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Five Tips to Keep Business Running After a Natural Disaster Construction Contractors Affected by the Recent Hurricanes Can Take Steps to Minimize Operational Downtime

Coverage of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria over the past few weeks has been almost inescapable. While large-scale recovery efforts are well under way, individual companies located or doing business in areas affected by the storms likely will be feeling the effects for much longer, with many facing the very real prospect of having to shutter their operations for good.

Below are five steps construction companies can take to keep operations moving after a natural disaster:

1. Stay in contact with employees, clients and vendors.

A company’s ability to recover from a disaster is often dependent on how quickly its employees are able to get back to work. As a general best practice, construction companies should make sure all superintendents and foremen have contact information for everyone in their respective crews. This will make it much easier for them to touch base with employees, not only to understand how they and their families were affected but also to communicate information from upper management as far as scheduling changes, project delays and more.

For much the same reason, staying in touch with clients and vendors to let them know how the company’s operations weathered the disaster, as well as to check how their operations were affected, will help the company determine whether any projects will need to be delayed.

2. Figure out how to pay employees.

In the construction industry, it’s common for workers to receive paper paychecks. But for companies that lose power or experience structural or equipment damage, the ability to physically print, stuff and mail paper checks can very quickly be compromised in a disaster situation. Even if the company doesn’t experience an interruption in its own ability to process payroll, delivery services may have trouble actually transporting the mail in storm-affected areas.

This a problem for workers waiting to receive much-needed funds and can cause serious legal concerns for employers, who must be cognizant of and compliant with laws that govern wage payments in storm-affected areas, as well as in other states where the company may have employees. If at all possible, companies should attempt to enroll employees in electronic payment options, such as direct deposit or paycards.

How to pay workers isn’t the only human resources compliance concern for employers affected by a disaster, however, and employers should make consulting their HR staff or employment counsel for additional guidance a top priority.

3. Assess workforce needs.

Construction companies hardest-hit by the disaster may find their operations have to shut down for a few days, weeks or even indefinitely. Being out of work for any period of time can be financially devastating for crew members, and many may seek employment elsewhere. To avoid losing quality workers to competitors, businesses should find ways to assist employees while the business gets its operations on track, including finding other projects for them to work on or even sharing information about how they can apply for disaster unemployment assistance.

On the other hand, construction companies that are able to keep their operations relatively intact may benefit from an increased demand for construction services in the aftermath of the disaster. To take advantage of this opportunity, companies should have a plan or vendor in place to help quickly scale up their workforce to meet the demand.

4. Make disaster planning a standard business practice.

It only takes one major interruption to business operations for a company to recognize the value of having a plan for how it will respond to a disaster. This type of operational preparedness is called business continuity management.

The purpose of a business continuity plan is to outline exactly how an organization will maintain its essential business functions with little to no interruption or outages. It will help continue the delivery of services to clients or customers in the event that an emergency threatens its continued normal operations.

Outsource human resources functions to a PEO.

Perhaps the best thing construction companies can do to keep their businesses running after a disaster is to outsource their administrative HR functions to a professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO can help with all the items on this list, from drafting a business continuity plan to processing payroll to providing HR compliance assistance and offering scalable recruiting services. PEOs can also provide information to the company’s employees about recovery resources, freeing up managers to focus on getting the business up and running.

No amount of preparedness or planning can fully guarantee that a business’ operations will never be interrupted due to a natural disaster. However, adopting these best practices will go a long way to helping construction companies minimize downtime after a disaster.

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