Snow Days: How to Manage When Your Team is Snowed In

Jan 21, 2016
5 Min Read

snow days - how to manage when your team is snowed in

With much of the country bracing for a severe snowstorm, managers and employees have to figure out how to handle work and what’s reasonable to expect when you might not even be able to get out of your driveway. Here are some guidelines for managers on how to approach snow days and other severe weather events.

With severe weather, at what point should you tell people to just stay home?

Obviously, you don’t want people to put themselves in harm’s way to get to work during serious storms. If a weather situation is seriously dangerous or if authorities are telling people to stay inside and off the roads, make sure your staff knows that they should stay inside and off the roads.

In less severe situations, you might just tell people to use their best judgment. If you say that, though, be sure you really mean it! Sometimes managers say that but then subtly pressure people to come in anyway, which can lead to a situation where no one knows what you really want them to do.

What’s reasonable to expect of your team when they’re snowed in?

Depending on their roles, they may or may not be able to work from home. The key thing is to get aligned with people ahead of time about what you expect, so that they’re not planning to spend the day sledding with their kids while you’re assuming that they’ll take their laptop home and work as usual. If you want people to try to work from home, make sure they know it – and that they take home any equipment or materials they’ll need beforehand, if possible.

Another option is to let people choose for themselves. You could say something like, “During snow days, you’re welcome to work from home if you can truly work a full day. If you can’t, please use PTO for the day — either for a full day if you won’t be working at all, or for a half day if you’ll be putting in some work.” (However, if your office is fully closed and people can’t come in even if they wanted to, don’t make them use PTO – that’s a recipe for demoralizing your staff.)

Should you expect people to maintain the same levels of productivity they’d normally have?

Depending on the circumstances, it might not be reasonable to expect productivity levels to be the same as if people were in the office. If you’re in the middle of an ongoing snow storm, people may need to stop working every hour to go out and shovel, or they may need to supervise their kids if the schools are closed.

What if some people can work from home and others can’t?

That’s very much the reality on many teams. Some jobs require being physically present in the office while others can be done from nearly anywhere, at least on occasion. If you’re worried it will seem unfair to expect some people to work from home if not everyone is required to, keep in mind that being able to work from home comes with lots of advantages too (like being able to telecommute while waiting for a repair person or while staying home with a sick kid) – so hopefully it balances out.

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