Before the next Polar Vortex strikes, human resource managers may want to review internal policy to ensure that employees are safe and business doesn’t come to a halt when the snowflakes start to fall or another extreme situation occurs. Below are four areas to consider in shaping corporate guidelines to deal with challenging weather.
Record low temperatures this winter have led to cancellations at schools and businesses across the country. Management at companies that already had bad weather policies in place likely experienced far less stress about dealing with the storms than their counterparts who hadn’t planned ahead. Before the next Polar Vortex strikes, human resource managers may want to review internal policy to ensure that employees are safe and business doesn’t come to a halt when snowflakes start to fall or another extreme situation occurs. Below are four areas to consider in shaping corporate guidelines to deal with challenging weather:
What Constitutes an Emergency?
Certain natural disasters are given situations in which workers would no longer be required to come into the office. Any time that employees’ lives could be in imminent danger during a commute or while remaining at their traditional workplace, the expectation should be that their safety comes first. Sometimes, however, a predicament arises that may be less clear in terms of its risk factor, such as extreme temperatures. How a company chooses to deal with these situations should be determined as soon as possible to avoid misunderstandings or indecision when they occur. Additionally, these methods should be included in both the company handbook and clarified during staff training and development, as well as new hire orientation.
When and how will employees be alerted?
Planning out a course of action is only the first step. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it’s just as important to determine a means of implementing the procedure during a state of emergency. In developing bad weather policy, management should be sure to cover several important questions.
First, in the event of situations deemed severe enough to alter or cancel normal business functioning, when should employees be alerted? Canceling in-office attendance preemptively could lead to inefficiencies, particularly if the business is located somewhere that bad weather is a frequent possibility. Waiting until conditions are already challenging, however, could increase the risk of injury or lengthen the commute for workers. Finding a balance between these two will require some foresight and a bit of luck, but should be the ideal when determining a time to let employees know about changes in regular business.
A second point to consider is how workers will be alerted. If the decision is made hours in advance, e-mail may be the optimal route. This option is also ideal for mass communication. For shorter-term updates or cancellations, however, text or voice mail could prove more expedient in spreading the message. Utilizing either method, a company should designate a human resource staff member to put the alert in motion. This person may require specialized management training, as the role is vital to the company’s well-being. After appropriate members decide upon workplace changes due to weather, he or she will be responsible for spreading the message to all departments and staff.
How do expectations differ on days “off”?
When traditional work hours are called off, it can be easy for employees to slip into a sort of “snow day” mentality. Working from outside of the office should not necessitate a significant dip in productivity. Rather, management should outline ahead of time what workers are expected to complete during irregular business days. Human resource managers may consider implementing an employee training course that offers suggestions and teaches employees how to use online tools so when they are connected they perform normal duties efficiently.
Businesses should also have in place a means of dealing with employees who take liberties on non-office days and perform far below their normal efficiency during such situations. Inc. Magazine recommends that the corporate handbook include a section on what conditions constitute under-performance when working remotely during inclement weather, and outline the resulting penalties. For salaried staff, an abuse of policy may result in the day counting toward their total vacation or leave time allowance. Similarly, hourly workers could risk losing pay for time wasted. Because productivity can be difficult to measure, it’s important for companies to have specific guidelines set up that set clear expectations for out-of-office performance.
In non-emergency circumstances, certain employees whose role is particularly vital to business functioning may still be required to come into the office. According to SHRM, these staff members should be alerted of their exempt status well in advance and specific protocol for ensuring their attendance may also be necessary.
How does policy align with corporate values?
Concerns about the bottom line and maintaining efficiency are certainly valid topics for corporate managers to consider, but concern for employees’ well-being should always be the top priority. A business that puts its employees’ safety before its profits will almost certainly display a healthier and more desirable environment than one that seems most concentrated on making money at any expense.