With forecasts for the Northern Virginia region calling for nearly two feet of snow, many Virginia business owners will have to decide whether to take a “snow day.” For small businesses in particular, this decision is confounded by operational and logistical factors, including the absence of a means to timely communicate with employees (to advise them of a closing) and the potential disruption to critical business processes. Instead of playing the “should I close” decision by ear, businesses should take the proactive step of adopting an inclement weather policy.
Corey Riley, the facility administrator of DaVita Dialysis in Arlington, recommends that small businesses identify in advance which employees are critical to sustain business operations. “Given the nature of our business and that, for our customers, our services are literally a matter of life or death, we cannot afford to make decisions at the last minute. It is important that each of our employees knows precisely what to do well in advance of a winter storm,” said Riley. “On occasions like this weekend, we will rent an SUV and then have a team member pick up the employees who are essential to the operation of the center.”
“The safety of each employee should be a primary consideration in a company’s inclement weather policy,” said Talulla Newsome, a recent retiree and the former head of Colgate Palmolive’s Global Technology Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. “The policy should be flexible enough to allow employees to make a decision that is best for their own personal circumstance. Most importantly, regardless of the policy, there must be open communication between each employee and the employee’s direct supervisor.”
So what should your inclement weather policy consist of? In reality, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to this question. However, every inclement weather policy should:
- State that it is the company’s policy to remain open during inclement weather and that employees should make every reasonable effort to get to work (or telecommute if the company has a telecommuting policy in place).
- Detail how and when the company will communicate closings or delayed openings to employees.
- Address potential issues relating to hourly employees, such as whether they will be paid (or disciplined) for not reporting to work when the business is open.
For business continuity and employee safety, every business should have an inclement weather policy in place. Once a policy is in place, make sure that it is kept up-to-date and that it is regularly communicated to employees.