Maintaining Business Operations During a Natural Disaster

No matter where your company is located, it’s likely to be at risk for natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and other acts of nature can cause serious complications for your business operations.

While many organizations view disaster planning as a function of risk management and safety professionals, human resources management is a key element in preparing for or recovering from any natural disaster or emergency. 

Depending on an outsourced HR provider to be prepared when a disaster strikes can help your business stay afloat and maintain normal business operations. When an HR expert works outside of your company, they can continue to maintain operations, such as payroll and benefits administration, from afar.

Let’s look at a few ways you can maintain business continuity before, during or after a natural disaster.

Create an emergency operations plan

The first step in preparing your business to continue operating after a natural disaster is hosting a strategy meeting. Include the appropriate leadership, CEO, CFO, office managers and third-party experts/partners. Make a plan for how to keep the business running should a disaster hit and run through a list of scenarios to ensure that you’re properly prepared. 

Consider asking:

  • What will leadership look like during a natural disaster? Who will be in charge?
  • Will remote work options be available? 
    • Be sure the team currently has or knows how to gain remote access.
  • How will you communicate with your employees? 
    • Make sure the contact information you have for each employee is updated on a regular basis.
  • How will you communicate with clients and customers?
  • How will employee compensation be affected? What will happen to payroll, time and attendance and other automated HR functions that you have in place?

Prepare your employees

As a business owner, you’ll have the primary responsibility for managing staffing needs during an emergency. Yet, your HR provider should be well versed on your emergency plan and prepared to maintain your HR needs while you focus on your staff. It can be difficult to figure out which employees and positions are considered essential during this time. This is why leaving HR functions in capable hands can help you consider alternative work schedules and establish temporary worksites to keep operations running smoothly. 

In some scenarios, temporary staffing solutions may be necessary to continue operations if your regular, full-time employees are unable to get to work. A valuable HR professional or partner can make sure you’ll have enough staff and ensure precautions are taken to see your office through to the other side of a natural disaster.

Keep compliance, payroll and benefits on track

A major issue for employers during disasters is ensuring employees' pay. Employers will need to plan ways to deliver paychecks and should consider state laws for timelines in doing so. 

Another common benefits issue during emergencies is providing leave to employees. Allowing for flexibility in paid time off usage is common, but some employers might consider leave donation programs to help employees who have exhausted their paid leave.

When business operations are halted or you’re forced to shut your doors, employers will need to determine if benefits plans are to be continued. HR professionals should be in charge of working with insurance companies to determine which benefits will continue or be discontinued, and properly inform employees of these changes. 

Employers covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may encounter employees who need time off from work due to health conditions related to emergency and disaster situations. As a business owner or manager, you must ensure that your employees are aware of their FMLA rights and have access to employer policies.

Having a strong team of experts to support you before, during and after a natural disaster occurs will ensure that strategy, employee alignment and the customer experience will not suffer. Make sure that a knowledgeable HR expert is watching the details of your business that can cause you to sink or swim when Mother Nature throws you the unexpected.

This post was adapted from SHRM.