Unpredictable weather patterns are making it more and more difficult for business owners to feel confident in their business continuity strategies. From snow-storms and flash-flooding to tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, the wrath of Mother Nature poses a serious threat to continuity, no matter the industry.
Of course, the first and main priority in wicked weather is to make sure your employees and their families are safe and sound. However, once the initial danger has passed, many business owners are faced with figuring out how to keep business moving during inclement weather and the corresponding recovery periods.
First Things First: Get an Inclement Weather Policy in Place
There’s a common misconception that inclement weather policies are for large corporate enterprises with massive workforces. However, planning for the future isn’t something just big business worries about. Small business owners with teams of 50 or less should be proactive with inclement weather plans and policies just as much as the big guys.
Many modern business owners already have strategies in place to make remote business and work-from-home a possibility. However, even for organizations that do 100% of their business on-site, creating strategies for remote-work capabilities in the case of extreme weather isn’t as hard as you’d think.
If you don’t have a policy in place, your company should have a handle on the basics including:
- In the case of bad weather, how many employees would be kept from work?
- How will you notify your team in the case of an office-closure?
- Is it possible for your team members to work from home?
- If so, what resources are necessary to help them stay productive?
- Are there work devices that can be sent home with employees when extreme weather conditions are pending?
Getting to know the ins and outs of your company’s unique demands and needs will help you create inclement weather policies that keep your team members productive and safe, no matter the forecast.
Working Through the Storm: Strategies for Helping Employees Connect and Work from Home
Once you’ve nailed down the basics, the question becomes: how can I provide what my employees need to stay productive when they can’t get to the office? Check out these top considerations for making work-from-home a breeze:
- Figure out your Equipment Needs
When nasty weather moves in and the office shut down, employees expected to work from home will need the devices necessary to do so. Most if not all employees likely have some web-connected device at home, but it’s important to figure these things out ahead of time.
For assurance, it’s a good idea to have a collection of mobile devices – like laptops or tablets – on hand for employees to take home and work on if needed. While many will likely be okay to work on their personal devices, having this emergency stash makes it impossible for business opportunities to be left out in the storm.
- Provide a Secure Way to Connect
If your employees are going to work from home during bouts of nasty weather, it’s important that they have a secure way to connect to company networks and access company data.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) has traditionally been the common way for employees to gain remote access to their business email and files. However, VPNs are often clunky, time-consuming and must be set up on a remote desktop server. Not to mention, if employees are using personal devices while working at home, they may experience technical connection issues with the VPN, slowing productivity even more.
The more modern approach to remote connection is set up secure, cloud-based access and file sharing solutions. Cloud platforms can be accessed safely through a web browser from anywhere and can make it far easier for employees to connect with company data. With these solutions, it doesn’t matter whether an employee is on a laptop, desktop, mobile or tablet — if it has a browser, employees will have the ability to securely access what they need.
- Determine the Data That Should be Available
When setting up a home-base in the Cloud, it’s important to understand what company data is most important for employees working remotely. System administrators can set preferences for who has access to what and most Cloud solutions offer ways to track data access and file activity, to keep tabs on access dates, times, users and IP data.
Also, as stated before, Cloud solutions should be implemented with IT security top of mind. That said, they should also be developed in a way that mirrors the way your employees already work. This is essential for streamlining wide-spread access and keeping productivity high through extreme weather conditions.
- Manage Client Expectations
Inclement weather creates service obstacles for businesses of all kinds. However, the obstacles are especially challenging for companies that serve widespread geographical locations. It can be hard for a client to understand your company’s weather emergency when it’s 75 and sunny where they are. Regardless of location, be sure to keep your clients in the know when nasty weather hits.
To make sure business stays moving, employees can easily send password-protected links for client access and review. Additionally, business owners can proactively create an online portal where clients can access, review, download or upload important documentation.
- Keep Employees Seasonally Informed with Regular Policy Reviews
Finally, a key factor in being prepared for the weather involves regularly revisiting inclement weather policy documents, keeping them posted somewhere centrally accessible for employees, and scheduling regular company-wide policy reviews to ensure all team members are in the loop.
Additionally, your inclement weather policies should have considerations for the various seasons and types of weather that may be experienced. Paying specific attention to the kinds of weather you’re likely to experience in each season and drafting policies to reflect those realities will bring your weather preparation plan full circle.
When it comes down to it, nasty weather can really slow down a company’s momentum. However, there is no need for inclement weather conditions to result in the complete shutdown of your business. Employees can be set up to work from home proactively, so long as a business owner takes the steps to clearly outline inclement weather policies and provide team members with the equipment and programs they need to connect.
Unfortunately, there’s no hardline strategy for predicting the weather and its impacts on communities and businesses. However, there are concrete ways for business owners to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature. Don’t wait for the next blizzard or massive storm to think about your company’s plan for inclement weather.