Physically preparing your facility for winter is a key part of minimizing winter-related downtime and keeping building occupants safe. Communicating with your staff and customers to prepare them for winter’s inevitable disruptions is another key part. Here are four tips for keeping lines of communication open during the winter season:
1. Ensure employees know when the facility will be closed/open
When employees wake up to even a small amount of snow and ice, they’ll be paying attention to weather reports and wondering if they’ll be expected to commute in to work that day. It’s important that you maintain up-to-date contact information on each employee and that you keep it readily accessible. Employees should be oriented to expect a call, text, or email from someone in their department telling them whether or not the company is open. You may also want to create a page on the company website or intranet — or even on a social media group page — with snow updates.
Employees should be instructed to call in if they have not been contacted by the company or if they’re unsure about coming in to work.
2. Utilize ‘flex workers’ and equip employees to work from home
Designate specific employees as “flex workers” who, in the event that you are unable to determine the severity of weather conditions for the next day, will come in to work only if it’s safe to do so. Flex workers are also in charge of informing other specific employees of the situation.
Another strategy is to empower your employees to work from home during severe winter weather. Have a list of those who are willing to do so when asked, and ensure that they have all the necessary equipment they need.
3. Keep employees informed of your emergency response plan
Employees need to know the emergency evacuation route well in advance of severe weather. They also need to know where and when to gather inside the building during an emergency and how to access emergency supplies such as bottled water, stockpiled food, medicines, first-aid kits, and warm blankets. Do not wait to train employees on emergency response protocols.
4. Communicate with your customers
If possible, let customers know whether your facility and business operations will be closed, open, or partially open during an upcoming winter storm. Make sure this message is distributed through multiple channels: on your website and social media pages, with signage, and possibly even through email or phone calls. Have receptionists ready to inform callers of your business' status and when you expect to be fully up and running again.
Fully orienting your staff about how to respond during foul winter weather, as well as communicating with customers, will minimize downtime and maximize safety at your facility.