When Blizzards Blitz Business

When Blizzards Blitz Business

In anticipation of Winter Storm Jonas, set to wallop Washington, DC, New York City, and everything in between this weekend, World at Work’s Rose Stanley offers some advice for how businesses can minimize the disruption caused by extreme weather events:

How can an organization’s employees maintain productivity when faced with interruptions? One answer, depending on type of work, is in the increased use of a mobile workforce. In addition, remote work programs increase organizational flexibility and help companies rebound from crises more quickly. Telework helps organizations reduce recovery expenses and boost competitive advantage. And lest we forget: Teleworkers constitute a core group that an organization can mobilize in an emergency.

Many organizations do this ad hoc, telling employees to work from home during a disruptive event. But formalizing procedures produces better results. And even if an organization already has a formal, comprehensive telework policy, in most cases it doesn’t address emergency conditions. … And remember: Employees might be dealing with their own crises at home due to the same reason the organization is down. If the cultural aspects of dealing with employees’ needs as well as telework aren’t addressed and meaningfully handled, the best technology or best-written policy are moot.

The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor, on the other hand, suggests that companies consider giving employees snow days off rather than expecting them to work from home:

What if, every once in a while, employers offered up a real snow day? A bona fide, morning surprise, get-out-of-jail-free-card snow day. Put away your laptops and go out and make that snow angel. Cancel the conference call and drink hot chocolate with your kids. Turn your phone off for a while and read a book by a roaring fire.

I know, I know, it’s about as likely as getting out of this weekend’s storm without it earning this year’s version of a #snowmaggedon hashtag. Even kids apparently aren’t getting real snow days anymore — sent home with packets of work to do when snow disrupts school. … But I’m going to venture that it’s not entirely crazy — at least for employees who don’t have jobs that are mission-critical. Sure, it may hit the bottom line a bit, but it’s also likely to bring about a longer-term upside: Loyalty to the company and good P.R. for the business.

The problem with this idea is that snow days are unexpected, and as such, disruptive. If you want to do something for employees, a better option might be planned half-days when it snows, or something akin to Summer Fridays.