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MANAGING THE OFFICE

Dealing with winter weather

As winter weather arrives with force in many parts of the country, it brings a reminder of the impact snowstorms have on businesses both large and small.

Winter storms cause frustration for business owners, management, and HR professionals as they deal with the disruption each new snowflake brings. Inclement weather related issues include early school closings and the subsequent need to address childcare for some, “snow-a-phobics” – those who are just not comfortable driving in the snow and massive traffic slowdowns tied to poor road conditions. 

HR and workplace subject matter expert David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, offers advice to help businesses handle snow events to limit disruptions, while keeping employees safe and productive:

  • Communicate. The moment the snow starts falling is the moment the office starts wondering how much longer before they are told about plans to close early. There is a direct correlation between this gap in communication and office productivity, which tends to fall off a cliff with each flake. The more you share your plans, and the earlier you do so, (even if the plan is to “wait and see how things are at 2:00 p.m.” before deciding anything), the less the distractions and their impact.
  • Deal with the parents. Amidst all offices are those who have kids that are likely to be getting off a school bus two to three hours early, with no after school care because it has been canceled due to weather issues. These employees will need to be home to receive their children, and even worse, they will start to be the most fearful population when the first flakes fall, worrying that they will not get home in time to be there for their kids. Have a plan for dealing with this population now, perhaps by just letting them know they should discuss any needs to exit early with their manager.
  • Don’t ignore the warriors. This population is a mix of those who are unfazed by the snow, as well as those who know they cannot go anywhere due to the business necessity that they stay at the office. As such, reward them. If they are there during mealtime, feed them at your cost. If they need to stay past a point where it is safe for them to drive home, get them a hotel room reservation…now. Even consider giving them an extra day off or a spot bonus.
  • Those from Buffalo vs. those from Atlanta. The ones from Buffalo scoff at the idea that we close schools around here when there is less than 2 feet of snow. Those from Atlanta (or similar) can’t believe we would ever willingly drive our cars on any flakes of ice, let alone inches of it. Offices are filled with a mix of these folks. As such, remember that tolerances for snowy driving and comfort levels are going to differ. Respect that vs. mock it.
  • Have some remote work plans. Have a plan in place, ideally one crafted months before the first snow, which allows for some / all employees to work from home during these snow events. While the distractions may be there, especially for those caring for kids who are not in school due to the weather, you still can get some productive time from your people.

Editor’s picks:

Staff and remote access: more than patient information is at risk


For a Colorado clinic, telecommuting fills the gap in long-term absences


8 pitfalls of letting employees work from home


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