The Workforce Institute at Kronos Forecasts Cloudy Expectations and a Flurry of Workplace Confusion During Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters

March 2, 2020
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LOWELL, Mass. ,

With an increasing number of weather emergencies and natural disasters in the U.S.1, a new survey from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated finds employees have clear expectations for how organizations can create a culture of caring in times of such crises.

Weathering the Storm,” a survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and conducted online by The Harris Poll2, surveyed employees and employers – specifically people managers, human resources leaders, and executives – to help organizations understand and prepare for employees’ changing expectations during extreme weather events.

News Facts

  • To prepare for the worst, employees want more communication and clearer expectations.
    • Overall, 73% of employees and 88% of employers believe their organization takes disaster preparedness seriously.
    • However, fewer than half (45%) of employees say their employer has communicated in the last 12 months generally what would happen at the workplace if a weather emergency or natural disaster occurred. This reflects employer actions: In the past 12 months, more than a third (35%) of employers admit they have not taken measures to share with their workforce how their organization is prepared for a disaster.
    • On average, employees expect communication about three-and-a-half days before a pending weather emergency, and more than a third (36%) expect a minimum of 24 hours’ notice.
    • Once it’s apparent a work location may be affected by a natural disaster, nearly half (49%) of employees think their employer should demonstrate their commitment to employee safety by communicating clear expectations about schedules.
  • People managers aren’t empowered to make decisions to help care for employees.
    • Three-quarters (75%) of employees feel their manager is empowered to make decisions that affect them in the event of a natural disaster or extreme weather, but that may not be the case: Less than half (49%) of employers say people managers are permitted to decide when and how to respond when disaster strikes without waiting for approval from leadership.
    • In fact, in a weather emergency or natural disaster, a third (33%) of people managers say that, at their own company, people managers are not authorized to communicate business updates to employees, while 1 in 10 (10%) says they are also not allowed to decide when and how to respond, close a facility, tell employees to go home, tell employees to stay home or re-route them to a different location, or ask people to come back to work after a disaster.
  • Caring is more than a buzzword for employees when faced with a disaster or emergency.
    • Employees’ concerns during a weather emergency or natural disaster revolve around workplace presence and implications of dependability, including:
      • Ability to commute to or from work (58%);
      • Finding someone to cover for them if they’re unable to make it to work (40%);
      • Securing child, family, or pet care while at work (39%);
      • Being late to work (39%); and
      • Perceived unreliability if they have to miss work (38%).
    • About a quarter of employees do not feel their employer (27%) or manager (23%) cares about them, and more than a quarter (29%) are concerned about employer retaliation – such as receiving reduced shifts or having less opportunities for a promotion – if they have to miss work due to a natural disaster or extreme weather event.
    • About a third (35%) of employees are concerned about feeling burned out at work during a crisis due to personal responsibilities or working overtime, but just 9% of employers view burnout or fatigue as one of their top three workplace concerns during a disaster or extreme weather.
  • Organizations want to help in a crisis but need to do more to support employee wellbeing.
    • While nearly a third (30%) of employers say their organizations would offer paid time off for employees unable to return to work due to a natural disaster or extreme weather, just 40% would allow employees to work from home or decline to work a scheduled shift without recourse.
    • For employees who must be present to do their jobs during a weather emergency or natural disaster, nearly a third (32%) of employers say their organization would offer free meals to staff, more than a quarter (28%) would provide accommodations near the office for employees, and 11% would provide childcare or family care financial assistance.
    • In the event of a natural disaster or extreme weather, 39% of employers say their organization would offer unpaid time off for those who need it; 38% would offer food, shelter, and support services to impacted employees and their families; and 32% would allow employees to donate paid time off to coworkers in need.

Supporting Quotes

  • Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    “While many organizations seem to have their heart in the right place, it’s clear that more work is needed to create and communicate a culture of trust, safety, and caring around natural disasters and extreme weather emergencies. Such events disrupt not only the business, but also the lives of employees and their families. This is especially true for employees in essential services that must remain open, like first responders, hospitals, and even hotels that shelter those in need. By considering the changing expectations of the workforce – and empowering managers to make the right call in a time of crisis – everyone will feel prepared to weather the storm safely, together.”
  • Sharlyn Lauby, president, ITM group; blogger,; advisory board member, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    “Living in Florida and working in the hospitality industry for many years, I’ve always marveled at how extreme weather events bring out the best in communities. Still, many organizations continue to struggle with balancing the needs of the business with the safety and well-being of their employees. Organizations that proactively meet the needs of their employees are often able to resume normal operations sooner because everyone – from senior leadership to the frontline workforce – recognizes the importance of safety and preparation.”

Supporting Resources


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