Evolving Communication Methods in Inclement Weather

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Despite the lack of winter weather here in Northeast Ohio thus far, earlier in 2012 Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that no matter what the temperature, communicating organizational closures or delays due to inclement weather in a timely and effective manner to employees is critical.

While the 2012 ERC Inclement & Adverse Weather Survey reports that only 41% of participants have a formal inclement and adverse weather policy in place, 95% of the total sample indicated that they have some type of communications plan that can be put into motion should the organization decide to close or delay their start time during inclement weather conditions. Most commonly this communications plan takes the form of the traditional phone-tree (52%).

More forms of communication

However, there also appears to be an emerging trend in the 2012 survey data pointing towards the inclusion of more diverse forms of electronic communication within these plans. More specifically, text messaging (20%) and email notification (29%) methods are up 11% and 7%, respectively, since 2010.

Who is responsible for initiating these communications remains very much the same, with one-third of respondents relying on supervisors/managers, 14% indicating it is the responsibility of the CEO/President/ED, and 13% reporting that HR handles these communications.

Still showing up

Although employers are clearly making a strong effort to get messages about closures or delays out to their employees, some employees may still arrive at work for a variety of reasons.

For some organizations in the areas of patient/client services, information technology, or operations and maintenance, just to name a few, key employees may be required to work no matter what the weather conditions. For others, employees may still show up for work due to inadvertent miscommunications or simply a dedication to their work.

Perks for "braving the elements"

Seventeen percent of participants reported that they provide a small token of appreciation or “perk” for these employees who have braved the elements when the majority of other employees did not. Examples of these recognition methods include company provided lunches or small gift cards. A few organizations even offer these employees an additional personal day off with the approval of their supervisor.

While these small gestures are certainly appropriate methods of expressing thanks to employees who make the extra effort to get to work, as one respondent warned, in cases of extreme weather conditions (e.g. government declared State of Emergency) employers should be cautious about incenting their employees too strongly into making the commute into work.