Advice, Tips, and Observations on Business and Consumers

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SHOULD WE GO TO WORK DURING A CYCLONE?

Social Media Platforms were fueled with speculation and prayers on the approach of cyclone Bansi, the reason being that many people needed a Class 3 to skip school - no sorry, I meant, skip work! It is unfortunate that the thousands of people who live in fragile houses would have been affected, but one day off is worth it, some seemed to think reprehensibly.

Cyclone warning class 1: is a normal a day of work, a few leaves here and there on the streets, some gusts of wind to mess up your hair - but a normal work day.
Cyclone warning class 2: is quite interesting, cyclone-addicts remain glued to their radios or to their screens for that matter, because some companies offers flexibility to attend work or not during a Cyclone warning class 2.
Cyclone warning class 3: is according to the laws of the country - a paid leave.
Cyclone warning class 4: definitely no work. Paid leave.

The three most powerful cyclones to strike our shores were: Gervaise in 1975 with gust of winds at a staggering 280 km/hr; Carol in 1960 that brought powerful winds of 256 km/hr; and intense Cyclone Jenny that peaked with winds of 235 Km/hr. When the people who witnessed Gervaise with its 280 km/hr winds relate their experience to you - the trauma still appears on their face. To put things in perspective, the last cyclone to rise above the bar of winds at 200 km/hr was Cyclone Dina in 2002.

Now back to dear Bansi. Even when a Cyclone warning class 1 was enforced, which is the lowest class on the ladder, the Ministry of Education through the Minister Mrs Leela Devi Dookhun decided at the outset to close all educational institutions, most likely to prevent a repetition of 26 March 2008.

Let’s take a trip down to memory lane. 26 March 2008 the country was running at full swing, all educational institutions, offices both in the public and private sector were operating normally, despite the fact that during a period of several hours, it had rained copiously in many regions of the country. This was due to the effects of Cyclone Lola who left heavy clouds in her trail which happened to be passing over Mauritius.

Even if the danger of a flood was preponderant, activities continued normally. At short notice in the afternoon, schools were ordered to release their students amidst the heavy rain and flooded rivers. Imagine the chaos for a minute. Imagine 50,000 students from primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational institutions rushing home in heavy rain while our soil was already saturated and the rain did not seem to give any indication of calming.

The result: the reaction was too late. Four citizens lost their lives on that day, among them a young student of 13 years who got carried away by the flood, her body was found 3 hours later by courageous folks of the locality.To this day many people, rightly, think twice or even thrice before venturing out in dire weather, you can replace a day you lost at school or work, but how can you replace a life?

Back to 2015. The question remains, should employees attend work when a cyclone warning Class 2 is enforced? First we need to understand the parameters of a warning class 2.
According to the Mauritius Meteorological Station in Vacoas, a Cyclone Warning Class 2 is I quote "Issued so as to allow, as far as practicable, 12 hours of daylight before the occurrence of gusts of 120 km/h".

Wait a minute, if I understood this well, nothing is said about rain. So basically, if a cyclone is nearing Mauritius with winds of less than 120 km/hr but with abundant rain (enough to cause a flood!) it will still be Class 2. How much sense does this make? Many people prefer not to base their decision on a Class 2 to avoid going to work. However, we should call a spade a spade, there are times, yes the weather is inclement even in a class 2 or even 3, we have seen it, we have been there, but it is not applicable all the time.

A company must have the flexibility to analyse the different factors that are specific to them instead of blindly using a rhetoric whose parameters can prove misleading and cause harm to employees. A few points that you should definitely consider before deciding:

1) Are there floods or likely floods in certain regions of the country now or in the next 4-5 hours? Has it rained continuously for the past 24 hours?
2) Do employees need to travel a lot to come to work? How sensible would it be to ask someone who needs to change 2-3 buses to come in? Or else if they all live nearby what is the fuss about?
3) Can employees work from home on this specific day? (Ha! Am writing this blog from home)
4) Will employees be really focused on work when we all know that some people consider cyclones as a hobby. Will employees be productive? Right now schools are closed and parents are at work, how easy it is for them to find someone to look after their kids to prevent them from being home alone?
5) If there is a communiqué from the Government asking for employees to be allowed to go home due to a subsequent accumulation of water, would you be able to make sure that all employees can get back home safely?

The decision to work or not during torrential rain or a Cyclone Warning Class Two should remain at the discretion of the administration of the company, based on their own situation and reports obtained from national agencies. A mistake could prove to be very costly. It is better to have your employees safe and sound rather than make them rush back home in flood producing weather. They will not even miss the day off, am sure they will gladly catch up with work and be more grateful for the time they are able to spend with their family. While managing a company, having administration skills is not always enough, one should at times be able to be a psychologist as well, a human being who sees their employees as their biggest assets to be protected.

Even if the Government gives the green-light for work, we have seen that they have often been wrong which has resulted in the loss of lives, so base your decision on your own judgment: if you would not have wanted to be at work in such weather, so will your employees so just call it a day off. Nevertheless it is true to say that many will tend to abuse of it, or even to indirectly pressurize the management to call an off day. Lets face it, we do not all have ideal employees, not everyone is as dedicated as they ought be. It remains at the discretion of the decision taker to evaluate if there are employees who will simply jump at the occasion to take a day off even if the company is at a phase where it is important for everybody to be there. It is not your sole responsibility to make sure that the employees are being fairly treated, the employees too should be reasonable and understanding, else the whole process and element of trust falls apart. It’s is a two-way process.

However, you need to be realistic as well, if you feel objectively that people could come to work, that you would not for example mind taking the bus from let us say Grand Baie to Rose Hill in that weather and you feel that your employees won’t face troubles to come or go home, then call it a normal day of work.

There is absolutely no reason to call it a day off when you know perfectly well that their won’t be any hurdles. The idea is not to give days off here and there but remaining focused on what is essential - a proper sense of judgment. If the weather is fine, and conditions are favourable even if a cyclone warning class 2 is in force, there is no reason for your employees to want you to give them a day off, it would not even make sense to either of you. When you show that you are fair, you will get even more dedication from your employees because everyone respects those who are fair!

To work or not to work? - That is the question.