The days are short, Christmas adverts have been launched (ridiculously early) and thermostat wars rumble on in offices across the land. Winter is upon us and, for business owners, that means there is an increasing likelihood of extreme weather disrupting operations.
But you don’t need to live in fear of cold weather bringing business to a standstill, you just need a plan that will help you manage the effects of extreme weather when it comes. Ever the helpful blogger, I have put together a list of 5 things for you to consider when it gets cold:
- Are you ready for people in your team to be off?
Staff sickness often increases at this time of year *cough cough*, transport issues are rife and it’s likely that some (or all) of your staff will have dependents in their care, so you need a plan for school closures and other disruption that “snow days” bring. This can include things like;
- Allowing your team to come in later if the weather/travel issues are likely to improve
- Creating and communicating a system for alerting your employees of travel disruption, office closure, serious weather warnings etc.
- Utilising flexible working to allow employees to make up for lost working time
- Offering the chance to take time off as annual leave (so your team still get paid if they can’t come into work)
- Engaging a temp agency who can provide additional staff to cover absence
- Using a telephone answering service or virtual PA to cover phones and other duties
- Giving employees the chance to swap/cover shifts or earn overtime if they can safely make it into work
- Can you offer remote working for your employees?
With email, cloud storage and file sharing, call forwarding, web-meetings, online CRMs and other handy tech, it has never been easier for people in all sorts of roles to work remotely. Granted, this doesn’t help those who have to be there in person to work effectively – like construction workers, chefs, teachers, Batman, surgeons or magicians - but for those who can, why not?
Offering remote working will show your team how valued and trusted they are, keep productivity up during extreme weather and, critically, demonstrate your concern for their comfort and safety. Afterall, nobody wants to battle a blizzard to do the work they could do just as well from the warmth (and safety) of their home.
- Have you got a customer service plan?
Make sure you have a plan to quickly and efficiently communicate news of any service disruption to your clients/customers - by phone, email or even social media – and be clear on who’s responsibility this is when the time comes.
If a customer knows that their delivery is going to be delayed, phone call may not be answered or your shop/other premises is closed, they can adjust their expectations accordingly. Properly managed expectations can mean the difference between keeping a customer happy and creating a raging ex-customer who will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger... or, you know, leave you a bad review.
- Do you know the law about working temperatures?
Did you know, there are laws that cover temperatures in indoor workplaces? The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 say;
- During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.
- A method of heating or cooling shall not be used which results in the escape into a workplace of fumes, gas or vapour of such character and to such extent that they are likely to be injurious or offensive to any person.
- A sufficient number of thermometers shall be provided to enable persons at work to determine the temperature in any workplace inside a building.
The regulations don’t say what a ‘reasonable temperature’ is, but there is an approved code of practice which suggests a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if the work carried out involves rigorous effort. Personally, I don’t like for it to be colder than 23, but that’s probably why I’m not in charge of the thermostat in our office.
If employees complain of feeling cold while they work, you might consider relaxing your dress code so they can wear warmer clothing, offering extra heating options like portable heaters or moving workstations closer to radiators and away from any draughts. In extreme cases, especially if a worker is pregnant or otherwise vulnerable, you may need to send staff home if it gets too cold – usually on full pay.
- Is it possible to find business benefits in this situation?
For some businesses, extreme weather like heavy snowfall can actually bring positive outcomes; local shops become more attractive to shoppers who usually visit out-of-town superstores and delivery drivers with 4x4’s are suddenly the only ones who can reach rural areas. Are there any situations where you can safely add value in bad weather? By planning ahead, you can take advantage of the disruption that might otherwise lead to losses.
If you can’t find a way to benefit, you should also consider your options for recouping losses. For example, restaurant reservations usually take a hit when snow falls. You might not be able to prevent cancellations, but you can offer an incentive to rebook when the bad weather clears - like a discount voucher or free arrival drink.
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