is it bad to stay home from work due to weather?

A reader writes:

So my area’s getting a major snowstorm this weekend, starting Friday. My manager seems cool with me leaving early, or even staying home completely if necessary (if the governor declares a state of emergency), but I’ve also heard that employers don’t like it when employees stay home due to bad weather. We live in New England, we’re no stranger to bad weather, and I take the commuter rail in from home for the time being, and I really don’t want to be that employee that chickens out when the weather’s bad. I’ve heard that’s really frowned upon.

Of course I have gone into work when it’s been raining or lightly snowing, I just don’t want to put myself in a dangerous situation or risk being stuck in the city overnight. Or worse, for days. I also stayed home during Superstorm Sandy. My manager was okay with that, but I felt bad because most people did show up before being sent home at 10.

As a manager yourself, what’s your position on employees who stay home due to bad storms?

If they’re good employees with good judgment, I absolutely trust them to make sensible decisions that I’m not going to second-guess.

The only times that I’ve ever questioned an employee’s decision to stay home because of weather, the employee was someone whose work ethic I already doubted. (And when that’s the case, managers have an obligation to pay close attention to those employees and address the problem in a reasonable amount of time. It’s not something that they should just resign themselves to, like, “Oh, there goes Jane again, taking any chance to stay home from work. Oh well.”)

However, that’s me (and other good managers). There are certainly managers out there who do indeed frown on people staying home in a bad storm, even when that decision was incredibly reasonable … and even when local officials are ordering people to stay off the roads.

So this is a case of knowing your manager. Is your manager a generally reasonable person who means what she says? Or is she the type of person who would tell you to stay home if needed but then penalize you for it, even if only subtly? If you don’t know because you haven’t worked with her long or something like that, then err on the side of assuming that she’s reasonable, and make a responsible — but not alarmist or hysterical — decision for yourself. (And if you’re uncomfortable with that, keep in mind that most managers would be taken aback and even a little offended to find out that an employee assumed that they would encourage them to stay home and then punish them for doing so. Wouldn’t you be?)

You can also just ask your manager directly about this:  “Is it really okay to stay home tomorrow if we’re concerned about getting stuck in the storm?”  And pay attention to how she answers, not just what she says. It’s the difference between “Yes, of course stay home if you need to!” and “Well, if you really don’t feel safe coming in, I’m not going to ask you to, but it looks like we should be okay, so please try…”

Related posts:
should you go into the office during severe weather?
do you have to be paid if your office is closed due to weather?

{ 209 comments… read them below }

  1. B*

    With the way this storm is forming I would stay home too. Now if you stayed home because there may be rain that is a completely different story. Snow & ice…not pretty at all.

    Are you able to work from home? Either by taking some reading home with you to get done, answering emails, preparing a report, doing research, etc. If that’s the case I would mention that you would like to leave early or stay home because of the storm but that once you arrive home you will continue working.

  2. mozandeffect*

    Depends on the work environment. When I first started my current job, I had to go on medical leave for a while b/c I was physically unable to drive (I had injured my right foot so I couldn’t drive to work) and my boss let me work from home during that period. However, someone, not sure who, in my office royally took advantage of his/her working at home after asking for a similar accommodation, and now we’re all screwed – my boss won’t let anyone work at home.

    One time 3 years ago when the East Coast got hit by that Nor’easter (you guys who live in this area know what I am talking about), our bosses announced when the main roads were cleared that if you didn’t want to have to use annual leave, you would have to be physically in the office. In order to not forfeit a day, I took to the roads and got stuck on a backed up highway for 3 hours to get to work. (A usual commute for me in the DC area on a good day is 30 minutes to go 10 miles.) Yeah, not ideal…but I sucked it up because I value my vacation days too much!

    Though I have to say when a snowstorm is headed our way, they usually let us leave earlier, which is a nice thing of them to do.

    OP, if you do not feel safe driving, then tell your boss. Unless you’re super essential to be there in person (think service industry) and it’s impossible to do your job from home / online, I would think bosses would relent in this case.

    To make you feel bettter, I have a coworker who refuses to drive in any kind of snow or ice. I don’t know how she managed to arrange this but she gets one of our other coworkers to pick her up and take her to work! So definitely do not feel like you’re being a scaredy cat if you feel it is just not safe.

  3. Sharon*

    I work 51 miles from my home; live in WI and get frequent bad weather….I told my company right up front that I won’t put myself in danger due to ice and other dumb drivers and there was never an issue. However, I can also work at home during those days so that can make a big difference in the acceptance of it. As a matter of fact, I am doing that right now! Had a meeting this morning so I simply conferenced in.

    Another time I was “guilted” into staying at work through an ice storm. The other employees all lived within 2 or 3 miles but I was about 20 miles out. ICE STORM too. I stayed even though my own employees were telling me I was crazy (it was my boss who led me to belive that I had to stay so I was looked at as a good leader). I wish now that I had taken the respect of my own employees vs the guilt trip by my own boss. I think it would have been worth it:)

    1. Lanya*

      Sharon, I was in the same situation once. I felt guilted into coming in to work during a snowstorm. The other employees lived between 5-10 miles away, and I was 30 miles away. When I got to work I found out that everybody else in the company had stayed home except my guilt-tripping supervisor, the CEO. It was just us two that day, plus a harrowing drive home. I learned my lesson that day – I don’t care who is guilting me – getting in to work in a nor’easter is not worth risking my life.

    2. Anonymous*

      An over 100-mile commute? That sounds like the worst thing. Even for a magical, once-in-a-lifetime position, I think I’d move closer, especially since you’re in Wisconsin. It’s not like it’s LA or NYC where it would be too expensive to move. That’s crazy. :/

      1. Sharon*

        I understand the reaction to my long commute so here is why: I have actually been with the same co. for 20 + years (still only 42 though:)) and I was recently laid off from the position that was only 7 miles away. I went to the other office, where I actually started 20+ years ago, just to fill in because they had lost an employee. Once I was there, I knew I had to stay. At one time, it was only my husband who made the commute; now we both have to. We will move sooner or later but our twin girls are graduating high school in June and we will wait until they get settled into college first. On top of it, my awesome and generous boss offered to pay me mileage every single day! That is a huge factor. I know it’s temporary but even if it wasn’t he respects me enough that he would continue to pay me the federal mileage amount. Can’t give up on that one can I?

  4. Lisa*

    I just asked if we can work from home tomorrow, I was told no. So stupid, its a badge of honor to risk your life with 30+ inches of snow expected rather than work from home, which we are all capable of.

    1. Rose*

      I don’t know where you live but 30+ inches aren’t expected in the greater Boston area until Saturday. You sound entitled. If the actual forecast is for 2-4 inches on Friday then that is what you base your decision on. If you can’t handle the snow, don’t live in New England.

        1. SMCR*

          The mayor (of Boston) just declared a snow emergency and cancelled school for tomorrow. Planning ahead is not entitled–it’s wise. My husband spent 4 hours on a 45 minute commute back in 2007 because everyone started leaving work when the snow began falling and major routes like 128 and 495 became parking lots. And those of us who remember 1978 want to avoid anything remotely like that.

          1. Allison*

            I wasn’t alive during 1978, but people saying tomorrow’s storm might be like that scared the bejesus out of me. The thought of being stuck inside a car or commuter train for days with no heat, food, or water definitely makes me want to stay home. But I must be entitled for wanting to stay safe. Yep, just another spoiled brat looking for an excuse to take a vacation day.

            1. Lisa*

              It isn’t a vacation day though. If I have internet and even without it, I would be able to work from home so it kills me that my boss says no just cause he likes to see ‘who is most committed’ to the job and is willing to risk their lives with 2 feet of snow expected when we are all capable of working while at home.

              1. Esra*

                That is totally ridiculous. Bad weather days mean miserable, long commutes and public transit rides and distracted, frazzled staff. If the ability to wfh is there, I think people shouldn’t be guilted into trekking to the office.

              2. Anonymous*

                My company is like this, too. The last major snowstorm we got, the CEO went around to see who came in and who didn’t (and then left early). My boss gave us the option to leave early, but we had to use PTO to do so.

                1. Anonymous*

                  We had people stuck a few years in Chicago on Lake Shore drive. Took forever to get them out of there. If you have to drive make sure you have emergency supplies in your car!

              3. Jonah*

                I work for a company like this. When we were smaller no one had any issue with people working at home. We all have laptops and internet. We are an agency and a service business yes, but we can be fully responsive at home . Suddenly management has gotten militant about demanding ppl come in during dangerous weather or take a vacation day. Def frowned upon. This makes no sense to me. If u get in late and leave early u are far less productive than if u worked at home. I am not putting life and limb for any job. Will they buy me a new car? Pay medical bills and support my family if I am hurt or killed? No. Work at home people. If your are productive hopefully they willget the message thst they are being unreasonable. If not, find another place to work.

