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Storm hits Hampton Roads; Get the most from your employees when it counts

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The rare winter snow storm in Coastal Virginia means overtime and stressful work demands for many local businesses like power crews, snow removal crews and employees trying to keep shops open and safe for customers. This added short term stress combined with normal winter absenteeism spikes for this time of year, can mean difficult management situations for businesses. Last January absenteeism levels reached a 5 year high “when 3.3 million people who usually work full time worked part time because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment and 1.3 million employed people did not work at all during the survey reference week because of illness or injury”(1).

Snow and slippery roads also mean closings and lots of them from schools to after care programs to sports and extracurricular activities adding child care dilemmas to the long list of employee burdens and reasons for not performing up to par if they come into work at all.

So how do you as a manager or business owner get the most out of your employees, when you need the most from them? Simple rewards and incentives can go a long way in increasing attendance, productivity, and quality, and don’t have to cost you a fortune. Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, offers the following suggestions (2):

1. Give first choice of work schedules to employees with the best attendance records
2. Offer an attendance bonus of cash or non-cash prizes each period
3. Offer backup child care (or allow employees to switch shifts)

Humor, appreciation, and rewards in any form are often welcomed, remembered, and can go a long way in increasing performance and attitude. If employees are angry, upset, or stressed they most likely will pass those feelings on to customers. Humor can diffuse many situations and change the whole mood of the environment. It can also be a pleasant surprise coming from the boss.

Simple, expressed appreciation can also never be underestimated. The old adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar is timelessly true. Despite the stressful circumstances, try to resist barking at employees and instead take a minute to thank them for showing up and giving it their all. It’s hard enough to brave the cold, leave the kids, and work under stress; but having the boss creative a negative and unpleasant work environment can mean the difference between coming in the next shift and maybe continuing to come in at all.

Finally, finish the shift, the day, or the week with a reward or celebration as a thank you for the hard work. This doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Food, early dismissal, a day to wear jeans, or a small party can help make employees feel appreciated and motivated to step up and perform when the next storm comes into town.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Editor’s Desk, Illness-related work absences in January 2013 highest since February 2008 on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2013/ted_20130219.htm (visited January 22, 2014).
2. Nelson, Bob. 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. New York: Workman Pub., 2005. Print.

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