how should managers handle snow days?

A blizzard is coming!  Well, to much of the U.S., that is. And with severe weather, managers have to figure out how to handle work when people might not even be able to get out of their driveways.

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.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase’s blog.

{ 237 comments… read them below }

  1. voyager1*

    Thanks for posting this AAM. I think some employers really just don’t care about the weather and how it can really put people in risk when commuting or the school closures that can result.

    Where I live it is usually the tornadoes in the spring that are problem, but snow is very dangerous too.

  2. Kat M*

    We’re not permitted to close for weather, ever. (Even when we had no electricity we just relocated to another building.) We do run a smaller staff during bad snow or ice storm, though. People who live further out usually choose to use PTO, and it doesn’t count against their maximum call-off days. People who are closer in tend to come in, knowing it’ll be a light workload. We provide childcare onsite for staff for the day for a small fee, and management usually purchases lunch for everybody who comes in.

    I feel like it’s a pretty good deal for everyone involved.

  3. 42*

    Verrrry excited here too! My daughter is scheduled to take the SATs Saturday, so now we’re just waiting to see if they’ll be postponed. I always love a blizzard, but I hope my area nixxes the exam for this weekend. so far we’re not listed on the website…yet.

    1. M.*

      I took my first SATs during a horrible snow storm. But I live in New England so, they don’t really close or postpone for much.

    2. Chinook*

      “My daughter is scheduled to take the SATs Saturday, so now we’re just waiting to see if they’ll be postponed”

      I know that had an issue up the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife, maybe?) where the standard exam was missed due to bad weather (and for that area to close a school, you know it had to be dangerously bad). But, because they are standardized exams that are written on the same day across the territory, the next time they can write them is in April or June, no exceptions (so that there is no risk of them hearing from someone elsewhere what the questions were). But I also know that in Alberta, when one town burned to the ground, high school students were exempted from all their diploma exams and their class mark was used (thankfully those were stored on a central server out of town).

      What I am saying is that exemptions can be made when standardized exams can’t be taken. Check with the body administering them as they should already have a policy in place.

  4. Emergency Response Agency Worker*

    I work for an emergency management agency.
    When we have heavy snow, our number one problem is getting people to dialysis appointments.

    But our highest call volume (and our second most significant issue) is for workers trapped at work. Some of these are people who were called in before the storm while the roads were clear, but more often than not it is people who made extraordinary arrangements (e.g. friend with a 4-wheel drive vehicle) to get to work, but were now stuck there because the snow got deeper, accidents filled the highways, their friend was unavailable, etc.

    Our first priority is getting nurses at dialysis centers to work, then home from work. Everyone else waits. We rarely have been able to get all the nurses home on time, much less transport anyone else.

    1. Emergency Response Agency Worker*

      Side note….
      Any employees you put on the road during a storm are making it that much harder for us to get those dialysis patients to treatment and to keep those treatment centers staffed. Think about that before you make a worker come in.

      1. Not Gloria A.A., B.S.*

        This is interesting. When I worked at a dialysis center their main concern during winter was making sure the patients had some sort of special medication so that they could skip a treatment in case of a bad snow storm.

        1. Emergency Response Agency Worker*

          I don’t know the details, but there are always some patients who can skip and some who cannot. Each one gets individually evaluated before we take measures to move them (most often via national guard humvee).

      2. Brandy in Tn*

        We have a lot of Northern transplants that think the weather is nothing down here, but its ice Not snow. Plus they ask on the news to stay home if you can due to the weather being so bad, don’t add to accidents out already.

        1. LD*

          Yes, southerner transplanted to upper Midwest, and we get ice here, too. The news and law enforcement do remind people that a 4-wheel drive helps you go on ice and snow, it doesn’t help you stop.

    2. 42*

      Oh yeah. In my former life I worked in a hospital. During the big blizzard of ’96, the National Guard drove me to and from work. I was scheduled for the night shift that night, as luck would have it, and we had the most skeleton of skeleton staffs that night. I’m grateful for both the folks who still travel in to care for their patients, and for the nice corporate 9-5 job that I now have.

      Be safe, everyone.

      1. Kvaren*

        I never knew arrangements like this happened. It makes me feel good (and safer!) to know that hospital staff and similar critical workers are taken care of during emergencies.

        What kind of vehicle did you ride in? Was it a big military style truck?