            2. Oxford Comma*

              A little more than 10 years ago, my city got socked with several feet of snow in a very short period of time. There were accidents at every major traffic artery out of the city and there was massive gridlock for over 14 hours. Our thruways were parking lots and most people spent over night stuck in their cars on them. Just as this was all starting to hit, at the place where I was employed, a bunch of us wanted to leave early. We were told no. Not if we wanted to keep our jobs. So I left at my appointed time and it took me over 8 hours to get home (less than 10 miles and normally no more of a commute than 15 minutes). There was a state of emergency and the city officials wanted no one to drive into the city the next day as the roads were basically parking lots. I called my employer who was based in the next city and she was livid that I would not be at work. She called the manager to apologize about me the recalcitrant employee only to learn that the only people there were the ones who had gotten stuck over night and who had slept on their desks. The manager had gone home early shortly after telling us that we’d be fired if we did.

              1. Nyxalinth*

                That’s awful! Was it a call center, or just a very poorly managed office?

                I got fired once because they’d shut down all the public transportation in Ft Lauderdale due to Hurricane Charley and no one with a lick of sense would want to drive themselves, much less someone else, to work. It was a call center position, and the place in question is pretty well-known for treating their employees like crap nowadays.

                1. Anonymous*

                  I worked in a call center with a real nice manager who thought I was lying when I told her my street wasnt plowed so I couldn’t go to work. I had to send a picture to her to prove it!

                2. Oxford Comma*

                  I was outsourced to a hospital as a biller. My employer had their finger in a lot of different pies. Incidents like these prompted me to focus on grad school and getting the heck out of there.

          2. BW*

            That’s the storm I was thinking of 2007 – I only had a 3 hour commute (10 miles through the city) and I was about ready to abandon my car a few miles from my house. There were long periods of time where traffic just did not move.

            Then I got nearly home, and because the plows were all stuck in traffic and could clear and treat the roads, I only managed to slide back down the hill. *cry*

          3. BW*

            Yup. My dad had to abandon his car in the Blizzard of ’78 while trying to get home from his job in the financial district. I remember being home waiting and waiting and it getting later and later with no word from him. He walked the rest of the way to his parents’ house and called us from there to let us know he was stranded and couldn’t get home.

            The snow was so high up against the doors we were literally snowed in the house. My dad was able to get a ride home after the storm ended and had to borrow a shovel and some help from the neighbors to dig his way into the house.

            Other than that, I remember it was really cool as a kid – snow towering above my head! We made some awesome snow forts and did a lot of sledding down the middle of the street and crashing into the snow piled at the bottom.

          4. anonnymous*

            …And the worst that happens is it doesn’t snow early, and the OP goes in to work a little late. Most bosses will understand that.

          5. RG*

            Out of curiosity – by “snow emergency” do you mean a state of emergency due to the weather, or instituting no street parking rules to facilitate plowing.

            In MN, a snow emergency doesn’t mean anything more than to get your cars out of the way of the plows (we have rules as to where you can park so plowing can happen) and doesn’t have anything to do with whether school is cancelled or businesses are open or functioning. Does Boston have something similar?

            1. BW*

              Snow emergency in MA means snow emergency parking rules are in effect. Anyone who parks on a street designated as “No parking. Snow emergency” will be towed. Some cities have additional rules like odd/even parking on all streets not designated as “snow emergency”. Each city/town decides on its own when to call a snow emergency.

        2. BW*

          For Boston – Heavy snow starting early in the afternoon, blizzard conditions likely for evening commute. Winds 60-80 mph on the coast. I would recommend anyone in the storm zone going into the office at all to leave early.

          For anyone who has never experienced a Nor’easter specifically, conditions can get very bad very rapidly, and even when the storm is on us, it can still be unpredictable. It could be not so bad or it could be worse than expected and in a different time frame than expected.

          Right now I’m expecting anything from nothing to 2 feet and crippling winds and widespread power outages, because yes, that is how much things can change in a matter of hours. You need to plan for the worst, especially in a large city on a day where people are in school and commuting to work. If things go the wrong way, roads and public transit will get overwhelmed very quickly. It is impossible to keep up with clearing roads when they are clogged with traffic. The snow accumulates and people can become stranded or will be sitting out there for hours not moving. We had this scenario within the last 10 years in the Boston area.

          A storm moved in earlier than forecast, just as people were getting out of work. Visibility was reduced to zero in no time. Snow fall rates were upwards of 3-4″ an hour, and the entire area was crippled. It took people upwards of 4-7 hours to drive home. Other people who depended on bus service were left stranded and had no choice but to walk home or find someplace else to take shelter.

          The best thing to do in case of a large storm moving in is to encourage as many people as possible to stay off the roads. This allows the city to get the equipment out there and keep up with clearing snow off the roads which will allow emergency and essential services to continue to operate in dangerous conditions when they are most needed to keep people safe.

          1. Allison*

            Right. I’m sure getting to work will be a piece of cake, although my train might be delayed or very slow. But even then, I know I’ll need to leave early, and I may not be able to gauge exactly *how* early.

            1. BW*

              I hope you can just stay home tomorrow. It’s hard to be in the office and having to make a judgement call about the right time to leave before it gets so bad you may as well just camp out at your desk overnight.

      1. Brittany*

        Entitled?! We’re getting 2 feet of snow and it’s expected to get worse and worse as the day progresses. My employer has already closed up shop for tomorrow and asked us to stay home and be safe.

        I’d hate to work for you!

        1. Lisa*

          Exactly, just cause it won’t start until after the morning commute doesn’t mean we won’t have a foot of snow by the time 6 pm roles around. Although I drive, MBTA is expected to kill service by 2 pm on friday. I would think that since historically, my boss just likes to see ‘who cares’ the most to show up, but send us home mid-day anyway that I would be saving the company money by not commuting mid-day, and just being and end a full day at home. Entitled.. ok sure.. if entitled means thinking of the companies bottom line too, I am wicked entitled.

          1. Allison*

            My company doesn’t pay for my transportation, but if the MBTA shuts down, I’m basically waking up early only to work for 2-4 hours, and then dealing with the rush on the commuter rail? Not sure it’s worth it.

            1. Brittany*

              Exactly, we closed up shop because the revenue we would generate isn’t worth having to call it a half day. The people who can WFH can, but otherwise, free snow day. I used to work for one of the Longwood hospitals and let me tell you, they made you use a freaking vacation day. It’s pretty bad when testing your employees for dedication is more important than safety.

              I’ll be thinking of you – everyone PLEASE be safe in your travels tomorrow if you must go anywhere!

              1. Allison*

                Yeah, I’m leaving work around 1 so I get on a train, but not the last train. Dear lord that last train’s gonna be awful, I want no part in it.

          2. BW*

            Even if the MBTA doesn’t officially shut down service, it will just break on an epic scale like it’s prone to doing. Better to just shut down and not give people false hope they can get home. :D

            +10000 for using “wicked”.

          3. BW*

            MBTA announced they are shutting down at 3:30 pm. :/ I really dislike this. It means workers who can’t stay home and use public transit are either SOL or forced to drive. Limited service might make more sense and having busses replace the street level portions of the green line.

            1. dejavu2*

              The issue is that it isn’t safe. This is why employers either shouldn’t require people to come in, or (in the case of employers like hospitals) should be able to provide food and shelter.

              1. Rana*

                Yes. If people in offices shouldn’t be coming in to work because the weather’s so awful, it’s rather unkind to insist the same of people whose job consists of actually driving in that weather, unless it’s truly an emergency situation (like fire and ambulance and road crews).

                1. BW*

                  That’s why I’m conflicted. Transportation is an essential service, and it’s safer to keep cars off the road by giving people who have to go out (or just fail at planning) a safer option. When I used to drive to work, the T was my go-to option on storm days. It sometimes took 2+ hours to travel 6 miles, but I always arrived in one piece, and in case of stranding we’d be easily found.

                  On the other hand, this forecast is getting more redonkulous. If people stay home because their only mode of transit to work is the T, that’s a good thing. I just worry about people being stranded, which is kind of silly because there’s been plenty of notice about the shut down.

      2. Lora*

        It goes the other way too. I’m in New England (see my comment below). If your business is so critical that it cannot shut down for the local adverse weather conditions–such as tornadoes in the Midwest, sandstorms in the Southwest, or earthquakes and mudslides in California–then it is the business owner’s responsibility to site their business to minimize the risks.

