Last week we could have been forgiven for digging out the bikinis and sunblock, but hopes for an Indian Summer have been quashed by meteorologist James Madden of Exacta Weather who has predicted heavy snowfall as early as the end of this month and early November. He also predicts this winter will be worse than recent years with heavy and disruptive snowfall predicted for November, December and January. With the Big Chill last winter, where snow and ice disrupted industry at a cost of £45bn, planning is the key to winter-proofing your business this year. Don't just rely on what worked or didn't work last year.1. Choose one employee to start planning for severe weather disruptions now. All final details can be run past the boss when the time comes but get a plan in place.
When the snow hits, minimise this persons other duties so they can monitor road closures,public transport and safety warnings (instead of your whole staff checking the warnings twice an hour).
2. Survey your employees finding out:
How do they get to work?
How long does it take?
Are there any alternatives? i.e. Public transport?
Was it disrupted last year?
Have they a laptop?
Have they a (reasonably fast) Internet connection?
Have they a land line telephone?
If schools close will they be able to work with children in the house?
Have they access to the office server?
Collect up-to-date mobile and home telephone numbers.
3. Working from Home - With your employee information gathered, plan what will and what will not be expected of employees.
Use chat and video software to hold meetings and keep conversation alive. Use cloud computing and memory sticks/portable hard drives to back up all data. Plan work that can be done without an Internet connection.
4. Assess the legal situation. What's reasonable to expect your employees to do? Will working from home count as attending work? What is the entitlement to time off, unpaid and paid leave? Will you force employees to take holidays? Must you provide flexible working hours (i.e. to allow employees to leave earlier to avoid traffic congestion?)
5. Keep everyone informed. Send text alerts to your employees with any logistical updates. If most people are working from home keep touch base once or twice a day at least.
6. If most of your office is able to make it in, make sure walkways are kept clear of ice and snow, and check NOW that all pipes are insulated and the office is waterproof.