        1. Liane*

          I never knew this either. It makes sense though.
          And thanks to you, the nurses & all others who have to work in bad weather to keep people safe & healthy.

      2. blackcat*

        My neighbor (a nurse) got driven to the hospital in a a fire truck whenever the MBTA shut down last winter (Boston).

        He had to walk around the block to meet them, though, because our street wasn’t plowed wide enough for the fire truck…

    3. Guinness*

      That’s so interesting! My husband works in heart care, and the last time we had quite a bit of snow, he had to take my SUV in because it was the only thing that would clear the snow build up. I’m fortunate that, for the most part, my office seems pretty reasonable about closing when it is too bad.
      I struggle with the school closings here because to me, they seem to close way too easily, but I do like the idea of the extra traffic being off the roads so the plows can clear. I guess I’ll think of it that way from now on. :)

      1. Liane*

        Regarding school closings:
        Our district covers a very large area, and some parts–those that are more northerly &/or with steeper terrain–are likely to be too dangerous when other parts of the district are safe (both schools and the routes). Even when it is just a part, the district almost always closes every school, probably so all the schools stay on the same schedule.

      2. TrainerGirl*

        I live in the DC area, in a county that is both suburb and rural. Yes, there are days when the students in my area (the East) could go to school, but there’s no way the buses would be able to get to the kids in the rural areas (the West). Back when I was in school, they tried one year to split the county in half. That was a MESS. Nobody thought that there were teachers who lived in one half and taught in the other, and couldn’t get to school. That ended quickly, thank goodness.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      I work for a health care provider and the default is that all staff members have symbols on our ID cards that officially allow us to use disaster response routes during earthquakes or other natural disasters. (The general public isn’t allowed to use these roads during such a situation). This obviously makes a lot of sense for front-line medical staff, but I doubt anyone’s going to be in urgent need of a grant writer during The Big One. This thread has prompted me to ask my manager why it’s set up this way, and why they don’t have a policy about who does and does not get such a symbol. I could see this being a problem during a natural disaster, if people abuse the system. Hmmm.

      1. RKB*

        I have one like that too! Except I’m just a unit clerk, so I’m not sure my presence will really be missed.

        But alas I’m in western Canada, where “blizzard” means “casual snowfall, but may get a bit chilly out there!”

    5. DCLimey*

      On behalf of dialysis patients everywhere, thank you!

      (My clinic just shifted our Saturday appointments to Sunday)

    6. Kirsten*

      Yep, I just came here to say that you unfortunately don’t get snow days when you work in an inpatient medical setting. I try to make myself available during storms since I live only a few blocks away from my hospital and can walk to work, since we often end up understaffed when people who live further away can’t make it.

      1. Kirsten*

        To be clear, I know that dialysis isn’t inpatient, but both fall under the category of “people whose medical issues do not take snow days.” :)

  5. TotesMaGoats*

    It just figures that OldJob has already closed for tomorrow. They NEVER did that in the 8 years I was there. I’m so jealous. But it’s the wise thing to do. It’s a Friday, classes aren’t held on campus those days, so it’s just staff and with many working off site across the whole state, it’s easier just to shut down. At NewJob, the classes that I’m concerned with have already shifted online and everyone else is worried about undergrad classes that start next week. I wish they would go ahead and say we are shutting down at noon tomorrow. We could announce that and make everyone’s life easier. But that ain’t gonna happen.

    The sucky part at OldJob was that as manager during liberal leave, I would always grant it to my folks but that meant I had to trek in to open a building.

    I hope everyone stays safe.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      My OldJob closed for ice one day…the kicker is that I had just been promoted to full time from being a temp worker (with no benefits), and the ice day happened right before my new job was to start so I didn’t get paid. ;(

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My oldjob closed for one day during the 2007 multi-state ice storm that shut down the entire city (we got an extra PTO day). We also closed for one day when we had a blizzard a year before I left. But the one time we had a very bad sleet-storm, they did not let us go early and it took two hours to make a ten/fifteen-minute drive home. And an hour of that was spent trying to get out of the industrial park!

        I’m glad I get to work from home at CurrentJob. I did today because ice and snow. I probably could have gone in, but after taking two hours to get home in freezing drizzle Tuesday night and sliding off yesterday morning when going in, I just didn’t feel like it.