        Although everyone knows that the genius level creativity from proximity to Cambridge, MA offsets the loss of a few snow days’ worth of productivity, am I right? ;)

        1. AR*

          “Although everyone knows that the genius level creativity from proximity to Cambridge, MA offsets the loss of a few snow days’ worth of productivity, am I right? ;)”


      3. Veronica*

        There’s a blizzard watch beginning Friday morning. While I’m sure everyone will be able to get to work just fine, it’s the expected increase in intensity that afternoon that could cause trouble, especially when everyone is trying to leave the city in snow storm.

      4. Erica B*

        Boston and the whole eastern part of our state has a BLIZZARD warning for Friday AND Saturday. 2-4 inches of snow is nothing. IMO, employers who insist their workers come to work in a Blizzard is about as awesome as people being forced to work during a hurricane.

        1. Lisa*

          2-4 inches per hour is expected, just cause it didnt start by 9 am doesnt mean it wont be bad enough by EOD to just stay home and avoid it all if you have the option to work from home. People are idiots and and have tunnel vision and cant grasp that the conditions are going to be about 12 inches by 6 pm in alot of areas. Just cause you didn’t hear the tree fall in the forest , doesn’t mean its not rotting on the ground now.

      5. asdf*

        people who say someone sounds entitled are usually the ones who actually are…don’t be so judgmental. I thought Lisa’s comment was funny and accurate.

      6. qkate*

        Native northern New Englander here. 2-4 inches can be completely safe or completely dangerous depending on several factors:
        – Is there ice or freezing rain mixed in?
        – Will high winds blow the snow around and hamper visibility?
        – Timing: will your drive be during the snow or after the plows have had time to make a pass?
        – Is your commute through an area that is rural/without cell service? (If so, make sure you’re bundled up to survive a hike to the nearest town center if your car breaks down.)
        – What is your experience level driving in winter weather?

        And so on. I guess I just mean to say: there’s no point in chest-thumping when it comes to winter weather. Even though I grew up in northern New England, I now live in the “other” Portland (Oregon :) ), and frequently have to understand that what wouldn’t have been a big deal back east (say, 1/2 inch of wet snow), can completely shut down a city that doesn’t have the infrastructure to clear it properly.

        I’m a manager and I trust each member of my team to make a call that they are comfortable with when it comes to winter weather. (Granted, I work in the tech industry and it’s easy for people to work from home anyway, but still. Give your people the room to make a call they are comfortable with!) I often hoof it into work anyway, because I like the novelty of being in the city when almost everyone else has stayed home, but I absolutely do not judge others who don’t have my tolerance for winter weather. To each her own.

        1. qkate*

          I forgot another important factor in evaluating winter weather danger:
          – Do you live in an area with a lot of transplants/non-local people? If so, you’re more likely to be around a higher percentage of drivers who overestimate their winter driving abilities. Even if you trust your own abilities and know your own limits, you have to consider the other drivers on the road.

  5. Meghan*

    I work and live in different counties, the county I live in falls into a snowbelt that gets hit often and hard which result in travel bans when the county I work in is not nearly as effected. I feel like a jerk, but I’m not risking something happening and my insurance not covering it because of the travel ban.

  6. SMCR*

    It’s a timely question, as “Nemo” seems set on finding us–with a couple of feet of snow. I think a lot depends on the nature of the work. If those who *do* come in will be forced to cover for the absent worker, then preemptive decisions to stay home should be considered carefully. But if the only person who will be directly impacted is you (and your manager), I think the procedure Alison recommends is all that is needed. I know that some people have a much more onerous commute than others do (whether traveling by car or by public transportation) and while one person might have no qualms about coming in, another person might. But in the end, is it as Alison says: what matters most is how your work is when it is *not* inclement weather!

  7. Clerk I*

    This is the one of the reasons why I like my job, and why I don’t. The college’s policy is that if the classes are cancelled support staff are expected to come in, but faculty isn’t. You can choose to not come in, but you won’t get paid. If the college is closed, then only essential staff comes in, and everyone gets admin pay. Even if there are classes, it is understood that if you think your commute will be dangerous, then don’t come in.

  8. Lora*

    Can I just say I love how my employer handled this today?

    Morning management team meeting: If you have personnel whom you expect to need at the site after 10am tomorrow, please let Carrie (admin) know by 2pm today so that she can book them a hotel room, and let her know your department cost center code so we can charge your budget. Otherwise, even if your employees only live a couple of miles away, expect that they will be sent home early due to weather. Would everybody please check also that the VBN is working for them if they would care to work from home, so IT does not get deluged with last minute requests in the storm. Thank you.

    Facilities manager: We will be paying for an electrician, a carpenter and a plumber to stay on site through the duration of the storm, and we have already booked their hotel space. Please do not feel the need to send anyone in for emergencies as they are already anticipated and handled. If there are other emergencies, call this list. We will have people in Sunday to shovel and salt the walks.

    New manager: What if we need to (trivial thing)?

    Safety manager: No. That is not an emergency. Stay home, please.

    1. SMCR*

      Is your employer hiring, Lora? Sad but true how common sense and professionalism stand out as the exception rather than the norm!

    2. Jamie*

      Wow – an employer looking out for IT and heading off last minute PITA requests. + 1 million for that!

      1. Frenchie*

        I am with SMCR, is your company hiring? Thanks for posting so others can provide an example of best practices to employers.

  9. Claire*

    I’m facing this dilemma today too, though on a much smaller level (in WI, not in Nemo’s path). I know I’ll feel silly if I don’t go into my afternoon job and it doesn’t snow too much, but earlier this winter I came in despite storm warnings – everyone else on my team was working from home (I’m a temp) and I had a horrific time getting home, so right now I’m leaning towards the side of caution.

  10. Stacie*

    I HATE driving in snow/ice, so thank goodness my boss feels the same way and has no problem with me working from home. I don’t think I could respect a boss/company that didn’t let employees work from home,especially during major storms, when it’s possible to do so.

  11. Jamie*

    A couple of things in the OP’s letter caught my attention:

    even staying home completely if necessary (if the governor declares a state of emergency)

    If this is their criteria it does seem important to get this very clear. Because if they are only approving people to stay home based on an official state of emergency and not on a case by case basis made my rational employees…that would concern me enough to make darn sure I knew what was expected of me.

    Of course I have gone into work when it’s been raining or lightly snowing

    Maybe it’s just the wording, but this makes me wonder if perhaps you’re more timid than most about weather and this could be a cause for concern given where you live. I’m in Chicago and if I said I would come to work when it’s lightly snowing – that’s kind of like saying I don’t mind working inside or wearing shoes. It’s kind of a given. Just make sure you’re assessing the risk correctly.

    1. fposte*

      That caught my eye as well, but maybe it’s just used as a contrast to blizzarding? I guess one reason why it doesn’t fit with my weather thinking is that it’s usually the state of the ground rather than the precipitation itself that ends up being the issue.

      We also have the modern problem of hype. I’m sure many of us have seen a number of weather service warnings of terrible storms that didn’t end up being stay-home worthy. You can’t afford to take all the threatened storm days off, but, especially if you have a significant commute, you can’t just reverse your coming-in decision either.

      1. RG*

        I kind of feel for the weather services – if they don’t repeatedly talk about the storm, people ignore the very real danger and then turn around and say “but why didn’t you tell me?” when they get into trouble from it. But when they talk about it SO much, they get accused of hyping and over-hyping when it turns out less than expected. I guess the trade off is – would you rather be surprised by worse than expected, or better than expected conditions.

        1. khilde*

          I continually in awe of a weather person’s job: They truly have the only job where you can be wrong and it’s just part of the job. It’s just the way it goes – no major personal consequences. Can anyone think of other jobs like that?

          When I need to marvel at something random, I think about that.

          1. Allison*

            That’s because they have to predict the unpredictable. They can rely on established weather patterns to make educated guesses, but especially in New England, there’s no way to accurately tell exactly what the weather is gonna do.

            I’d rather have a normal snowstorm overhyped than to have a repeat of 1978, where people died in their cars because they didn’t know the weather would be that bad.

            1. Anonymous*

              Oh yeah, I totally get that! I live in South Dakota and they overhype on a local level. We never get the national coverage I suppose cause there’s just fewer of us up here. :) So because weather is such a major force in our area, too, I always think it’s kind of fun that they have such a unique job that’s based entirely on things they can’t control.

              I honestly wonder what other jobs are like that? Cause there can’t be that many.

              1. Rana*

                Medicine would be one, I would expect. There’s a lot more uncertainty in the process than anyone really wants to think about, but bodies are weird and unpredictable.

                Basically anyone dealing with a complex system with multiple unknown or poorly known variables, in other words.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            If the weather person says there’s a 30% chance of rain and it’s sunny outside are they wrong?

            Meteorologists are the in business of prediction, not production.

