Britain’s last cold snap had a devastating impact on UK companies, with a Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) survey revealing that more than half (55%) of small firms were hit hard. The FSB estimated that businesses lost out by an average £1,580, resulting in a staggering collective loss of £174 million. Loss of demand (30%) and closures (26%) were among the most common issues cited.
For businesses forced to close temporarily, an average of 2.2 days were lost, while 27% of firms argued the cold snap led to staff being absent for at least one day. Below are some of the main disruptive effects freezing weather could have on your business, along with possible solutions, so you can make sure you’re ready this time round:
Wintry conditions could make your office inaccessible, resulting in temporary closure. So get a business continuity plan in place that means you and your staff can keep working through the disruption, such as giving employees access to your IT network from home. But make sure you look into the security measures necessary to protect data when working remotely, or you could be adding to your problems rather than solving them. In case you can’t avoid downtime, talk to your insurers about business disruption insurance, which can help you cover business costs and those relating to any damage to your premises.
2. Travel problems
You may not have to close your office, but certain staff may be unable travel due to icy roads or snow-bound public transport. The weather could also make meeting or supplying customers difficult. Investing in a web conferencing system can keep you connected with staff if they’re working from home, as you will be able to include them in office meetings. Similarly, you can connect with customers in this way, as video conferencing can be more personal and engaging than a basic phone call. Finally, if you supply customers with goods on a regular basis, keep a close eye on the mid-term weather forecasts and warn them in advance so they can stock up.
3. Absence due to illness
Every winter increased incidences of cold and flu mean business performance is hit through staff sickness. So why not guard against this yearly epidemic by putting in place some health guidelines for your employees to help them avoid the winter bugs. You could offer to pay for flu vaccinations, for example, and swot up on the vitamin supplements they need, even making them available free in the office. It’s also worth telling staff to stay at home at the first signs of flu, to avoid infecting other employees.
4. Collateral damage
Protect your premises in advance from the effects of freezing weather. Get your boiler serviced, as if it fails you may need to send staff home. Also ensure all your water pipes and tanks are adequately insulated, and consider leaving heating on low if you shut down over Christmas to prevent freezing – the last thing you need is the office flooding due to a burst pipe.
5. Falling demand
Whatever your business, a cold snap is likely to hit demand for your product or services as it becomes more difficult for you to maintain the same operation levels and customers are forced to stay at home. So consider how you can change the way you work to reduce the impact. For example, if a cold snap is predicted and you make or sell products, buy fewer raw materials or less stock. You can also warn regular customers and suggest they order in advance.
*Information correct as of 1st May 2016