This winter delivered an icy blow to the East Coast. In early January, the Eastern Seaboard got slammed with a “bomb cyclone,” which dropped plenty of snow. An unusual cold front extended down the East Coast into Florida. There were places in Alaska that were warmer than locations in the Southern States!
While this is an unusual situation, it prompted many business owners and HR managers to confront issues related to requiring employees to come into the office every day. Some employees asked about the possibility of working from home to avoid icy or snowy roads. Even employees in places that traditionally receive snow and winter weather are becoming more concerned about driving in inclement weather.
With these factors in mind, you may need to revisit your remote-work policies. If you’ve never considered it before, now’s a good time to do so.
Should You Allow Employees to Work from Home?
The first question any business owner or HR manager must ask is whether or not they want to allow employees to work from home. You may opt to make an occasional work-from-home policy for inclement weather situations. Asking your employees to make long commutes in icy or snowy conditions could put them in danger.
You may also want to consider the fact that schools may be closed. Employees with children may need to leave the office to pick up their children if schools close during the day. They may not be able to find care for their children either.
Devising and implementing a work-from-home policy for inclement weather is often the best practice. Flexibility and occasional remote-work policies benefit both you and the employee.
What Work Can Be Done from Home?
Depending on their positions, some employees may be able to work from home more easily than others. Your sales reps can most certainly write sales emails on their laptops, home computers, or smartphones. Your IT personnel may have a more difficult time working remotely, especially if they need to address network or infrastructure issues in the office.
You must also consider access to specialized software and equipment. Will your employees be able to log into your email system remotely? Will they be able to access the programs they need to complete their jobs? If you allow remote access, you’ll need to be sure you have safety and security protocols in place.
Finally, you may not want some employees working from home, particularly if their jobs involve sensitive or confidential information. For example, allowing an administrative assistant to take home patient personnel files isn’t just poor practice, it could be illegal.
Policies for Working from Home
In addition to the technical considerations of work equipment, safety and security, and access to systems and programs, you’ll need to consider other logistics of the work-from-home situation. How will employees notify their supervisors that they’re working off-site? How will they record work hours, and what are the expected hours of work? Will employees who work from home be reimbursed for any costs, such as internet access, long-distance phone calls and faxes, or paper and printing they incur while in the home office?
All of these factors must be thought through and written into your policy so employees have clear expectations about what happens when they work remotely.
Office Procedures for Inclement Weather
You may also want to think about your policies around inclement weather in general. What happens if you decide to close the workplace? Employees would need to be notified. Flexible start times and early closures may be another consideration.
Having these policies in place can help your employees ease their stress and be more productive even during inclement weather. You, in turn, can help your employees stay safe and productive. It’s truly win-win for everyone.