  6. Rebecca*

    I’m able to work from home, but not allowed to work from home. My manager stated that since not everyone can be trusted to work from home, no one is allowed. Our offices are never closed due to weather, even though it’s not customer facing or even a vital thing. We could close for 1 day. This means if it snows a lot, and I need to stay home, I must take PTO or vacation time, and not log in and work. Of course, there’s the guilt trip when you call in “well, if you think you can’t make it in, I guess it’s OK that you stay home”. I have a 25 mile commute one way. I have no desire to be in an accident. And when we have storms that start out as snow, goes to rain, then back to snow and the temps plummet, it means I could go home to an entire driveway frozen into a solid block of mess that may take days or weeks to melt.

    It would be great if my employer wasn’t so “butts in the seat” focused, but that’s not the case.

    1. Kristine*

      Ugh I hate this. My job could be totally remote but I also have to drive 25 miles each way so the company has visual proof that I am working. Even though I work better at home because I don’t have the distracting phone calls and chit-chat of everyone else in our open office plan. The entire company has a “no working from home, no exceptions” policy, but thankfully my manager will bend the rules if the roads are truly impassible (like during last year’s blizzard). But I have had some close calls trying to get to the office in bad weather.

    2. Charityb*

      I’ve always wondered why some employers do this in cases where it’s actually not vital to be in the office. Even if the employee is fine driving through the ice and snow, clogging up the roads with unnecessary traffic like that just makes it harder for emergency services personnel and road crews. For me, a company that makes its employees come into work for no reason is morally equivalent to deliberately blocking a fire lane during an emergency.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In some cases, it’s a power trip for the immediate manager and upper management has no clue what is going on.

    3. BRR*

      My old employer was like that. Their thought process was we got so much PTO that we could use it if we felt it was unsafe to come in. I’m not at a much more flexible employer and going to ask in my one on one later how to handle snow days as they are rarely called but I travel FAR.

    4. Michaela T*

      My office is like that. We have the option to work from home on one scheduled day a week, but only on that day. They specifically announced that we are not to request to work from home on bad weather days, and to use PTO if we feel like we can’t make it in. Tuesday of this week was my day at home, and I was the only one in on time. We had a snowstorm and everyone else was at least 20 minutes late, some over an hour. Crazy.

    5. Ad Girl*

      We have this same policy, unfortunately. I am lucky to have a boss that lets us take a PTO day under the table to make up for the one we were forced to use.

        1. NJ Anon*

          This makes me crazy! Everyone gets punished for the “sins” of one because the powers that be don’t want to address the issue with one specific person. Yikes!

      1. Rebecca*

        OMG yes! This sums up our entire office! Everyone gets called into a meeting because 1 or 2 people fail to follow the rules. 20 or 30 minutes of wasted time, and the same people do the same things because no one thinks it’s them PHB is talking about. She doesn’t want to single people out because she doesn’t want them to feel bad or targeted. It’s like outcome based education has come to the workplace.

        1. Natalie*

          Ugh, mine too. They are forever creating time consuming procedures to avoid 1-in-a-million events, which are then abandoned a year or two later.

    6. UK Nerd*

      At OldJob we were told it was impossible for anyone to work from home. Then we had snow. Faced with the prospect of over 3/4 of the company not showing up, suddenly it turned out not to be so impossible after all.

  7. Not Gloria A.A., B.S.*

    Adding in to the benefits of being able to work from home… if you’re doing that, you’re not burning a PTO days or taking it unpaid like everyone else has to. When I was an AA we weren’t allowed to work from home, we were also one of the lowest paid positions in an office in an expensive suburb, so we lived the furthest away. Which meant we were the ones most likely to call in sick during a snow storm and use a PTO day. Which we got less of as non-exempt employees.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I would hope that an office closing due to inclement weather would pay the employees who can’t work from home for that day, but I’m sure that’s not how it usually goes down.

  8. Pwyll*

    You can have it, you can have all of it. After being trapped in Massachusetts during our outrageous snowfall last year, I never want to see another snowflake again. :)

  9. Debbie Jellinsky*

    I’d love to work from home during snow storms, but my manager keeps saying “I’ll look into it” whenever myself or my fellow team members ask him to get us set up to do so. We’re the only employees in our company who don’t have the ability to work from home, except for a few assistants who aren’t senior enough :(

  10. Lizabeth*

    Old job NEVER closed for snow (and they’re in the DC area!) Owner would glare at people the next day when the roads were clear and we were required to take PTO or take an unpaid day. I think someone (not me unfortunately) finally said to him that the job wasn’t worth getting into an accident or killed for since the DC area is full of people that can’t handle driving in snow and governments that can’t plan properly for the snow dumps.