          3. -X-*

            “They truly have the only job where you can be wrong and it’s just part of the job.”

            Not true. Being wrong is part of many jobs. We have to be right more than we are wrong, but in many jobs it’s not possible to be right all the time.

            Also, there are a number of high profile people in the US country – Jim Cramer the financial entertainer is an example – who are wrong more than they are right.

      2. BW*

        I got the sense that the LW was saying that in contrast to blizzard conditions, maybe to convey to the readers that she’s okay with weather, but not this much weather.

        I hate hype around all of these storms every time, as if it never happens. It’s New England. We get nor’easters every year. Duh. Hype too much and people start to ignore it, like the boy who cried wolf. That said, I have seen it happen the other way around where there was a prediction for just a run of the mill snow, maybe 4 inches and it turned out to be more like 2 feet and shut down the interstate (and stranded me away from home overnight). So…6 of these, 1/2 dozen of the other.

        I just roll with whatever comes because the only thing that is predictable about New England weather is that is it unpredictable.

        1. A Bug!*

          I got the sense that the LW was saying that in contrast to blizzard conditions, maybe to convey to the readers that she’s okay with weather, but not this much weather.

          This was also my read of it. It was “For example, I definitely wouldn’t stay home in minor weather, because that would be unreasonable”, not “I’ve gone above and beyond and even come to work when it’s sprinkling out!”

  12. LuckyTemp*

    I’m a temp – I started working for Company X right as their acquisition by Company Y was happening. They needed admin support but are not allowed to hire anyone permanently – all my responsibilities are slowly being taken over by Company Y. Anyway, a couple of people were talking about the storm tomorrow and saying that they will be working from home (most do on Fridays anyway). If I don’t come in, I don’t get paid, so I always come to the office (even if everyone else in our tiny part of the office is working from home). Without my saying anything, my supervisor just looked at me and said, “Oh, stay home tomorrow – just bring something home to work on. And don’t worry about your hours, we’ll still count it.” Again, I’m a temp – I’m 21, this is my first post-college job, and I’ve been here about 4 months. I’ve heard about some terrible temp experiences, but these people are absolute gold. Really wish they hadn’t been bought out – I’d stay with them for years if I could.

  13. Wilton Businessman*

    If you don’t think you can make it into work safely, don’t go. That’s why you have vacation/personal days.

      1. A Bug!*

        And a lot of places won’t let you use vacation days without getting prior approval (often several months in advance).

        Sadly, the people without the benefit of paid days off are usually the people who can least afford to miss a day.

        1. Esra*

          It’s putting people between a rock and a hard place, when it’s not risk your life so you can earn 80$, it’s risk your life so you can keep your job.

          1. Wilton Businessman*

            I highly doubt that any employer would tell you that you’re fired because you didn’t think it was safe to come into the office on the day the area got 30″ of snow. And if they did, they probably just did you a big favor.

            1. Esra*

              Well if you’re talking about someone coming in for 80$, they’re making minimum wage. I had some terrible minimum wage jobs and people were fired capriciously. I think it’s a crappy place to put people in. I think employers should step up and tell people to stay home, rather than making employees roll the dice.

                1. Esra*

                  Yes, of course it does. For someone making minimum wage, a day’s lost pay can be make or break. It’s a couple bills, a week’s worth of groceries, a good portion of a metropass. When I was sick during university, being 80$ short in a month would’ve meant not being able to pay my rent, there was nowhere else to cut back.

                  If you are making 200-800$/day, you have much more flexibility. Of course a life is worth more than a day’s pay, I’m saying it sucks that people would ever be forced to choose between personal safety and losing their job. I’m saying the employer should be the one to step up.

                2. Anonymous*

                  This is the time to call someone entitled and out of touch. Dozens of employers (especially minimum wage employers like fast food, retail, etc.) fire employees every day for not coming to work when they’re sick, or for taking days off because they can’t find a babysitter, etc. Why would they not do it if someone didn’t come in due to the weather? Your morals are wonderful and all, but they don’t put food on the table, and with this economy, people will stay with unreasonable employers and their insane demands because they literally cannot afford not to. You don’t sound like you have a realistic grasp of the current economic and employment situations here in the US.

          2. Jamie*

            I don’t know though – there may be pressure both spoken and not to come in if that’s the office culture but I doubt there are a lot of employers out to fire a good employee because they made a call on the weather.

            Because if the weather is really bad enough to call out it will be an issue for more than just one person. Also, it’s vindictive and most don’t want to lose good people out of spite.

            I’m sure it’s happened – there’s a one-off case for just about anything you can think of, but I doubt for most people it would cost you more than a days pay (if non-exempt).

            1. Kellyk*

              Oh, yeah, it’s a sign of a horrible job and a horrible manager for sure. But if you *have* a horrible job and a horrible manager, you probably prefer leaving on your own terms for something better to being capriciously fired.

              1. Jamie*

                I guess I was just thinking if the weather was that bad it’s never just the one person who can’t make it in – its a percentage of staff. I can’t imagine being so shortsighted to fire everyone who couldn’t get through a blizzard – but maybe there are places like this.

                As for us, a sizable percentage of our workforce takes public transportation so if it looks like the weather will make it an issue for them to get in or go home we call it.

        2. Dulcinea*

          That $80 could be the difference between being able to pay your rent or keep your lights on…it could be your grocery money for 10 days….It could be your transit pass money for a month.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No. They’re saying that it’s not good practice for employers to put employees in a position where they feel they have to choose between the two.

              1. Wilton Businessman*

                I absolutely agree, that was the original point before it became pile on the the businessman. As I said before, I find it highly unlikely that any employer would fire you for not coming in on the day the area got 30″ of snow.

                1. Rana*

                  Unfortunately, the sorts of jobs where $80 can be life or death* for the employees are exactly the sorts of jobs where that sort of scenario is unpleasantly likely. You might want to read Nickel and Dimed for a sense of what these jobs are like. Or John Scalzi’s piece on what poverty looks like.

                  *And, yes, I do mean this literally, if you’re trying to support a family with health issues on minimum wage.

              2. Jamie*

                I totally get that, and any employer who would fire a percentage of staff over not coming in through the kind of conditions were talking about absolutely sucks.

                But since its non-exempt people who would be out the days pay if they called in due to weather…wouldn’t they be out the same days pay if the employer closed for the day? Those without PTO, which I think is how this started.

                It’s a matter of having to decide whether or not to go on yourself or have the employer make the call. Either way non-exempt people without PTO will be short that day’s wages? Or am I missing something?

                1. K*

                  We pay our non-exempt people on days we close due to weather, just like we would if it was a holiday. I thought that was standard (outside of hourly-type retail jobs).

                2. Rana*

                  If the employer makes the call, it can make a significant difference.

                  My husband has no paid days off; if he doesn’t show up for work (as happened when the Crud struck and we were horribly sick) he doesn’t get paid for that day (and if it happens more than once in a term, the odds are good that he’ll get fewer classes the next semester, as reliable employees get priority over course assignments).

                  If his employer were to close for weather, however, he would be paid, and it wouldn’t affect future assignments.

            2. moss*

              wow and you’d probably denigrate someone who was late on their bill because they did not go into work during severe weather.

            3. Xay*

              Rather than go without heat in the winter? You really don’t understand why someone would take the risk?

            4. -X-*

              Here’s the dichotomy. A tiny, but very increased chance of death – say 1 in 1,000 instead of the normal 1 in 1,000,000 for any given commute. And an accompanying increase in risk of injury.

              Versus the certainty of living with no power for a week.

              Which would you choose?

              What if missing work meant you’d be homeless? Is that worth the increased risk of death.

              Which would you choose?

        3. Mike C.*

          People are being told to go into work of risk their ability to pay for food, rent and healthcare.

          1. moss*

            Totally agree with you Mike C as usual. How removed to you have to be to realize that $80 can be make or break for some people? Compassion fail.

  14. AnotherAlison*

    So last time we had a snowstorm, I left early (dark) and braved my unplowed road, which had zero visibility, due snow blowing across a mile of pasture into the road, and got to work to find the building power was out with no back-up or emergency generation. : (

    I’m hoping I don’t have to make another call about snow days this year, as we had a rain storm here today. Please tell me winter is over!

  15. Anonymous*

    I drove to work during the October 31 hurricane (45 minute commute normally) only to get there to find they had decided to close. About 15 other people also showed up.

    Good news is, work was just cancelled for tomorrow!! We are legitimately supposed to get over 24 inches according to NOAA.

    1. BW*

      This has happened to me. I was driving school kids (as a job, if school was not canceled we came into work) in a snow storm in the morning where it was so bad I had to pull over on the side of the highway at a rest stop and clean the ice and snow off my wipers and my windows. Took me 2 hours to get there in treacherous conditions, and they had decided to close. I had to turn around and drive all the way back to drop them all off at their respective homes. Another case of unpredictable weather!

