Kip Soteres

How to Promote Safe Winter Commuting

No matter which state you live in, you’ve probably heard wisecracks that your locals are the worst drivers in the country — and nothing brings out the driving complaints more than the first snowfall of winter. Winter road conditions are no joke, though. Every year, more than 1,300 people die in vehicle crashes on snowy or icy pavement, and about 117,000 are injured.

Experts disagree on the most dangerous time of day to drive, but many say that the evening rush hour is a good bet. So what can you do to ensure your employees get home in one piece? Here are three strategies to make your employees’ commutes a little safer this winter.

1. Allow Your Employees to Work From Home

When your employees wake up and see a field of ice and snow instead of their front lawn, their immediate desire is probably to go back inside and curl up with a cup of tea or hot cocoa. It’s possible they’ve got the right idea.

If the nature of your staff’s work allows them to effectively work remotely, then implementing a seasonal work-from-home program could take them off the road when driving conditions are at their most dangerous — without them losing out on a day’s worth of productivity.

2. Implement Alternative Work Hours

Winter driving is nerve-wracking enough when visibility is good. As the sun goes down, the risk of not seeing an obstacle on the road or mistaking a patch of black ice for normal pavement only increases.

Winter commuting tends to fall either before the sun rises in the morning or after the sun has set in the evening — and, depending on how short the days are and when your employees work, they might commute in darkness both ways. Consider supporting flexible work schedules that enable your staff to come in later or leave earlier, allowing them to drive to and from work while the sun is still out. Consider shifting operating hours one way or another or reducing employees’ on-site hours altogether, with work-from-home time coming in to supplement.

3. Encourage Carpooling

Carpooling can reduce traffic volumes, making the roads safer during busy times like rush hour. Especially if your employees have voiced concerns about driving on dangerous winter road conditions alone, you can provide them an alternative that turns commuting into a group activity.

It’s possible that your employees will organize a carpooling system by themselves. But you can ease the process by suggesting programs and apps that already have carpooling features built in. You can also use internal communication channels to provide a place for employees to compare routes and schedules, discuss winter safety tips and set up carpooling agreements.

It’s important to remind your staff that just because they’re working from home or adjusting their schedules to travel during daylight hours, it doesn’t mean the expectations for their work have changed. Some policies, like remote work on days with particularly nasty weather, might require extra communication and different strategies for accomplishing tasks from home.

Your employees should be updated on what new winter weather policies entail before they take advantage of them. For instance, employees working from home during a snowstorm might need an alternative way to contact their supervisor if they lose internet access, especially if they live in a more rural area. Setting these kinds of boundaries and expectations early will keep everyone on the same page, even if they’re not in the same building.