Yes, Your Company Needs a “Snow Day Policy”

snowday1Growing up in Chicago, I have seen my share of blizzards.  Just last night we had one that dropped 20 inches on the city, making it the 5th largest snowfall to date.  Other areas have seen their share this season as well, especially those on the East Coast.  Are we “equipped” to deal with such storms?  Sure, we know its coming and so we prepare for it best we can but that doesn’t make the conditions any less dangerous.

Kids wait like vultures waiting to pounce on the announcement that school will be closed the next day…don’t you think your employees wish they could get a “snow day” when storms like this hit?

If you stop to think about it, even as managers these things will run through your head:

1) Will I be able to get my car out? (Yes, even if you have a garage this question is common)

2) Will the streets be plowed?  And if they are, will they be safe or icy?

3) How much time to I need to give myself now to still try to make it to work on time?

4) What do I do with the kids if they get the day off?

5) Will there even be any customers today?

Etc…

Aren’t there times when even you wonder if it makes sense to come into work that day?  And yet, we still push our employees to do so.  Sometimes even using guilt: “Do you know how many people don’t have the choice to call off on a ‘snow day’? You think cops and firemen get the day off?”

Is it possible for everyone to push to get themselves to work regardless of the weather? Yes.

Does it make sense for an employer to require them to do this? No, not always

…And here’s where we get into the reason why your workplace should consider a “Snow Day Policy” if you don’t already have one.

First – Safety

This means yours as well as your employees.    Watch weather reports – listen to traffic reports.  If you are hearing about numerous accidents starting and major streets or even highways being shut down, that is Mother Nature holding a big sign saying “STAY PUT.”  Even public transportation will run into service problems in this weather – buses can be delayed and trains can even stop running…but thinking they HAVE to get to work, the employee will try to find some way to get there.

People think they are protected being in vehicles.  Some forget to use caution when turning or even observing the speed limit.  Why?  Some of it is pure ignorance to the danger….but some is the pressure they put on themselves because they think their employer will hold it against them if they are late or don’t come in.  As an employer, how would you feel hearing your employee was in an accident while attempting to get to work under these conditions because you told them they had to or – worse – didn’t tell them to stay at home for the day.

Emergency vehicles cannot respond as quickly under these conditions so even if you car ends up in a ditch or just stalled on the side of the road, you could be waiting for hours for help.  If the vehicle isn’t running or – guess what – runs out of gas, now you are stranded with no heat…and even sitting inside a vehicle in certain temperatures can put you at risk for frostbite.

Second – Productivity

Let’s be honest…if only a skeleton of a crew can get into work that day, how much work will really get done?  And what if the employees that did make it into work that day, spent the morning shoveling – don’t you think they will be physically wiped-out…which can then translate to mentality wiped-out as all the things they need to do when they get home to finish dealing with the storm fill their head.  They will probably want to leave early in order to get those things done so that things can return to “normal” the next day.

Third – Cost

When an employer thinks “Snow Day,” they probably think of two things: 1) how much money am I loosing in production and/or sales if we close for the day? and 2) will the employees expect to be paid for this time away?  Both become factors is why most companies opt NOT to close for a Snow Day.

If you are worried about loosing money if you close for the day, how about thinking about how much it will cost you to stay open on a day like that?  For businesses that focus more on production – your output won’t be at the same levels with a minimal staff however your overhead costs to be open won’t change.  You will still have to run electricity and will probably have to run the heat even higher to offset the absence of bodies that would normally fill up the empty space.   So, in a way, it is costing you more money to be open.

If you are worried about loosing sales, think about this: are your customers going out in this weather?  More than likely, they are also sticking close to home and avoiding driving.  Even if you operate more on telephone sales, your clientele will probably be too busy with kids, shoveling, etc. to be calling to inquire about your services.  Scaling back on staff or even closing your doors for the day won’t have as huge an impact to your profits as you may initially think.

And last but not least – Employee Morale

The days of the “loyal” employee who did anything to make the company happy are long gone.  Today’s employees want to feel appreciated by their employer.  Showing that you care about their safety and well-being, with something as simple as a Snow Day, will go a long way to building morale in the workplace.  It is one of those things that your employees will brag about to their family and friends – how their company “actually cares.”  When employees feel appreciated, they naturally do more to help the company and go that extra mile without you having to ask or motivate them further.  Don’t you want more of that?

Options for setting-up a Snow Day policy

There are two ways you can set up your Snow Day policy – paid or unpaid.

1) Paid = Don’t be afraid that if you decide to set up a Snow Day policy to allow the day to be paid by the company that employees will “expect” an extra paid day or two every year even if weather doesn’t demand it.

Simply state in your policy that: Upper Management will determine the night before or morning of whether or not weather is severe enough to warrant shutting down for the day.  If it is decided that the company will close for the day, all non-exempt employees will be paid their full shift for the day and those hours will not count towards overtime for the week – same as with vacation or holidays.  If it is decided that the company will open, all employees will be excused for late arrivals but non-exempt employees will not paid for missed time.

You will need to determine who will be the decision maker and what method of communication will be used to notify the employees (i.e. email or phone trees).

2) Non-Paid = Yes, you still can show your employees that you care without attaching a paid day to it.
For non-exempt employees, let them know that you will allow them to work extra hours on the remaining days in the week to bring their weekly total to 40 hours.  With so many employees living paycheck to paycheck, the loss of a day’s pay can scare many of them into finding a way into work so giving them the option to make up the hours removes that fear and keeps them home safe for the day.

For exempt employees, let them know you are fine with them working from home.   They can still check emails, make calls and work on projects without coming into the office.  Tell them you will treat it like a normal work day and expect them to be available by phone or email during the normal business hours.

Don’t be Ebenezer Scrooge!

Little things like a Snow Day for your employees can change the attitude of your employees and help you in attracting new talent for your company.  Your consumers will notice it too.   When you look at how much your company can gain from something so simple, the costs that might be associated with allowing a Snow Day for your employees should be a non –issue.

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