  16. Kelly*

    I work in retail so I don’t have the working from home option. I do live in the Midwest where this year has been a more normal winter than last year with a couple big storms. Last year was unusually warm and had very light snow fall. The weekend that we had to do inventory we got over a foot of snow over 48 hours. I didn’t feel comfortable driving in, so I had my dad drive me Friday and Saturday.

    We’re expecting some snow late Saturday into Sunday. So far, isn’t saying how much because during the last storm they underestimated how much we ended up getting, and they are predicting “potential for significant snow accumulation”, which means probably close to a foot of snow. I don’t have to work all weekend, so I’ll be okay.

    I just don’t know why some workplaces don’t shut down when they know there is significant (more than a foot) expected. It takes at least 36 hours in my area once the snow stops for the county and the city to get the roads all cleaned off. We got about 8 inches about a week ago and it took over 24 hours before most of the roads in town were passable. It doesn’t make any sense for most retail stores to stay open when the roads are snow packed.

    1. Lisa*

      Was just at Stop and Shop, someone asked the deli worker when the store was closing and he said “usual time, 11pm. Corporate doesnt close when a buck can be made. ” Which I get it for grocers since food is essential if you get stuck for days and might lose power and your ability to cook or the water gets a warning and you cant boil, so you need to go get supplies. But famous footwear? in what world does that need to stay open?

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I have trouble picturing them having enough customers to merit staying open, even *if* they’re being completely mercenary and thinking “Employee safety? Meh, whatever.”

  17. BGirl81*

    Oh girl…if you are taking the MBTA Commuter Rail Train To HotMessVille…just stay home! I’ve heard everything from a foot to two feet in our area starting Friday afternoon and our transit system falls apart under a sprinkling of rain/winds in excess of 2 mph/particularly strong sunshine. I’m guessing your boss will understand :)

    1. Ivy*

      LOL! at “particularly strong sunshine”.

      I’ve lived in cities where 2 feet of snow was the norm. This means the city and people were equipped to deal with it. OP I think peace of mind trumps office politics. Stay home and drink some hot chocolate while watching the snow from a safe distance.

    2. Dianne*

      so true, I used to take the commuter rail regularly and they had to go extra slow if the temp was over 95, don’t even get me started on the red line.

      It seems like many Boston-area employers are understanding about bad weather but no one cites fear of snow it’s always fear of gridlock/train breakdowns.

      1. Allison*

        Well I’m hearing different things. First my manager said it’s cool if I decide not to come in, but everyone else is like “yeah, we’re all definitely coming in,” and “the office is gonna be open, no excuses,” so I’m worried.

        1. BGirl81*

          What I’ve always done is, if I’ve heard nothing from my manager directly, shoot my manager an email asking what she/he would like me to do if the trains (including, YES, The Train To HotMessVille!) Shut down, ie work from home (or eat an entire bag of chips while watching Gossip Girl reruns) etc.. This is probably mildly passive-aggressive, but it’s always worked for me! :)

      2. BGirl81*

        Agreed! I was once two hours late to work during a Red Line debacle where we had to get off the train and WALK THROUGH THE TUNNEL. It was summer, so this was in flip-flops. Luckily I started to crying and one of those lovely transit police carried me to Kendall. Proud moment haha!

        1. SMCR*

          As a “frequent flier” on the Red Line, I had to laugh at BGirl81’s tale. I don’t know which would scare me more in that circumstance: the proximity of the third rail, or the rats who inhabit the tunnels. So I think you found the perfect solution with your personal porter!

        2. BGirl81*

          It was, in fact, the prospect of a rat running over my foot that caused me to start crying in public! You’d think that the police officer’s kind gesture (again, carrying a weeping adult through a subway tunnel) would inspire the dudes to do the same for my fellow commuter ladies, but alas…this is Boston haha!

      3. BW*

        Yeh, it’s not the snow that’s scary. It’s the resulting gridlock, transit failures, and inevitable stranding that people want to avoid.

  18. Laura*

    AAM had a post recently about a woman who was chastised on her reviews month after Hurricane Sandy for staying home (there were a lot of bad managers and nuances in that situation). Point is, make it expressly clear that you will be working from home and how to be accessible by phone/email if necessary.

  19. Jamie*

    Just musing about this because working remotely from home comes up so much. I wonder what percentage of jobs in the typical office can be done from home? Without access to hard copies of paperwork at the office, not needing to physically approve samples for shipment, no front desk.

    Just for fun I did the stats for my office – and it’s an even 50/50 split. Half would be able to do at least a large portion of their jobs from home, at least temporarily, and the other 50 need to be on-site.

    Granted, we’re in manufacturing so we need people here to manage the employees and there is actual physical stuff that needs to be done.

    1. Sys Analyst*

      I work in IT, and all of us in my building could work from home. The majority of us spend the day at our desk on conference calls, while checking email and responding to IMs.

      Our company is spread across multiple time zones and continents, so sometimes its easier for people to WFH if they have to be up very early or late.

      The culture here is such that people on the same floor will have a conference call rather than schedule an in person meeting.

      If someone is at home, as long as they are available via IM or email, then it’s not a hindrance.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Technically, I could work from home. Everything I can do at the office I can do from my home office.

      I just don’t have the discipline to work from home on a regular basis. I’d be trying to get my chores in during the workday which wouldn’t be fair to my employer…

      1. class factotum*

        Throwing in a load of wash takes five minutes. I doubt anyone is worried about that!

        My biggest productivity blocker isn’t chores, it’s the cats, who are so excited that someone is home to play with them. Laverne thinks that between me and the computer is the perfect place to hang out.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          5 minutes to throw a load of laundry in, 5 minutes to empty the dishwasher, 5 minutes to make the bed, 10 minutes to get the mail, 10 minutes to look through the mail unless there is a new Cabela’s catalog then it’s 30 minutes, etc… I would not do well, I could waste half the day away…

          1. KayDay*

            Think of it this way, the 5 minutes you spend doing the laundry at home is equivalent to the 5 minutes you spend talking to people in the office, or the extra time it takes to go to the bathroom or get a snack (because the bathroom/snack bar is farther away than the kitchen/bathroom in your house).

            That said, I don’t focus as well at home, and therefore don’t like to work from home, either. In fact, if I ever have important personal “work” to do, I’ll usually do it at my office in the evening.

            1. Jamie*

              I work from home quite a bit – in the evenings and weekends – and I don’t mind if it’s stuff I’m working on autonomously. Development, financial stuff, whatever as a continuation of what I was doing that day.

              What I absolutely hate is the conference calls and remoting into meetings, that would drive me crazy.

              But when it comes to the bulk of my day I’d much rather be at the office. I could never remote full time because I don’t have a delineation between work and home then. And I hate my phone – I’d rather deal with people face to face in my office than have my cell ringing every 5 minutes. And frankly it’s just more comfortable to have my regular set up and all the office stuff at my disposal. If I’m working from home it’s a laptop and/or an iPad. If I also need a printer and a stapler and some highlighters…I really need to be at my desk in the office.

              Besides, my servers would miss me. I have completely anthropomorphized them and I am not ashamed.

              1. Wilton Businessman*

                Yeah, I do to. I’ve learned more during the “after hours support” calls than during the regular day. But my stuff is usually just fix the problem, we’ll find out the root cause in the morning.

          2. The IT Manager*

            Funny things is I am paranoid about those breaks I take at home. IM which we have to keep turned on shows when you haven’t done anything on your computer for the last 5 minutes. When I am at home and take the time to do anything else longer than 5 minutes I get worried. Of course at work I occasionally chat with a co-worker, get lunch, take a walk down the hall for longer than 5 minutes and I never give it a thought.

            1. Sascha*

              I feel a little paranoid about the IM thing, too, but I was able to adjust the idle setting on my program to make it more like 30 minutes. However if I’m going to be away from my computer longer than 15 minutes I will switch it over anyway. The other thing that has assuaged my paranoia/guilt is my manager, who always leaves her status as “online,” even when I know she’s not there – like middle of the night, off on vacation, just emailed to say she’s at an appointment, sitting with me in a meeting. She leaves her computer on 24/7 and never changes her status. If she’s doing that, I don’t feel so bad about the occasional break. :)

    3. Jen in RO*

      I work in a software company and 99% of us could work from home. The only people who have to be in the office are HR (if they have interviews – unlikely in a storm) and facilities personnel (they could stay home since there wouldn’t be any other employees in the office).

    4. Dang*

      98% of my job could be done from home. We even have laptops so we could work elsewhere if needed. But my current boss refuses to make work from home exceptions for weather. So it’s either use vacation or take a risk in driving in to work. I choose the former but resentfully.

