What happens when the conveyance you depend on for getting to work or looking for work is not functioning?  Do you have a contingency plan for such situations?  Have you given thought to how you would get around if your personal vehicle or local transit system wasn’t running?  Last week in the San Francisco area, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART), a regional commuter train, went on strike.  Judging from the snarled freeways, bridges and tunnels and congested city streets, it was obvious not too many people – employees or employers – gave much advance thought on how to cope.
In situations like a strike, announcements are usually made to the media from both management and the labor sides, indicating that a work stoppage is imminent.  In fact, the press had mentioned the likelihood of a strike 5 full days before the walk out, giving commuters a chance to make alternative arrangements for getting to/from work. These announcements apparently were not heeded, nor taken seriously, as most people could not or did not make alternative arrangements.
Part of the issue was poor (lack of?) planning on the part of workers and their employers, but if everyone whose job was not dependent on them physically being in a corporate office telecommuted, the traffic issues would have been nearly negated.  Certainly not everyone can telecommute to do their jobs, but in this case too many employers still insisted their workers show up to the office, and denied everyone the flexibility telecommuting would have afforded.
Thousands of workers lost valuable productivity time being stuck in traffic snarls that could have been eased by employers enacting a variety of contingency plans.  Enabling more employees to telecommute, vary their work schedules, arranging ride sharing, or providing alternative transportation options, would have all been plausible for lessening the headaches cause by the strike.
But labor stoppages from commuter rail systems aren’t the only reason for employers and employees to have contingency plans for getting to/from work.  Road closures due to weather conditions, heavy storms or broken water mains, gas leaks, downed power lines and fallen trees, fires, mud and rock slides, etc. may not affect as many people as a rail strike, but they can create commuter hassles for the immediate communities and far beyond.
To illustrate the point: A few years ago, coastal communities 18 miles south of San Francisco endured 40 mile detours for almost 9 months due to the collapse of a coastal hillside during a rain storm.  And that wasn’t the first time!  The rerouted traffic caused snarls on other major arteries, slowed public transit, and impacted more than the commuters from the coast.
Situations like these should open the eyes of employers and employees alike, to give thoughtful consideration to find alternatives that will accommodate the continued operation of offices and businesses.
Telecommute plans need to be readily enacted to maximize the continued effectiveness of the business, to keep staff productive and off the roads when conditions are less than optimal. Employers and managers need to be open minded and explore ways to keep business moving even when the roads are blocked.
Some large corporations already provide staff transit to and key regional locations.  In some instances, multiple ultra-modern buses equipped with wi-fi and powered electrical outlets, enable many workers to be productive and creative, with their gadgets fully charged, even when stuck in horrendous traffic.  Additional vehicles could be leased as needed to accommodate more locations and personnel.
Flexible work schedules should be instituted rapidly.  The functions executed by many staffers don’t all NEED to be done between 8am and 5pm.  Management and staff need to agree that work will continue if some people are willing to work unusual hours, i.e. coming in at 6pm and working until 2 or 3am.  Or coming in at 4am and working until noon.
Obviously under extreme circumstances such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and tornadoes, more extreme measures will need to be put into place to keep business moving forward.  But life and limb take precedent over commuter, transportation and earnings issues.  The contingencies required to get through such large-scale catastrophic events are beyond the scope of our discussion here.
Regardless of your work, or the company you work for, pride and loyalty to your vocation, along with the need to earn a paycheck, prompt your need to keep working. Thoughtful contingency plans – individual or corporate – allow things to continue, maybe not “as usual”, but they will at least be operating.  Yes, things may be inconvenient and different for a while, but a little thoughtfulness and creativity can keep businesses afloat and staff earning wages.  What are your contingency plans?
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