It’s an “El Nino” year, and for many of us, that means an increased chance of severe and unusual weather — like the recent tornadoes in Florida or unseasonably early Hurricane Alex. For schools, businesses, and other organizations, it can be tricky to decide when to take a day off or close early. Here’s how to put safety first while still maximizing employee productivity.
Set A Deadline
Those who grew up in cooler climates may remember the anxiety of waiting to hear whether or not it was going to be a snow day. Set a specific time for every morning (or before each respective shift) to announce whether or not your organization will be open. The deadline should be based on the length of your most distant employee’s commute, unless that employee has flexible work privileges (more on that later).
Set a specific time for every morning (or before each respective shift) to announce whether or not your organization will be open. The deadline should be based on the length of your most distant employee’s commute, unless that employee has flexible work privileges (more on that later).
If you reach the deadline and are unable to make a determination, declare a two-hour delay — meaning the earliest a worker would need to leave home, is in two hours.
Establish A Reliable Communication Channel
Emails get lost, phone calls go to voicemail, texts fail to send, social media gets cluttered. While you should make an effort to reach out via as many of these channels as possible in the event of a closure, you should also establish one place that everyone on your team can check.
This could be a page on your website or a hotline employees can call. Even more secure? Using a messaging feature built into your HR management software, like those available in the FingerCheck web and mobile apps.
Incorporate City and School Announcements
Official unsafe travel conditions announcements from the city can be a good cut off to base your policy off of. Ditto for school closures — keep in mind that even if your organization remains open, your employees with school-age children may be unable to come in.
Just make sure your team understands that they also need to check with your organization to confirm that they don’t need to come in to avoid mix-ups, such as hearing about the closure in a nearby town or mistaking a local news station advisory as an official announcement issued by the city.
Understand the Law
The FLSA dictates how and whether employees must be compensated in the event of a weather-related closure. Generally speaking, organizations are required to pay salaried employees who cannot work due to the office being closed but are not required to pay non-exempt (overtime eligible) employees who cannot work due to office closure. Again, this may vary, so consult federal and state labor laws to ensure you’re compensating employees appropriately.
Telecommuting Is Safe Commuting
Conditions can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. In cities, certain public transit options may be shut down; in more suburban or rural areas, certain roads may be unplowed, flooded, or subject to other hazards.
On iffy days, give employees the option to decide whether they feel comfortable coming in or would be better off working from home. Set employees up to succeed at home by making it clear that this is an option long before it becomes a necessary one, and by sending out reminders to bring home any essentials when the forecast calls for severe weather.
Oh, and don’t forget to give them the tools to track their time! FingerCheck’s time tracking application makes it easy to clock in securely from anywhere–and to clock out via mobile device, even in the event of electric or internet outages.
Don’t forget — better safe than sorry! When in doubt, try to err on the side of caution — it’s ethical, and it’s better for morale, which at the end of the day will likely have a much greater impact on productivity than staying open on an ugly day.