  20. Joey*

    Lets cut to the chase here. It has less to do with the actual weather and more to do with how many people actually show up. If most everyone else shows up and you don’t then yes your manager probably won’t like it. So regardless of how you feel you have to try and gauge how everyone else is going to react.

    1. Joey*

      On the flip side of that a manager really should anticipate that this may be an issue and address it proactively with his staff so people aren’t guessing.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Yes, as a manager, you have to make sure there is a certain amount of staffing to keep your department running if the business doesn’t close. If that means nearby hotel rooms, then so be it. My previous employer had 10 cots and blankets in every “emergency supply” closet. I worked there 5 years; we used them twice.

        1. Joey*

          That’s pretty extreme. Of the places I’ve worked the only folks I’ve ever asked to bear some significant risk to come into work were government employees like fire, police, road crews, etc. it’s pretty hard to justify keeping just about any business open when the conditions are so bad that schools and most business are shutting down. I’m sorry but a days profit is just not worth the risk. And if shutting down for a day is that big a deal you probably need to do some better planning.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m with you here. Yeah, I work at a large manufacturing facility that never closes, but there are things called contingency plans and mother nature and life.

            I don’t understand why so many smaller businesses (especially retail!) stay open during extreme weather events when no one is going to show up anyway. It just doesn’t make any sense.

          2. fposte*

            It’s extreme, and it also requires there to be budget for hotel rooms (and a nearby hotel). Which would let my office out right there.

        2. Rana*

          I can’t imagine how awful that would be for single parents, or anyone who had people depending on them to be home. Heck, it’d be bad just for people with pets that need to be fed and walked!

  21. Amouse*

    I have a similar situation except that I live in a place where winter is so cold, there is almost no such thing as a day off due to weather. I struggle with this because I really think there should be. I have only lived here two years and feel if i took a day off because I don’t want to take the bus in -35 to -40C I would almost get laughed at because of the culture of “suck it up buttercup here”!

    I agree OP, that in situations of extreme cold or where there will be dangerous driving conditions, you shouldn’t be penalized for staying home but I know from experience how hard this is to do in practice.

  22. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Speaking from the point of view of someone who is considered “essential personnel” in a business that requires “essential personnel” to be at work especially in these situations, I can only say that planning is the key to living through them.

    You have to know when the storm is expected to get bad, what the traffic patterns are, what the reliability of mass transit is, etc and plan accordingly. I’ll usually plan to be in before the storm hits & bring a “go bag” so that I can stay until it’s over.

    That’s not to say that you should try to go to work if you aren’t essential personnel, but for some of us, it isn’t optional and we’d prefer you stay home so you aren’t clogging up the works for the rest of us.

    1. KayDay*

      for some of us, it isn’t optional and we’d prefer you stay home so you aren’t clogging up the works for the rest of us.

      Good point.

  23. Adriana Dascalu*

    Neah, it’s not bad to stay at home from work due to weather. If you want to battle weather you are brave and have my appreciation. but you know, you could stay home all the time, no matter how weather is. just give up work, call yourself a writer and try to link words in phrases. that should work well!

    Sorry for my little joke, I’m first time around and I thought a small joke would help.

    Now my sincere opinion: Weather is what it is. Nobody can change it(yet) and it’s better to take advantage of the little time you get.
    If you are an essential person, enough ahead planning should do. Otherwise, take my advice and become a writer! :)

  24. Erica B*

    OP- It sounds like to me you live in the eastern part of the state as you take the T into work. You have a blizzard warning. Make a decision in the morning as to the safety of the rails and roads, see what the MBTA says about what their plans are in terms of the line running into your area, as you wouldn’t want to get stuck at work!

    There are some jobs where it’s required to work during really bad weather (i.e. healthcare/hospitals) other than those where the work is critical to humanity, I think people should be able to take time off without being shunned, if the weather warrants it. Hurricanes also fall into this category. I have a friends who works for a company that manages educational testing, and textbook publishing, and they are required to go into work during such weather events. I just find this crazy.

  25. KayDay*

    I was having trouble thinking of a good answer for New England. My hometown is a place that measures routine snowfall in terms of feet (1 ft = perfect sledding weather), and where I live now closes everything over a couple of inches (2 in = panic).

    On the one hand, in my hometown, offices just don’t close for snow. If you must take off for snow, you usually need to use a vacation or PTO day. This might not be an issue now with telecommuting, but when I was there, it could get really annoying when half the staff was out because their kids had snow days or their car was stuck in a snowbank (note: this is what my dad said. I was out sledding and didn’t give a crap.)

    However, for major storms, ie anything that is described using the term “historic,” “apocalyptic,” or “reminiscent of the great blizzard of 19XX,” that’s a sign you probably should stay home. (unless your jobs is as an emergency responded, local journalist, doctor, or other vital function.)

    Also, my home town is a small city, not Boston. Most people’s commutes were 10-30 minutes. If in your area there is a big danger of you being stuck for 12 hours on the metro/T or in your car on the GW parkway/New England equivilant, stay home.

    I would ask about it before you leave today, and as Alison mentions, pay attention to how your boss responds, not just whether they say yes or no.

    1. Tai*

      Former local journalist here. The only person who needs to be out on a snow day is a photographer, and only if they can drive or walk around. Anything print can be done from home, really.

  26. BM*

    What about an interview situation? I have an interview scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, and a snowstorm is forecast for Sunday throughout Monday in my area (not the Northeast, but it will still be a bad storm). The Monday morning commute is going to be a nightmare. I’m not typically a wimp about driving in the snow, but I anticipate this causing a lot of stress on top of the interview itself. I’m tempted to try rescheduling the interview now and save everyone the headache (it seems like the work environment where people would stay home or come in late during bad weather). But people and companies have such a variety of reactions/expectations during bad weather that I’d rather not risk it — I think I’ll keep the interview as scheduled and start the drive four times earlier than I’d usually need to…

    1. fposte*

      Why not call them to ask if they expect to alter their schedule for the storm? You can volunteer to reschedule if it seems appropriate and desirable.

    2. LA*

      I had this happen once during an interview process. There was a freak ice storm that rolled through the area and actually closed the business I was interviewing with down the next day. They called the closing at 3 p.m. I was supposed to be driving home in the height of the storm and expressed my concerns during the lunch portion of my interview. The HR person shepherding me around went to bat for me and managed to cut the downtime between interviews and get me on the road an hour early so I was at least another hour into my drive when I hit the worst of the storm (which I then stupidly out ran with two other cars…). But, when I didn’t receive an offer and asked for feedback I was told that I seemed “presumptuous” in expressing my concern and it seemed like I just wanted to get the interview over with. To be fair, I did, they weren’t offering to put me up in another hotel that evening and the next night and I was supposed to be at work the next day. But seriously? I was presumptuous to not want to risk my life in a severe blizzard or ice storm if I didn’t have to?

      I’m glad I didn’t get that job, something better came around. But it’s something to think about if you want to reschedule an interview due to weather. I always look at it as they were unreasonable in their requests as they knew I was from out of state and would be traveling during the worst of the storm and they’d probably be unreasonable if things like that happened while I was employed there.

  27. Karyn*

    I remember Valentine’s Day of 2006, I think it was, I was working at the mall and there was this huge storm that swept through, tons of ice and snow and awful, awful road conditions which caused the mayors of all the nearby cities to tell everyone to stay off the roads, do not go outside if you can avoid it… and yet, there I was, driving over 4 hours to go 10 miles, because the fancy sunglasses store needed to stay open during Crapstorm 2k6.

    Fast forward to 2011, I’m working in an office in the burbs, maybe 65 people. I live literally 5 minutes from my house, and my job is one that can be done remotely. Crapstorm 2k11 rolls through, everyone else is sending their employees home in the same building I’m in… and my company makes us all stay put, because we are “essential services.” Keep in mind we were not police, fire, emergency, or hospital services…

    Fast forward to now, I work downtown in a skyscraper. Three times this winter alone, the city has recommended all employees go home because the crap is going to hit the fan. Crap hardly hit the fan each time – it just sounded like it was going to – and each time, my boss has been like, “Uh, yeah, go home and work from there. Don’t die on the way, please.”

    Amazing, really.

    1. Allison*

      I might be thinking of a different storm, but we got a crazy blizzard when I was in high school (so prior to 2007), and both my sister and I walk home from school. Naturally, since the snow didn’t pick up until the afternoon, we had school. But walking home was literally a nightmare. Like ice needles stabbing my eyeballs bad. Luckily my father came to school to get me, and despite horrible cell phone service we could find each other. My sister didn’t have the same luck, and we couldn’t find her when school got out, so she walked home. When we got there she cried “daaaddyyyy” from the bathroom, where she was sitting in a tub of hot water trying to warm up, and crying about how cold she was.