    1. Cat*

      I was just going to come here and say that I think the common D.C. area-thing of closing when the federal government does solves a lot of problems (even if it does put a lot of pressure on whoever has to make that call at OPM).

      1. Lizabeth*

        The Feds have the system down cold now; they didn’t use to…I remember some goat rodeos in the 80’s down there.

      2. Honeybee*

        I’m doing some federal work this week and someone asked about the snowstorm. Apparently the feds have about 20 different contingency plans for if something happens, and the work I’m doing is a completely nonessential function.

    2. Mike C.*

      SO what would happen in situations where authorities would tell folks to stay off the roads? Did you boss just expect employees to ignore those warnings or was there a line where s/he relented?

    3. Liane*

      Several years ago, a good friend’s employer insisted EVERYONE come in when the governor was telling people to stay home. And if I recall correctly, the higher-ups who demanded everyone come in–stayed home.

  11. cellphonetyper*

    I am so grateful for emergency telework (we do not close ever), but i always feel so bad when i have go take it, bc buses *are* generally running and i could take them… but theyre on a limited schedule, completely packed, and id be 1.5 hours late to work, even starting out an hour early.

  12. Lia*

    I work for an employer that rarely closes, although we did twice last winter. However, there were travel bans on two other days, and we had to use PTO on those days if we did not make it in. Ultimately, we got the PTO refunded, but at the time, it was nuts — every road leading to work was closed, yet it remained open.

  13. Kiki*

    I hope everyone’s okay this weekend, it sure is dominating the news! “Most of the country” surprised me though. My cousin in Maine is in the clear, so I was confused! I looked at a map on and it looks more like a small part of the country…but I get it’s a big deal if you are in that part. Stay safe and build snowHMs ;)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Much” of the country — not most! I guess that depends on how you define “much,” but I think it’s a good part of the eastern seaboard.

      1. Lauren*

        While the eastern seaboard may be relatively small geographically — it contains a LOT of people and some of the country’s main economic centers.

        1. Guinness*

          I think I heard on the Weather Channel that 1 in 4 of the nation’s population is under some sort of notice for winter weather.

        2. Ad Astra*

          It’s not the post-storm coverage that bothers me; any sort of disaster is worth reporting (though I hope this storm doesn’t bring any death or destruction with it, of course). It’s the excessive pre-storm coverage that drives me nuts, because it’s really just local/regional news at that point. Crowded supermarkets in DC are neither relevant nor interesting to someone in, like, Oklahoma.

        3. Honeybee*

          That’s the way I interpreted it, too. Geographically it’s not much, but population-wise it’s a huge chunk of the U.S.

      2. Liane*

        Eastern Seaboard is the worst, but not the only area affected by winter weather in the next day or so. So I think much of the country is fairly accurate.
        I am in Little Rock, Arkansas & the latest is that we’re getting 2 to 4 inches snow overnight. After hours of rain & freezing rain which means ice under the snow. This is a great deal for this area & will make a mess of the commute–best case.
        My coworkers have told me that if it sticks the company will forgive Occurrences (lateness or absences).

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      The BosWash corridor occasionally forgets the rest of us exist. ;)

      Stay safe, East Coast. Stockpile your cocoa, coffee, and/or vodka.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            See, this is why you should just always remain well-stocked. I know I have at least a case and a half of wine, 5 or 6 unopened bottles of scotch, and a couple of cases of beer in the basement.

            Who’s coming over for a blizzard party? :D

            1. HeyNonnyNonny*

              Well, I was going to do a beer run after work today…you’re ready to keep everyone for all three days, right?

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Sure! I have open cases of Magic Hat #9 and Guinness stout, and a few 750ml bottles of Ommegang Abbey Ale, Brooklyn Brewery’s Local #1 and #2, and…if you’re nice…I still have one bottle each of Westvleteren 8 and 12! :-9

                Don’t get me started on the scotch…

        1. Bibliovore*

          When snow was forecasted, my Minnesota Husband moved to Philly, he didn’t believe me when I said go to the store for milk, eggs and bread, now or there will be none on the shelves by the time I get home. No, he didn’t and no, there wasn’t.

