When the weather outside is frightful, organizations without clear policies to address impending or bad weather find themselves in often precarious situations. It is clear that employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe working environment and that includes them coming and going to the office. But, how do you balance that with the overall business needs of your organization? Particularly within Central PA, weather conditions can vary greatly across the region creating some difficult decisions based on where your office location(s) are and where your employee base lives. At the core of it all is where responsible policies come in to play and Alternative HR is pleased to offer their perspective on it.
With the advancement of technology and the advent of a virtual workforce, working from home is often an easy option to institute, but is it feasible based on your business model and your business practices?
There are many factors to consider when discussing how to handle weather related issues.
1. Do you have an existing policy? If yes, when was it last updated?
2. Do you have a clear direction on how you will handle closing your business should weather warrant it?
3. If you remain open when weather conditions deteriorate, or do you have liberal leave policies in place?
4. Do you have a work from home provision or do your employees utilize PTO or time off without pay when staying home from work?
The first discussion that needs to take place is between the Owners and a senior management team (or whoever is a key decision-maker). They need to be able to have an honest discussion about how weather related issues affect their departmental areas. It is important to have a uniform policy in place so you do not to have any disparate treatment among your team members.
Is your organization part of a local association or group of organizations that follow a similar pattern for shutting down or closing? Are you near a major government agency that will advertise when they close, for instance, in the city of Harrisburg, many organizations will watch what the state government offices will due and advise their employees to follow the same guidance that the state provides.
If you opt not to follow the above directions and want to incorporate your own policies, then it is important that you are clear on the following:
Who makes the ultimate call to delay or close?
How is this communicated effectively within the organization?
How can employees at all levels of the organization access this information?
It is important that the ultimate decision maker has access to local weather reports and is in a position to view the local conditions. For instance, the individual should be locally based in order to best understand what is happening on the ground and in the area where your employees will be traveling. It is best not to rely on someone who may be a few states away or even out of the region. If your organization relies on email for all communication and all of the employees have access to it, then this can be an effective method of communicating information. If not, then perhaps setting up a voice activated message that employees can call to hear what is happening can also be effective, or any combination therein. However the means and the methods utilized, what is most important is that the
policy is spelled out ahead of time and clearly communicated to all employees. Additionally, each year when the winter season arrives, it is important to remind the employees of what the policy is.
If your organization opts for a liberal leave policy for your employees, then it is also important to be clear about what choices employees have. For instance, if they opt not to make the trip in to work, are they charged PTO or is it time without pay? I would strongly recommend that you have a policy that allows employees to use PTO if they have it available for days like this.
As discussed earlier, does your organization have the ability for people to work from home? If so, is this benefit offered to all employees? Do you have quality control measures in place to ensure individuals are working from home and is there adequate security measures in place to protect proprietary data. Also, it is important that there is uniformity among staff if this benefit exists, and that there is a clear outline of who has this ability and why they may have it over and beyond other employees.
What is most important in determining a weather related policy for your organization is developing a policy that ensures employee safety that is communicated clearly and effectively and is applied in a fair and equitable fashion.