      The point is, getting to school/work on days like this is usually not bad, but it’s getting home – leaving early enough and arranging proper transportation – that can be a major problem.

  28. moss*

    Our official company policy is that if bad weather is forecast we should take our laptops home. And my manager has in the past emphasized that our safety comes first.

    I personally don’t much like working at home (don’t like having work bleed into home life), but the opportunity to do so is very valuable to me.

  29. Malissa*

    As some one who works for an agency that plows snow, I would love it if companies would allow working from home on storm days. The less people on the road, the easier it is to clear the streets.
    Plus then we don’t have to worry about your out of control vehicle bouncing off of our plow blade and then having the equipment down for the rest of the week while we weld it all back together. Not this has happened twice or anything.
    The rule of thumb for this should be if school is cancelled, then employers should allow working from home that day. School is usually cancelled due to safety concerns over the buses traveling over the roads. This is usually on the advice of the local road authority, which has to sand and plow and dig out the stuck cars early in the morning.

  30. Anonymous*

    I do have a similiar question in regards to the upcoming “snowpocalypse” that’s hitting the NE area. Due to the nature of my work (live on-air television), it’s kind of expected that you are expected to come in, even if there are giant snow drifts – even if you are not a reporter out in the field. It seems managment frowns upon those who call out due to the weather even if they are stuck in traffic or cannot get out. How does one diplomatically handle this?

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Are you directly involved in putting the broadcast on the air? If so, you make a plan on how to get to work & you go & you stay as long as you need to. If there is someone who lives near you with four-wheel drive, discuss car-pooling options. I’m sorry to be blunt, but it’s the nature of the business.

    2. KayDay*

      You can ask what procedures they have in place and/or what other employees do to make it to work safely. (Do staff stay at a nearby hotel? carpool? sleep in the office?)

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Also, this was a lesson learned the hard way, have a stash of food. Energy bars, microwavable lunches & dinners, a liquid caffeine source OR bring enough change to be able to eat from the vending machines. As bad as the forecast is, they won’t be able to feed you because nobody will be able to deliver.

      Otherwise, hunker down, enjoy the ride & avoid getting pressed into duty answering phones in the newsroom.

      1. Jamie*

        I can totally recommend those Campbell’s soup cup things that you heat in the microwave in their own container. No dishes and the creamy tomato (the only one I’ve tried) is really yummy even without heating. I always have a couple stashed in my desk for those unexpected late nights.

        And ever since I was stranded by the side of the road in a blizzard a few years ago I always keep a box of cereal bars in my car.

    4. Lora*

      Two jobs ago I was Essential Personnel. In my desk/car trunk/backpack, I kept with me at all times:
      -1 change of clothes and 2 pr undies, extra pair slipper socks, sweatpants & t shirt (to sleep in), old pair sneakers or wellies because you gotta keep your feet dry, ditto mittens as when you get soaked you might need to get back out there and shovel more before your gloves have a chance to dry. Plus I dressed in layers, effectively had a spare fleece jacket and sweater under my coat. And I kept a spare old army surplus coat in the car, too.
      -2 microwaveable cans soup, 1 bag pretzels, 1 bag trail mix, 2 packets instant oatmeal, a brown bag lunch, a thermos of coffee/tea/juice
      -assorted toiletries: soap, toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant etc.
      -washcloth & microfiber towel, the kind that fold up really small
      -book to read
      -charged cell phone
      -cash money (no power, no ATMs). Not a ton, but at least enough for a tank of gas and donuts.
      -at least 1/2 tank gas in car and a 2 gallon canister full in the trunk
      -spare blanket and pillow for camping out
      -2 gallons spring water for drinking/washing
      -in car, keep wind-up flashlight, emergency cardboard signs (they said, “call 911,” had various emergency type symbols, some insurance companies and I think AAA give em out), spare tire & jack/wrench, cat litter in trunk to provide traction on ice, little shovel, ice scraper/snow brush or small broom
      -a first aid kit
      -a copy of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook (never used that one)
      -a sewing kit, because, well, buttons and zippers just break at the weirdest times, they really do.
      -lighter/matches, domestication of fire is the first of human technologies and I refuse to go without it.

      Even when I personally didn’t need all that stuff, someone else usually needed to borrow it.

  31. Just a Reader*

    I used this tactic with my boss–who is AWESOME–and she said, “I think there’s a blizzard and nobody should be driving.”

    A far cry from a job I had in 2002 where the owners closed the office but expected me to leave my car in a snowbank and walk to work in a blizzard because I lived close by.

  32. Carin*

    The President of the company I worked for in 1999 on the day before a terrible ice storm was predicted, got on a table in the middle of the largest room of cubicles and said “Company has never closed due to weather before and we’re not about to start now!” So I took surface roads and left early and got to work only a few minutes late the next day. Two hours later, the office closed. The President? Well he was talking on his cell phone while driving his SUV home on the interstate in the ice… and flipped his car.

    1. Nyxalinth*

      Karma bit him on the butt and took out a little chunk.

      Aside from that, I hope he was all right.

      1. Carin*

        He was. Rumor had it that when the police/ambulance got to the wreck, he was hanging upside down in the SUV by his seatbelt, still talking on the phone. I don’t think they had such a rigid weather policy after that!

  33. O.C.*

    I understand that you’re going to have a lot of snow tomorrow in Boston. But in this globalized economy, there is still work to be done. Say I put my investments with your firm. You mean to tell me you’re going to sleep on the markets around the world because you didn’t feel like “risking” a drive in to the office. Yet it’s OK to risk MY investments??? How is that fair?

    The rule is this: if your absence hurts your clients, then you come in to work. If you can’t drive, well, that’s what hotels are for. And yes, you have to expect to pay yourself. It’s the cost of doing business, so that I don’t switch my business to someplace that doesn’t deal with snow.

      1. SMCR*

        By O.C.’s standard, the NYSE wouldn’t have closed down for Sandy. But it did. Because money, while very important, still can’t buy the affections of Mother Nature.

        Be safe, everyone.

    1. Rana*

      Eventually your turn will come. The area you’re in will have a flood, or a wildfire, or a monsoon, or a tsunami, or an earthquake, or some other disaster that affects work, and it’ll be our turn to wait while you deal with it. That’s how it’s fair, to the extent that life is fair (hint, it isn’t).

    2. Allison*

      Well I work in recruiting, and the one client I work for is based in New England as well. The worst that’d happen if we didn’t show up is that they might have to wait an extra day to get those java developers and project managers. Not the end of the world.

    3. Lora*

      1. Lots of your investments are managed by computers, not humans. Average time a stock is held is measured in seconds, not days. The computers will be fine, they like the cold :)

      2. Those 3%+ fees attached to your investment account when you make transactions are what pays for the employees to stay in hotels. Bunch of my neighbors work at Fidelity, and the traders are not exactly making peanuts. If you’re upset about the fees for transactions, I completely sympathize, but honestly in the grand scheme of Stupid Things Fidelity Spends My Money On, snow day hotels are no biggie.

      3. They VPN in, don’t even worry about it.

      4. As I said upthread, it’s the business owner’s responsibility to site their business somewhere that minimizes risk to the organization. In the case of, say, investment firms, that typically means they have redundant servers in multiple locations and multiple traders in multiple locations all over the world, with the time zones spread out so they all actually work 24/7 on a distributed network. Your specific dollars are managed while you sleep in Singapore, while you’re making your first cup of coffee in Switzerland, and although Boston’s financial district may shut down, the DC, NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles offices can certainly step up for coverage.

      The weird things I learn at neighborhood BBQs…

    4. KellyK*

      Even ignoring all Rana’s comments, you will not die if your investments aren’t handled perfectly for a day. The 1978 blizzard killed 54 people, while the one in 93 caused approximately 270 deaths. If you want people to risk their lives over your money, you’d better be prepared to pay top dollar for the privilege.

      1. KellyK*

        That should’ve been Lora, not Rana, since I was referring to the comments about how your money will be just fine either way.

  34. JC*

    From your post and mentioning of the commuter rail, I presume you live in Boston?

    I live in Boston, and the MBTA (our mass transit system) is suspending all modes of service at 3:30 tomorrow. So if you have to come into work tomorrow, you’ll need to drive your car in. I hope that’s not the case though. Boston is expected to get 18-24 inches of snow with high winds. The mayor has already shut down local schools in anticipate for the blizzard-like conditions.

    Can you access your email and work files from home? We were able to work from home 1-2 times a week and during bad weather if we were able to remotely access our system. Unless you have to be there in-person to do your job, which, honestly, I’m not even sure your presence would matter since most people will be staying home as well.

