Docs (the Cloud) to ensure your business is still maintaining productive standards while the weather rages.
As we lead into the Thanksgiving holiday next week, our thoughts are with all of our friends and colleagues and their families who have been impacted by the horrific events in California. Our warmest wishes for your safety and health are with you all.
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!
Winter is coming.
And with it, inclement weather. Most employers have an Inclement Weather Policy in place for when the elements make traveling conditions unsafe. Poorly constructed policies could sour the relationship between employer and employee: If an employee is called in when the conditions are bad, they could harbor resentment for their employer. Likewise, if an employee is taking advantage of a weak policy with the threat of a few flurries, it could easily upset an employer.
While there is no way for a Policy to cover every possible emergency weather situation, here are some suggestions on how to streamline your Inclement Weather Policies in order to keep your employees well-informed and prepared in the event of unsafe weather.