As Hurricane Florence barrels towards the coast your mind may be overwhelmed with thoughts about the safety of your employees, insurance policy coverage, inventory concerns, incoming shipments, and securing your property. Of all the important things that are on your mind and all of the items that are vying for your attention in the hours leading up to the storm, what you do not want to be thinking about is fielding calls from employees who are calling out because they need to secure their Great Aunt’s Best Friend’s beach house. While most employees will call out because they truly need to be out of work, there are certainty those that will take advantage of the situation. However, before you take action, think about the following:

  • Most people are telling you the truth. Unless there is a history of deceitful behavior and absenteeism, now is not the time to utilize performance management.
  • A small distance can mean a lot during emergencies. Even a few miles can be the difference between traffic free roads or flooded streets and downed trees. While the neighborhood around your business may be in good shape, where your employee lives, or even the neighborhoods they need to pass through, may have significant concerns or damage. The American Red Cross has a series of apps to help you track the storm (and get help when you need it!)
  • People often commute to work. The average American commutes 26 minutes to get to work, if a few miles makes a difference, think of what 26 miles can do.
  • There may be things that are legitimately out of someone’s control. If the schools close, and child care closes, and the back-up babysitter needed to board up the beach house, there may not be another option for your employee. Try to practice empathy and listen to their story, before jumping to conclusions that they are just making up excuses to leave work.

Once the storm passes and things have settled back to normal, there are several things you can do to help make the situation easier in the future.

  1. Consider an essential personal policy which outlines exactly who needs to be at work, and when they need to be there, during natural disasters. This combined with a strong performance improvement policy will make dealing with employee issues much easier.
  2. Ask for volunteers. I can not stress this one enough. There are plenty of people who will happily be at work, they were just never asked.
  3. Consider a bonus for people who needed (or wanted) to work. Whether it is overtime or just an extra $50 in their paycheck, this plus a genuine ‘Thank You’, will go a very long way, and encourage others to participate next time.

Above all else, stay safe and help keep your employees and co-workers safe. Stay attentive to the weather and state and local officials.

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