          1. Anxa*


            I never really understood the bread and milk thing. I feel like those are some of the least essential items.

            Toilet paper, paper towels, and some fresh fruit/food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or cooked just in case power goes out. And cookies. That’s my storm preparedness list.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        But don’t wish too hard, cause then you’ll find out how bad your neighbors are at driving in it!

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          Ugh, Charlotte drivers can barely function when it’s drizzling. I swear, when it snows it’s like Bedlam relocated to the American South and released all its patients.

          1. Noah*

            I learned that last week when it snowed for all of 2 hours and none of it actually stuck to the ground. You would’ve thought it was a blizzard around here.

          2. HRish Dude*

            Well, when the roads aren’t equipped to handle it, cars generally aren’t set up for it, and no one has any experience driving in it, it kind of makes sense.

            1. So Very Anonymous*

              Exactly. Which is why I’ve long since stopped making fun of the attitudes here. We had a disaster a few years ago when they didn’t close everything and people got stuck on the roads for hours and hours because everyone got let out for the snow at the same time. (Happened on a day I’d taken vacation time, so I was home…. thankfully). It legitimately isn’t safe to be on the road with inexperienced drivers here, and I’ve lost my ability to drive on ice myself. We’re likely (possibly?) to have a wintry mix tomorrow, university will close at noon, I’m taking PTO for the morning.

              1. Anxa*

                I don’t expect anyone to know how to drive in the snow, but I do expect people not to drive 70 mph in it.

                I personally am from the north, but didn’t get my license til I moved to the South. Ice is no joke, and they don’t have a lot of plows. But I have seen a few things that are just….just completely inexplicable.

          3. Liane*

            It’s not just in the Deep South. I joke with the New York family friend I mentioned earlier that “Winter’s officially arrived when you start gripping that all the other NY drivers have forgotten how to drive in snow over the last 8 months or so”

    3. SH*

      Kiki – There’s a local NYC blog I read that loves to poke fun of every major weather event and the surrounding media circus. It keeps me entertained all year! Unfortunately, my poor mom in the Midwest believes the media hype and frantically texts me. A lot. I’ll be in hibernation mode this weekend, going out only for junk food cravings (god bless delis and bodegas!), but I hope you and everyone else on AAM gets to enjoy the snow (even if you’re just living vicariously through the rest of us). :)

      1. Kiki*

        That’s funny! My mom (rest her soul) used to FREAK OUT whenever there was an earthquake in LA. I live in SF. (For the East Coasters, that’s pretty much like your mom freaking out about a Florida hurricane when you live in Boston. lol)

        I still want to see photos of HiringManagerSnowmen. I am serious about this people.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          My mum freaked out when we went to Japan last year. “But what if there’s a big earthquake while you’re there?!” I replied “what if there’s a big earthquake in Vancouver? I’d rather be in Japan, they’re better prepared for it than we are!”

          1. Shell*

            Seriously. Remember that earthquake we had a few weeks ago? People were clogging up the 911 line asking if there was an earthquake. My father was sitting at his desk with a massive credenza filled with crap and he was trying to hold onto the credenza rather than ducking under the desk.

            Yeah, the Japanese are definitely better prepared.

          2. Marcela*

            Hehehehe. Are there earthquakes in Vancouver? In a similar note, a friend from UK asked me if I was crazy, because I was moving to the SF bay area and here, he said, there are terrible earthquakes. I reminded him I am Chilean and that the worst registered earthquake happened in my land. But actually I’m not that confident: I’ve been in 3 or 4 serious earthquakes in Santiago and I truly trust the buildings there; now I look at my Californian house and the noises and vibration it makes when I walk on it, and I doubt….

  14. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

    I’ve told this story before but the reason I quit my old job was because they refused to call a snow day and I ended up having to drive home in a white out, when a tow-ban was in effect.

    There was no reason for any of us to come in that day, and it was the most stressful horrendous drive of my life. I was sure I was going to end up in the ditch and die of exposure.

  15. Ghost Umbrella*

    I work in DC and live in northern Virginia. It took me six and a half hours to drive home last night. I really, really, really hope the federal government is closed tomorrow.

        1. Alison with one L*

          After the disaster of last night (and the memory from a few years ago of letting people go mid-day and causing a total disaster), I’m guessing/hoping they’ll be super conservative and shut it down completely.

