One of the hardest decisions we are forced to make in this business is when to stay open and when to close during inclement weather and national disasters.
One one hand our business is our baby. Closing our business means not feeding our baby and a hungry baby is not a happy baby.
On the other hand we have situations that often feel out of our control that force our hand. It does not feel right to open the office in the middle of a blizzard being titled a "Snow Bomb Cyclone" like the one going on outside my window literally as I type.
Side note... doesn't "Snow Bomb Cyclone" sound like a finishing move from a pro wrestler from the 80's or a mixed drink you'd buy at a cheesy club in the 90's?
Putting our own lives or the lives of our employees on the line to keep the office open for a day feels silly. But staring at a sad commission check the following month because January had 8 really bad snow days is also a brutal feeling and for some newer Agents enough to make things pretty bad in their Agency financially.
When schools close it can also become a nightmare to get a last minute babysitter. When roads close or mass transit cancels it can become nearly impossible to find a route to the office.
Having a virtual office strategy is essential to be able to keep the team connected and the office open when winter weather or national disasters make it tough for us all to get together in person.
Hell a lot of people think all of us at Insurance Soup are working together but the reality is we are in Texas, New York, and Oklahoma... leveraging a virtual office atmosphere literally daily... so we know a little bit about how to manage this kind of thing.
The most obvious thing that should be said first is make sure everyone has the capacity to work from home. If they do not have a set-up or the ability to set themselves up the whole plan falls apart right out the gates..
The night before a storm make sure you forward your phone lines to your cell phones or to an in home office line. Make sure your clients can get in touch with you. Many of them are nervous, scared, have claims, or straight up have a day to day problem that if it goes unresolved can dramatically impact their standing with your Agency. Granted a clients lack of urgency should never be YOUR emergency but if you are committed to providing a superior client experience a snow storm should be the reason a client falls off your books.
If you are fancy you can have a VOIP phone system that connects office and home office phones seamlessly or you could use an online dialer service like popular industry go to's DYL.com or Velocify.com which not only give you a virtual call center but helps you get through your work faster and more efficiently
Next devise a way for you and your team to be in contact with one another.... live and in person.
Accountability is key when working from home and a lot of people struggle to get things accomplished. Nowadays there are a ton of free ways to actually be sitting face to face with your team while you work. It is literally no different than being in the office together.
A handful of totally free tools you could be using are Zoom., Gotomeeting., Google Hangouts, Facebook video chats, Join.me, Facetime if you are all Apple users... the list goes on.
There is literally no reason why you can not be spending the day with your coworkers if not at the very least checking in periodically and getting a little peer interaction.
Make sure everyone is aware that just because we are working from home today that the goals for the day have not changed. Your leads need attention. Your clients need help. Your sales can not suffer.
"Snow days" are great for sales if the team is focused. People are home. Heck.. YOU'RE HOME!
Snow Days are terrible when your team is or feels like they kind of have off. You need to impress upon your team that while you may not be IN the office that everyone IS still at work. They are being paid... or if you are a commission only operation... only harming themselves by hibernating.
BE PATIENT AND HAVE FUN!
The situation today is NOT perfect. You or your employees may have little ones home... driveways to shovel... fires in the fireplace to keep going.
Power may go out. The day is NOT ideal.
Find a few ways to have fun with it.
Schedule a hot chocolate break where you and the team all come to a video chat with a hot beverage and share your experiences with this crazy weather and can bond a little.
Give the team an hour to go outside with their family and build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
Be a good boss.
Keep the team focused on the goals but be understanding and kind. You can get a lot accomplished while still providing your team a day to remember and an experience unlike anywhere else they have ever worked!
If you are not already a part of the #1 group for our industry, Insurance Soup, we cordially invite you today. 17,000 of your peers are hanging out in there passing around all sorts of tips on sales, marketing, social media, office culture, comp plans, claims, wacky customers, and carrier recommendations. Almost 77,000 posts, comments, and reactions in there the last 28 days! It's the industry water cooler and help desk all wrapped into one.
Oh yeah.. gifs & memes a plenty too. It gets a little raucous sometimes. Leave your pant-suits and ties at the door.
Written by Michael McCormick
Consistently voted one of the two top beards of The Insurance Soup.