Winter isn’t just coming, it’s already here, and if you haven’t yet considered how the dawning season of perpetual darkness and chill will affect your business, you better start soon! Winter weather can have a deceptively detrimental effect on any business, especially those based outdoors. Whether this means employees being unable to get to work, customers slipping and falling, damage to your premises or excessive heating bills, the winter season can be the most troubling of times for any business, even taking into account the boom brought on by the Christmas season.
Indeed, last year, the excessive snow fall cost the UK economy a reported £500 million a day, with the economy contracting by approximately 0.5% as a result. Basically, the infrastructure was unable to cope with the poor weather, and whilst the wider economy felt the full force of the impact, smaller businesses also suffered dramatically.
Here, we’ll be examining a few winter woes common to all businesses, and clueing business owners in on how best to prepare for them.
It obviously depends on the size of your business, but with wet, windy and cold weather will come more clothing, as well as umbrellas, scarves and all the rest. This means you might want to provide a dedicated area where your staff can leave their wintery accruements. These areas should be located near the entrance, and should also include door mats where visitors and employees alike can dry their feet. If your business is open to the public, meanwhile, why not consider offering warm (and potentially seasonal) drinks such as hot chocolate? Also, whilst it might seem logical to leave the doors open during the spring and summer months, at winter, people will appreciate a warm and draught-free area over common courtesy, so batten down those hatches!
As you can imagine, “Slip and fall” lawsuits are a constant threat in winter, which means as a business you should make an extra effort to make sure all areas are slip free, especially considering that as many of the slips and falls caused by winter weather is easily prevented, the cases almost always prove successful. This means gritting the car parks and walkways outside, and keeping indoor areas as dry as possible.
Whilst you should make every effort to make sure people are able to enter and exit your businesses premises without incident, any preventative measures you put in place should begin and end inside the boundaries of your business. If you make any attempt to prevent winter damage and/or accidents outside of your company’s jurisdiction, you’ll be accountable for any accidents that take place as a result of those measures.
Without a roof, most businesses simply wouldn’t be able to last out the winter. This is why it’s important you start at the top and make sure the roof is secure and in good condition before winter sets in. First, make any necessary repairs, then make sure the drains are in good condition, clearing any blocks that might have occurred as a result of autumn leaves, as blocks can lead to leaks, cracks, and even complete collapses! Prepare for snow too by having a plan in place regarding exactly what you’ll do with it, and how you’ll avoid any damage while clearing it.
Ice and Snow
The two most destructive forces that could potentially cripple any business in a cold spell. Make sure your business has signed contracts with reputable snow removal companies before the season begins and make sure all of the proper insurance is in place. Also, keep a supply of grit on standby to combat the elements yourself.
If your employees can’t logistically get into work because of the weather, that doesn’t mean they have to take the day off. In fact, working from home can actually improve the concentration of certain workers, so make sure you have a contingency plan in place for the days when certain members of staff won’t be able to make it into the office. This is especially true for those working in jobs that use the internet heavily. If staff have access to the right communication technology at home (conference software, decent broadband connection, company laptop etc.) there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do just as good a job outside the office.
Hold a meeting in advance encouraging your staff to plan ahead for the winter. Tell them to assess their own individual travel situations and to make alternative plans if their primary modes of transportation fall through. Tell them that they should also adhere to any warnings given by the authorities.
Consider what aspect of your business might be at the greatest risk. It could be anything from a loss of heat to frozen pipes, but if you can verify exactly which disaster is most likely to strike, you can better prepare for it.
If you have some idea about how much an interruption in regular operation could cost your business, you’ll not only be able to look at insurance options before the costs mount up, but you’ll be able to make an educated plan about how best to recover after the season. Speaking of insurance; Make sure you’ve contacted you’re insurance agent, and that you’re covered for all possible outcomes. If you’re looking at changing insurance, don’t be afraid to consult with a business insurance expert, who should be able to advise you on the right insurance to take out for your situation.
Remember winter last year. Was there anything you thought you could have done with at the time that you’ve neglected to purchase this year? It could be anything from more grit supplies to extra blankets in the break room, but whatever it is. Be prepared. You might also want to encourage your staff to keep a pack of essentials in their cars, just in case.
December means long and dark nights. It also means it gets darker that much earlier. To combat this, make sure the outside of your office is properly illuminated. If you use timers to adjust your lighting, make the adjustments to sync up with the shorter days.
As always, the key with preparation is planning ahead (by definition), so don’t wait until the first flakes of snow start falling. So act now!