Science has come a long way, but we’re still subject to the whims of weather and other natural phenomena. And wherever your employees are located, there’s a chance they’ll experience inclement weather -- blizzards, fires, tornadoes or even hurricanes. Unpredictable weather has always been a factor for HR departments to consider, but these days we’re seeing consistent patterns of extreme weather and natural phenomena -- impacting our lives at an increasing pace.
You generally won’t know when these things are going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared. Putting an inclement weather policy in place can standardize processes and expectations, helping you to avoid untimely interruptions at work and ensuring employees feel secure and well-cared-for.
Here are some strategies for balancing employee safety with productivity in the workplace during a weather event.
Put a Comprehensive Plan in Place
It might be a sunny day right now, but bad weather can develop in a matter of hours. It’s important to be prepared for the worst, and that means having a plan. “It's important to be weather-aware and have policies and procedures in place before severe weather hits,” says Jessica Miller-Merrell, chief innovation officer at Workology. “Not only do you need safe locations to go to if there is a tornado, but you also need to have defined company policies regarding paid time off, remote work during closures and other communication expectations.”
Communication is particularly important. Establishing a communication infrastructure in the event of a natural disaster is critical. Managers need to know with whom to communicate and when, Millier-Merrell says. To make things easier in the event that disaster strikes, you can pre-plan emergency messaging, she says.
Incorporate Remote Work
Having an infrastructure that allows remote work as part of standard operations can help deflect some of the pressure during a disaster. If your organization already has procedures and expectations surrounding remote work, it should be relatively easy to implement an addendum that applies to remote work during inclement weather.
Even if you don’t have that infrastructure in place, you can still compile a list of procedures outlining ways to remain productive from home. “Allowing remote work is part of an inclement weather policy,” Miller-Merrell says. When bad weather is on the horizon, managers can meet with employees to determine what work should be prioritized and what can be achieved from home in the event of inclement weather.
Be Flexible: Always Expect the Unexpected
No matter how much planning goes into your organization’s inclement weather policies, sometimes events are simply beyond your control. Power outages may prevent work from being accomplished through no fault of the employee or the organization, Miller-Merrell says. In these scenarios, it can be helpful to provide emergency PTO hours for employees.
Ultimately you can’t know the extent of a potential disaster until it’s occurring. “It’s important to be prepared for extended road closures and ways to provide support to employees who were impacted by disaster,” Miller-Merrell says. “Employers need to be prepared for a variety of situations and scenarios and find a way to act quickly and compassionately.”