The Beast from the East. The Pest from the West, it’s been called all sorts of names. But over the past few weeks the UK been battered by extreme weather conditions, the likes of which many of us had never witnessed before. Whilst the general public battled to find a fresh loaf of bread, and the supermarket shelves were emptied by anxious shoppers, a nation of business owners faced a very specific and uncommon issue. Public transport ground to a halt, roads became increasingly lethal, and workplaces up and down the country were left unmanned.
Of course, you might say that the very reason why we were so unprepared is that we simply don’t see these kinds of conditions very often. The weather was a one-off, something that we see once in a blue moon, and therefore it just doesn’t make sense for UK companies – and indeed, the UK government – to plough a load of resources into making sure that it’s business as usual.
Still though, if your business suffered at the hands of Mother Nature, you may well be thinking about the lessons that you need to take onboard, and the challenges that may be ahead as weather becomes more and more unpredictable. So to help you prepare for any future extreme weather occurrences, here are a few important points that you may want to consider…
Robust flexible working practices can save your business in a crisis
If you’re running a retail operation, then your shop floor staff can’t carry out their work from the comfort of their own homes. That’s just common sense. But many businesses could benefit massively from implementing more flexible working practices that will ensure that when the unexpected does occur, it doesn’t mean that productivity has to fall through the floor.
Take a look at the day-to-day running of your business, and consider the changes that you could implement to benefit both you and your staff. Could you allow staff to choose their start and finish times, within a certain window? Could they occasionally work from home? It may be time to overhaul working practices.
It’s easy to underestimate the value of day-to-day HR processes
Do your staff know what to do if they can’t make it into work? Is the process clear and well communicated? Often, it’s only when something goes wrong that the importance of this becomes evident. Ideally, you’ll have procedures in place so problems are reported to managers within a specific time frame and you can plan accordingly.
There would have been plenty of businesses over the past few weeks realising that this was a problem for them. They wouldn’t know where their staff were, whether they should expect them in the workplace, and how the day would map out. Of course, there’s always going to be an element of this when we experience extreme conditions, but there’s much you can do to manage the impact.
A contingency plan can really save your skin
Did you have a plan in place to cover you for the weather? Had you considered the impact that it would have on your HR practices, your productivity levels, and your supply chain? A contingency plan is another one of those things that don’t seem too important until you really need it.
It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality. But strong businesses should always have at least a general series of steps that they’ll follow to mitigate any particularly challenging circumstances. While the Beast is still fresh in our minds (and due to return at Easter), now could be a good time to discuss this with your team.
How did the extreme weather impact your business? And are there any changes that you’ll be making in light of the lessons you learned?