    As for me, I’m hunkering down with some wine and snacks. See you on the flipside!

  35. Jamie*

    Just sending some good thoughts to you all getting the storm today – I hope everyone stays safe and your commutes (if you have to go in) aren’t too brutal.

    Be careful.

  36. Frenchie*

    The Governor has declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts. All roads are closed to the public after four pm today. The National Weather Service predicts the snow storm to intensify over the next eighteen hours with eighteen to thirty inches of accumulation. Due to the anticipated high winds wide spread power outages are expected.

  37. Anonymous*

    Ugh this irks me..

    My usual commute is 1 hour in, and I can work from home, but by last employer would go nuts if anyone stayed home, for any reason. My co-worker took time off for her grandmothers funeral- problem, I took 1/2 day because of a massive ear injection (my neck was 3x the size) – problem..
    A few years ago we had a major storm in Chicago, we were not allowed to go anywhere till 5pm, it took me almost 5 hours to get home and I had about 15 near death experiences, I saw so many accidents I lost count, and my husband was so pissed my boss made me leave so late (when there was 2 feet on ground) that he was threatening calling and giving him a piece of his mind (and more)

    They even made us come in when we had a huge wind/rain storm and there was a power outage, including phones. My boss wanted me to call the phone company and LIE stating we provide “critical” services! (because we have medical in our name)

    I now love my new work place, safety matters more.

    I have noticed the smaller the employer the less they care about the risk? Maybe because the employer is usually the manager and they invested in the company and could care less what happens as long as some money is made.

    Going back to my employer now, we usually get an e-mail to call in and leave a message if our area is bad, and make sure we take our laptops etc with us.

    Stay safe!!!

  38. paramedic*

    A friend showed me this post, and I thought I would add my 2 cents.

    I work as a paramedic and have worked in the ER as a nurse.
    My point of view may be a little different, but we as paramedics really scratch our heads when we see people subject themselves to terrible weather if they don’t have to. In snow storms the number of calls we get is astronomical, and usually people driving to and from work, or going to the store to get milk etc
    This goes for police and firefighters, and emergency room personnel.
    If you don’t have to be out stay at home.

    In some cases these calls divert resources from emergencies, or it takes us longer to get to accident’s because of the traffic.

    Obviously I am not blaming the employee’s but the employers here!

    1. Allison*

      Hence the driving ban in MA. As of 4pm on Friday you’d get a ticket if you were out driving past 4. And it was largely for those reasons, as well as keeping the road clear so they can be plowed, and preventing people from being stuck on the highways. Which happened in Long Island.

      We were sent home at 12, thank goodness.

  39. Sam*

    I work in a major city, but live in a rural area where the roads get very bad very quickly. I cannot and will not jeopardize myself or my car to get to work. Nothing I handle is so life or death that it needs to be dealt with in a snow storm, and, quite frankly, they don’t pay me enough to risk my life for my job.

  40. AnonymousAlso*

    I saw this and had to post my story. I work in New England as well and my office has an informal policy instituted by the VP who is very lenient about snow days and has no problem with any of us working from home. In fact, it is encouraged as a solution to us using our earned time and losing our productivity for a day. The VP has stated this repeatedly to the entire staff. Apparently, the Director disagrees. Yesterday, one of my coworkers asked for and received approval by the Director to work from home today, as school was called off and she has two small children.
    I am the only person in the office without children at home but I live in a rural hilly area 45 minutes away and my commute is much more treacherous during inclement weather than anyone else’s. So, I asked to work from home as well. The Director refused, using my lack of child care issues as a reason. I said, no problem, then I would like to take a personal day as I feel my safety is at risk. The Director refused that as well saying it wasn’t supposed to get bad until later in the afternoon and I had a ‘moral obligation’ to give my best effort to coming in.
    I have the response in an email. When I complained, the Director said I didn’t give enough notice. Whaaat? I made the request five minutes after my coworker did! The VP was cc’d on the exchange and intervened on my behalf, but I am seriously unhappy. I feel like it was discriminatory, unreasonable, and capricious. Mind you, I am a salary exempt employee, I don’t work shifts that I would have to cover, I am a non-emergency responder, and I had no pressing deadlines on any of my projects. The Director ended up closing the office at 1pm today so since I worked from home all day, I was actually more productive than I would have been going into the office!
    Ugh, I feel better already. Had to get that off my chest.

  41. anon-2*

    The city and state governments here in Massachusetts rammed the rules down draconian managements’ throats –

    State of emergency.
    Public transportation will not accept passengers after 3:30 pm.
    Get caught driving after 4 pm – you can be arrested.

    Long story short – Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick virtually ordered a shutdown before the storm began. This prevents a dumbass director – who may live in a fancy high-rise Back Bay department a block from the office – to order his employees in.

    “Duh, I made it in, so there’s no reason you can’t.” Don’t laugh. Hey, if you get killed on the way home from work – your life insurance doesn’t necessarily come out of your boss’ budget, right?

  42. DeeEss*

    I just read this and had to comment. While living in Reno, NV, a major snowstorm hit. Half of the staff had called in and things were expected to get worse. The manager called up the District Manager and asked what should be done, especially since they were declaring the area to be in a state of emergency. His response? “As long as one manager and one employee can get there, you need to be open.” My manager retaliated by offering free hotel stays for the night to employees who didn’t feel they could make it home safely.

  43. Pete*

    ROFL I recently left a nightmare job with an IT/software support provider. The owners drive 80K plus four wheel drive vehicles and are clearly in better shape to traverse bad road conditions than their staff. We had a few bad storms come in on Fridays this winter. Most of the employees are young and drive the same old beat up 2 wheel drive vehicles they had in college. Despite the fact that everyone who had left early that day already had 40 hours in for the week, the owner returned from a long lunch and verbally ‘went off’ about people leaving early. I knew right then and there, that any employer who does not care about their employee’s safety is not someone I want to work for.
    We were compensated far less than what is standard for our jobs and what concerns me is how someone could literally be forced into bankruptcy (not to mention unemployment) if severely injured in accident traveling in these conditions.
    There just wasn’t anything justifying this ridiculous behavior on the owner’s part. Everyone already had 40 or more hours in for the week and it was after 2pm on a Friday afternoon! The National Weather Service had posted the warnings and alerts. The local media was urging everyone to stay off the roads, etc. I feared leaving – feared I would be fired. Trust me, even with a very old 4 wheel drive vehicle barely in working order, I regretted my decision to stay during a very long, harrowing and scary trip home.

    I wish we didn’t have to deal with unreasonable employers like this. Of course last time I dealt with a place that was overly strict, the death of an employee traveling in bad conditions and the resulting lawsuit changed their policy quite quickly.

  44. Marcy*

    My company in NJ has not closed once. Each snow storm this year has been a nightmare. The snowstorm we had in January, we were sent home in treacherous conditions, in the middle of the storm. I was scared to death. Took the better part of three hours to get home. I do not know where the common sense has gone. Unfortunately, someone will likely have to die for things to change.

  45. Lee*

    I work in the mental health field in Emergency Services conducting crisis evaluations on children and adolescents. Yes, we are open 24-7, but my car is not good in the snow and in a huge storm when I feel my own safety is at risk, I will call out and not risk my life. I was called back and harassed about it this time; the director tried to guilt me into making the trip, despite my fear for my safety, and despite that my immediate supervisor agreed with and supported my decision not to risk my safety. I have an exceptional work ethic and give 110% as an employee otherwise. I resent being given a hard time, and I’m more than concerned that the director thinks my life is expendable. I no longer want to work for him as a result, and I wish I could file a formal complaint against him for trying to pressure me to put myself in an unsafe situation.

  46. JannaA*

    Mind you, I live in northern Minnesota near the North Dakota border. I just started a new job in a restaurant yesterday, and my employer let me leave a half hour early in anticipation for the winter storm that just hit us. I live about thirty miles in the country. My schedule hasn’t quite been hammered out yet, but when I got a phone call at 8 am asking if I was aware that I worked today, I said no, I hadn’t been told , but I would be glad to come in, and I may be a few minutes late.
    Fast forward fifteen minutes as I walk outside and realize that I can’t see three feet in front of my face. There is no way I am going to be driving, seeing as the road I live on could not be seen. I called my employer right away and explained that I would “love to come into work, but unfortunately there was whiteout conditions on the county road I lived on and the main highway to the interstate and my other route are closed, so I unfortunately was unable to make it in.”
    I got a reply of “Well, I’m already short staffed today, so I really need you in. Would you like me to send you a ride so that you can make it in? The roads aren’t that bad.”
    I’ve lived here my entire life, and this has been one of the worst winters that I remember. I really wish people would understand that a job is not worth your life.

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