How Work Flexibility Helps Emergency Preparedness at Work
Seasoned at-home workers know that one of the best perks of virtual work is that you don’t have to worry much—if at all—about getting your work done in times of foul weather, traffic woes, and other near-catastrophes. The odds are pretty good that you’ve got a functioning office and can keep on working in almost any kind of emergency.
That said, emergencies happen without warning and present a problem for staff and employers. What happens when it isn’t safe to go to the office? How do you still get your work done?
While most companies have an emergency disaster plan, it doesn’t always include flexible or remote work. Like it or not, employers still believe that remote work means staff will treat it as a bonus day off. However, a disaster plan that includes flexible and remote work options can help a company recover from emergencies and keep the company in business.
Your Company Needs an Emergency Plan
Having an emergency preparedness plan isn’t something that companies can or should put off. In 2018, natural disasters caused $91 billion in economic losses. By 2019, that number had grown to $306 billion. While business losses may still occur during a disaster, allowing staff to work remotely and flexibly can keep the company going in the short-term while recovery efforts are happening.
Emergency work from home policies aren’t just for large, international companies that find themselves affected by something like a coronavirus outbreak. While the coronavirus is a rude reminder to account for these types of policies, small companies can also benefit from emergency remote work policies for something as common as bad weather or as mundane as a burst pipe at the office.
Advocate for Emergency Plans That Allow Flexible Work
Working remotely means that you continue to do your job (and possibly do it more productively). But, working remotely during an emergency has added benefits for you and your employer. For starters, working remotely means you aren’t forced to take unpaid vacation time while the office recovers.
But even when there isn’t a looming disaster or sudden emergency, remote work keeps staff healthy and safe. Remote work during flu season can help stop the spread of germs without stopping workflow. And, remote work keeps employees off the roads (and working) during snowstorms, keeping everyone safe and making it easier to clear the roads.
How to Work Remotely in an Emergency
Once you’ve successfully advocated for adding remote and flexible work to the company disaster preparedness plan, make sure you do your part to help make the implementation a success.
There are three simple rules for working remotely in an emergency, or really, anytime. These are:
- Be online
- Be responsive
- Be productive
All this means is work during your scheduled work hours, answer questions quickly, and get your work done.
However, during an emergency, working remotely requires a little more than following three simple tips. In a disaster situation you may find that the internet isn’t quite what it should be. Or during a storm the power is out.
Working during emergencies may take a bit more preparation on your part. That means creating and testing a plan before disaster strikes. While every situation is different, there are some basic things every employee needs to keep in mind when creating their work from home emergency preparedness plan.
Keep the Lights On
Hopefully, you’ll have power during an emergency. But that may not always be the case, so you need a backup plan for all your electrical needs. Can you go to a coworking space? And, will the company pay for it? What about the public library or a coffee shop? Or a friend’s house? All of these could be viable options (since you never know how widespread a power outage will be) for your emergency preparedness work plan.
Another tip: invest in a backup generator. If you can’t afford one on your own, consider splitting the cost (and use) with the neighbors.
Even in perfect times, internet connections can be unreliable. How does this factor into your emergency preparedness plan for work? Where else can you go to stay in touch with the office? Will you use your phone as a hot spot?
Also, ask your employer how they plan on keeping everyone connected. While it may not be their responsibility to make sure you have internet, will the company server be up and running? What happens when everyone tries to connect to it at once?
For example, the current coronavirus outbreak in China has overtaxed online collaboration tools. Video conferencing platforms like DingTalk and WeChat Work crashed because too many people were trying to use it at the same time. And at Baidu, a technology company, staff asked employees to stay off the company VPN due to an overload.
Asking the questions now could help your employer improve their emergency plan and think about how to strengthen office infrastructure. And, it may help company leaders consider communication and collaboration alternatives for your company.
Are You Prepared
The worst part about an emergency is that you can’t predict when it’s going to happen! While you shouldn’t always be on “threat level red,” emergency preparedness at work shouldn’t be an after thought.
If you’re issued a company laptop, for example, make it a habit to take it home with you every night. Yes, it’s a pain, and you might feel obligated to work after hours. But, not every disaster gives a few days lead time in the local forecast. It’s better to be prepared—and able—to work from home just in case.
A Disaster Can Change Your Perspective
S&P Global had long allowed flexible work. But it was on a case-by-case basis, and not a standard policy. However, that changed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. What they learned was that remote employment can work for more of their staff than they realized.
While your company may not come to the same conclusion, allowing remote and flexible work during an emergency can do a lot for employee morale and retention. If nothing else, it can help keep you and your employer humming along until things return to normal.
Adrianne Bibby contributed to this article.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on May 14, 2016.
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Adrianne Bibby, FlexJobs Staff Writer
Adrianne Bibby is a staff writer at FlexJobs, the premier website for telecommuting, flexible schedule, and freelance job postings. Her writing focuses on work-balance issues, finding joy in your job, and using life experience to transition to a more meaningful,…Read More >
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