How to decide whether to close your office for bad weather

All this talk of earthquakes and the approaching hurricane makes me think about how much it sucks to work in bad weather.

Not only is it awful, but sometimes making your way into the office is more dangerous than it’s worth. As a business owner, how do you decide whether to close the office for bad weather?

Typically if there is an ice storm or snowstorm, offices will allow their employees to work from home if they have the type of job that they can do remotely. However, many jobs leave it up to their employees to determine for themselves whether they feel comfortable driving to work. Unfortunately for the employee, if you decide not to come in you may have to use your vacation time to cover the hours.

This doesn’t really seem fair, does it? It’s not like the employee wanted to stay home (well maybe they did, but let’s pretend they didn’t). They just didn’t feel safe traveling to work in ice, snow, hurricane conditions, etc. So why should they be punished for using good judgment?

Of course, on the flip side – for those employees who did come into the office it isn’t fair if those who stayed home get a day off for free.

If you’re in a customer service position such as a salon, restaurant or retail store, you could be disappointing your customers by closing the business for the day. Or, you could be saving that lady who wanted her roots touched up from having a car accident, just by cancelling her appointment.

It’s really quite a difficult situation to deal with as a business owner and my suggestion to you is to keep your decision fair and consistent.

Out of all my jobs, the best way anyone dealt with weather closings and delays was when I worked for the government. You called the hotline in the morning and they told you whether to come to work or not. It wasn’t depending on how comfortable you felt driving, whether you had 4WD or if you lived further than a certain number of miles away from the office.

It was fair and consistent. Nobody could complain that they deserved brownie points for hiking 10 miles through avalanches or sandstorms. Nobody had to feel like a wimp for not testing their car’s luck with a drive on 695 during a national emergency.

When you’re trying to decide whether to close the office, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it really imperative to your customers that you open your business that day or would it be safer for them if you closed?
  • Is it better for staff morale to close the office? Sometimes showing your employees that you care about their wellbeing is more important than the bottom line.

Whatever you decide, make sure to treat everyone fairly. If you let one person work from home, you should make it an option for everyone (if possible).

If you let your employees decide for themselves, instead of punishing those who don’t come in, think about rewarding those who do. Letting them dress casually for the day (if it’s typically a formal or business casual environment) is a great perk if it’s snowing outside. Even better, provide those who show up with bagels & donuts or lunch!

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