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Prepare your employees for winter weather closings

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Hard to believe it, but 11 months ago, the D.C. Metro area was buried under three feet of snow, a storm that was a mere prelude to the multiple large snowfalls of February 2010.

Now I’m not meterologist and I'm not predicting another “Snowmageddon” this winter. As I look at this photo from last winter, I'm reminded that it's never too early to pull out Ye Olde Inclement Weather Policy in preparation for snowy, icy driving conditions.

So you don't have an Inclement Weather Policy, or the most recent update references a rotary dial phone? Well, here are some key elements that should be included in any policy and emergency notification plan:

  • What is your policy for closing the business or office during inclement weather? Do you follow the Federal government’s lead? Does an executive make that call? Do you identify “essential personnel” and arrange for lodging at a nearby hotel so those key staff members are available?
  • How do you notify employees of a closure, or that the operation will remain open? How soon will the decision be made and announced? Do you have a dedicated inbound phone number with a recording? Will you contact the local TV or radio station to announce? Who is going to notify the switchboard or answering service? Is the staff small enough that you can rely on a calling tree and if so, do all the callers have updated contact info for all staff?
  • Are there opportunities for employees to work remotely? If not, do you offer flex time where employees can make up lost hours by working a slightly longer shift in the same pay period?

Once you’ve addressed these key points -- and your policy and procedures are up-to-date -- get the word out to your employees so they know what to expect this winter. Send out an email, post a flyer in the breakroom and/or at the employee entrance, have managers announce at staff meetings, and so on. Don't forget to communicate to contractors and temps, too. They are generally not included in email distribution lists and staff meetings, so they may not get the word through normal channels.

Don’t wait until the first snowfall to address inclement weather issues. Start preparing – and communicating – now. That way you'll have plenty of time to head to the grocery store for bread, milk and toilet paper at the first sign of snow.

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