How Severe Weather Benefits Business.

This winter (2009-2010) is just like last winter. I can only recall this level of snow in my 1970s and 80s childhood memories. Your first gut reaction to a blizzard can serve as a life-perspective measurement. Do you (a.)   Jump with childish delight and plan a sledge run or (b.)   Groan with despair because if you can’t reach work the company will suffer and think less of you for letting them down.

I admit, I love the snow and my instant enchantment with it is wistful. However, I empathise with businesses which rely on our overstretched transport infrastructure in times of severe weather. Our train system must be one of the most fickle and most expensive to use, our roads are clogged with sheer weight of traffic and our buses run on a somewhat unreliable timetable. This poses two problems: getting the staff to the workplace and getting the service or goods to the customer.

Clearly, the issue of reaching the customer will be dependant upon staff levels. Therefore, if staff fail to reach work because of snow, ice, accidents, floods, traffic jams, cancelled trains and buses, storm damage, heat waves or associated problems, then the company cannot operate effectively or productively. Last week I listened to a good news radio piece about a sales manager who had carefully planned her commute through the snow. She left home, on foot at 05.45, walked 15 miles and arrived at 10.30. She was mute about her journey until a startled boss eventually reached the office, finding her busy at work. So impressed with her commitment, he broadcast her achievement on national radio.

The truth is, not all employees will be able or willing to perform this high level of job dedication. During extreme weather conditions, most companies lose a fortune on expected profits. Can this be turned around?

I think that if there are aspects of any specific job position that CAN be done at home then the answer is a definitive YES – lost profits can be saved. I have written before about the new flexible home-working arrangements employed by larger companies on one of my previous articles. This is the key for businesses to remain unaffected by extreme weather – in fact they will soar above their competitors by maintaining their productivity and service while other companies struggle. Businesses which are set up for home-working, which have enabled remote server access and employed specific digital communications, will be able to carry on regardless.

The garden buildings industry benefits from these realisations because it is the specially designed garden office range which is used by staff for home-working. Some companies subsidise the purchase for valued share-holders and senior staff as a bonus return which continues to add value to their home property. Other companies buy the buildings outright and retain ownership. This benefits the company because if the homeowner moves or leaves their position at work, the office can then be moved to a new site. Why use a garden office – why not use a room in the house? I think the other family members may have something to say about that! It simply does not suit everyone. There may be space issues, noise from other users of the house and from neighbours and inevitably familiar distractions such as the fridge, x-box or housework.

Following industry leaders, the very best solution is to invest in properly engineered garden offices and provide professional, dedicated work spaces with phone and internet access, e-fax and other digital media can then be employed to eradicate the need for hardware and paper based communications. Combined with the short carbon-neutral commute down the garden path, this solution is more environmentally friendly by a long shot. Enjoy the snow without work stress or pressure. Its a transient gift.

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