Long range weather forecasts are notoriously difficult to get right. Nevertheless, when recent reports suggest we might have snow as early as October this year (just to top off a lovely summer), it’s time to start thinking about it. Are you ready?
What should you be doing? How can you prepare? Here are ten tips to get your business ready:
1. Make detailed plans, well in advance. You need to sit down with everyone involved and look at what needs to be done, by whom, and when. Don’t just stick to what you’ve done in the past but try to think afresh about how to approach every aspect of bad weather planning.
2. Find out the legal situation. Read up on employment policies on severe weather conditions so that you know what’s reasonable to expect of your staff and what’s not. The policies cover issues including entitlement to time off; entitlement to paid or unpaid leave; working from home; flexible working hours to avoid hour traffic and travel; and other provisions relating to your business and operational requirements. Don’t forget, proper consultation with staff is a requirement, and getting buy-in early on provides you with that framework to manage issues when the bad weather hits.
3. Staying at home doesn’t mean staying in bed. Home workers are often more efficient than office-based workers – and certainly more efficient than people who turn up after a three hour journey and then spend an hour discussing how bad it was, and how soon they should leave to get home. With the right rules – and technology – in place you can make sure work gets done and make staff very grateful to you too.
4. The right technology outside the office. You need to work this out in advance, or it won’t work. Do staff have laptops? Do they have decent internet connection at home? Can they easily and securely access work servers remotely – and do they actually know how to do it?
5. The right technology inside the office. How is your in-house network set up? Can it be accessed remotely? What if there’s a power failure? Do you have up to date records of every member of staff’s mobile and home numbers – and can you access them remotely if you can’t get in yourself?
6. Communicate. Keep in touch with everyone throughout the course of the bad weather – make sure they feel involved (and encouraged to keep working, instead of digging out their driveway). Conference facilities and chat software can be really handy for keeping a “live” conversation going.
7. Contingency planning. What will you do if the server fails and no one can access anything? How good is your back up system? If the snow brings down power lines, is there any risk of you losing data permanently? It might be worth considering cloud based solutions, even just as a back up, to ensure staff can access enough information to keep a skeleton service running.
8. Encourage staff to plan ahead. What will they do if they can’t get out of their street? How will they assess the travel situation and make a call on whether to set off? How and when will they let you know if they’re not coming? It’s important to take into consideration the advice set out by the emergency services. If the police have issued a warning not to travel unless absolutely necessary, then this should be seriously considered and perhaps should not be ignored. It’s crucial to assess what is reasonable risk for your employees and to advise them accordingly.
9. Buy decent equipment. We’ve invested in snow tyres for company cars, after too much slipping and sliding last year. It’s worth buying in grit supplies before they sell out, as they always seem to – you don’t want anyone getting to work and then falling over in the car park. We also encourage staff to put together “winter packs” for their cars, with shovels, blankets, in-car phone chargers and even flasks of soup. If they get stuck on the motorway, or in a bank of snow, at least we know they’ll be warm and fed.
10. Bring in expertise. You can’t know, or do, everything yourself. Sometimes it’s worth turning to the experts and listening to what they have to say. And do that early in the process, rather than in a last minute panic when people are trapped under snowdrifts trying to get to work, and you’re losing business because of it.
The main message is to plan, plan, and plan some more – make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them, what they can do if they can’t get in – and do lay down some rules about what weather is “bad enough”, too, in case anyone starts pushing the boundaries too far.
Margery McBain is MD of Gravitate HR.
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