Snow storms have made their first sweep across the United States. Winter is here. And as we waited for the chill and the snow, many regions of the United States were rampaged by floods, hurricanes, and forest fires.
Natural disasters are surprise attacks that managers and business owners must pro-actively prepare to endure. Natural disasters are business killers. According to Can Your Organization Survive a Natural Disaster?, “25% of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.” It’s a depressing and unsurprising fact.
Natural disasters can cause:
- supply chains to slow or halt.
- the temporary closure of the company.
- employee (talent) injury and death.
- employee absenteeism.
- the inability to meet client contracts and potential loss of clients.
- a decrease in the number of customers.
- damage to a business’s premises and equipment.
- regulatory fines
Each potential fallout of natural disaster can be an expense that the company cannot afford. It’s vital that companies invest in creating disaster plans to counteract the economic fallout of an unexpected natural disaster.
How in-depth should the plan be? It really depends on how likely you are to experience a natural disaster. Locations prone to disasters should invest more time and money into protecting their business from natural disasters. Keep in mind: every dollar utilized for disaster prep can prevent seven dollars of economic loss down the road.
Below are a few simple ways that managers can help their company prevent economic loss down the road:
Employee Work Policies During Natural Disasters
It’s a good idea to have a general sense of whether employees will be expected to work directly before, during, and in the aftermath of a potentially dangerous weather event. Forcing employees to weather the storm to commute to and from work can be dangerous. It could lead to injuries or fatalities that could cost the employee and company long-term.
Here are a few talent management strategies and policies to enact during a disaster.
Create employee evacuation (time-off work) policies. You might consider creating a case-by-case evacuation approval policy. Even if there is not a state-wide mandatory evacuation, individuals might live in particularly dangerous locations. A written policy will ensure that employees who need to leave the area have that ability without fearing job loss.
Create a more lax ‘bad weather’ late policy. If you expect employees to work, you might consider not enforcing super strict attendance policies. Yes, employees should know to wake up earlier during bad weather to arrive at work on time, but it’s often hard to tell how much longer the commute will be until you’re on the road.
You need to ask yourself what’s better: employees arriving at work safely ten to twenty minutes late or employees arriving on time if they aren’t derailed by an accident due to risky driving.
Specialized employee safety policies. Weather, unfortunately, can slow down employee output. This is especially true for jobs that are conducted outside. Employees rushing through jobs and slipping off of slippery roofs (for example) will could cost the company more in the long run.
How can unsafe work policies hurt your business? Employee injuries could cause your workers comp insurance to be racked up, employees to be on light duty for weeks, and open the company to a potential employee lawsuits. Managers, HR, and employees should work together to create a reasonable and safe ‘bad weather’ productivity policy.
Implement an emergency remote work policy. If the job can be completed from the home, you might consider test driving a remote work policy. You could allow employees to work from home directly before, during, and after the natural disaster.
Not sure if it’s a safe bet? Don’t quite trust your employees to be productive? Currently three million Americans have the ability to work from home. That number is projected to increase by 63% over the next five years, especially as more millennials enter and change the workplace.
Companies wouldn’t be gradually introducing a remote policy if they couldn’t ensure that employees were productive. If you do it right, short-term remote work can help the company prevent productivity loss due to absenteeism and employee injury.
You should, if you implement the policy, lay out:
- who is eligible.
- when the work must take place.
- how many hours can be worked.
- how they will and how often they must communicate with management.
- how the company will ensure productivity standards are met.
Natural disasters, if not properly prepared for, can be catastrophic to small and medium sized businesses. Due to the threat of extreme weather events, managers and business owners should create disaster prep workplace policies. Even if small businesses cannot afford a complicated disaster prep plan, they can begin by creating disaster preparation policies that can help them ensure employee safety and productivity long-term.