Hurricane Ida has fortunately been downgraded to "just" a tropical storm, but that doesn't mean she hasn't done damage and won't continue to do damage. Over a million customers are without power in the storm's path, and government officials ask that people stay home.
Some, of course, are staying home because they can't get out. According to The Wall Street Journal, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said that roads are full of hazards -- including downed power lines and debris. In New Orleans, even 911 centers had problems.
No power to work at home. No way to drive into an office (which probably doesn't have power either). Plus, even people who have power may have storm damage. It's best to take care of any water-based damage as soon as possible.
In other words, if it's at all possible, your employees should not be working until they are safe and have power.
You may have a crisis plan for what to do if a storm damages your office, but what do you do if a storm hits your remote workers? Here's what you should be doing.
- Check-in on your employees. If everyone has electricity, that's easy enough, but it turns out that cell phones aren't impervious to storms. A friend who has electricity and hard-wired internet says her phone is out. You may have employees who literally have no way to reach out electronically without leaving their homes. Do you know how you'll find out if these employees are OK? This time, do your best. Next time, be prepared.
- Give key assignments to unaffected staff. One of the advantages of remote work can be that not everyone lives in the same area. If your employees are spread out, those not affected can handle the business, while those struggling with Ida can focus on their homes and families.
- Make sure everyone has vacation time. Yes, many businesses suffered under Covid, and having a huge storm doesn't help, but if it's at all possible, pay your employees for this time when they cannot be working. (Most likely, you'll need to pay salaried exempt employees anyway, but you aren't legally required to pay hourly employees if they aren't working.)
- Remember, the storm will stop before the problems do. If your recovery plans are "wait until the storm ends," you'll be sorely disappointed. Even after the winds stop blowing, it may take weeks to restore power in some areas. And then, the clean-up. If an employee's house is directly affected, they will need help and support for a long time.
- Remind employees of the EAP phone number. Employee Assistance Programs can help your employees with almost anything they need -- emotionally or financially. If you don't have an EAP, talk to your insurance broker right now and add it for 2022. They can provide support and contacts for all sorts of services.
Helping your employees (and yourself) weather this storm is important for your business. Employees want to know that you care, and this is a time to support them.
If your business and your employees are not in Ida's path, don't worry, your time will come. There will be a disaster in your area sooner or later, so prepare now.