            1. Ghost Umbrella*

              They didn’t pre-treat the roads, we got a couple of inches of snow during evening rush hour, and, as traffic stopped due to the usual volume + the predictable wrecks that happened (because DC + snow = chaos), the snow turned to ice. Kind of similar to what happened to Atlanta a couple of years ago, except IMO way less excusable.

              1. Dan*

                If DC and the surrounding area doesn’t pre-treat the roads, game over. Back in 2011, there was a day where rained turned to snow and they couldn’t treat the roads, so it was the same crap.

                I guess I had it easy, my normal :30 commute turned into 1:15.

              2. Mike C.*

                No pretreating!? Ugh, that’s awful.

                One thing I can count on here in the PNW is to see roads pretreated at the faintest hint of freezing temps.

                1. Callie*

                  Depends on where you are. In my super environmentally conscious hippie college town, they don’t treat the roads with anything except MAYBE some gravel/sand.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                That happened on Tuesday with the freezing drizzle here–I saw no plows until after it started, and going home was a nightmare. A drive that takes me 20-30 minutes tops took 2 hours. And I almost got stuck because my tires suck. Wall-to-wall cars on every major road. But it was kind of gratifying to see everybody going 4 mph when usually they drive too fast for conditions. You just could NOT do that; it was physically impossible. >:)

              4. Not So NewReader*

                Pretreat? With what?

                In Connecticut they would wait for the snow and then send out sand. Up here they use a salt and sand mix. Someone said they have a chemical they can put down to keep ice from forming ever, but it’s expensive.

                1. Winchime*

                  Yeah it’s some kind of a chemical that they spray on the roads. You can see little lines of it going down the middle of the lanes. It seems to really help.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I actually salted the incline I slid off on Wednesday. Walked up to the corner that night and sprinkled it everywhere with a cup because we were set to get snow and more freezing drizzle. This morning, the whole street was solid ice, except for that incline. :)

      1. Cat*

        I hope they announce it tonight. Our federal agency filing deadlines are tolled if they close before the close of business but that does not help anyone if we don’t know until right before it happens!

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          We got a memo saying they’re going to decide in time to announce it on the 10 and 11pm newscasts.

      2. S*

        I have a friend who it took 8 hours to get from DC to Rockville last night. Poor thing got to sleep for 90 minutes and had to head back to work. Fingers crossed for federal closures tomorrow.

        1. Ghost Umbrella*

          That is terrible. I still don’t understand why they didn’t do a two-hour delay today. I barely slept and have been useless all day.

      1. NotASalesperson*

        It’s not expected to extend far above New York. I’m in Boston and so far we’re not expecting more than a couple of inches of snow, and in some places the forecast says the weather will be a wintry mix. Connecticut, Western Mass, and Rhode Island will be hit with a bit more than Boston and the northeastern areas of Mass.

        1. Dan*

          My company is 7000 people, about half live in Boston, the other half live in DC. Last winter was pretty funny, we were shutting down for mere inches, and Boston was getting clobbered. I could just imagine the phone calls between the executive offices ;)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I’m in NY, the weather forecast indicates no precip. This an amazing thing for us here, absolutely unheard of for us not to get clobbered with the rest of the East Coast.

          1. NewCommenterfromDaBronx*

            I’m in Westchester County & we are on the border supposedly where we may get 3-6 inches but it might be 12 inches. Nice forecasting, right? But not starting until late Friday night, possibly after midnight. Not sure where you are in NY, but if you mean NYC, snow definitely predicted for there.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        North Carolina too. Wintry mix expected, up to a foot in the Western part of the state. This is a Big One.

    1. Ghost Umbrella*

      The storm system is stretching from Nebraska to the Carolinas, up to New York. Like she said, that’s “much” of the country. The news was saying that about 80 million people are affected.

  16. Claire Fraser*

    Thankfully not me, but a friend’s husband works for Job Lot. During a huge snowstorm where our Governor actually shut the state down and told everyone that the roads were closed, with the exception of emergency / medical workers, he was told by Job Lot show up anyway and if he didn’t he was going to get written up.

    He made the wise decision to stay home vs risk getting in an accident, impeding emergency workers / snow plows and / or getting a ticket because the state police were ticketing drivers who were out.

    The next day, sure enough his manager had a disciplinary meeting with him, and had a form for him to sign to say he was spoken to about missing work on xyz date for his shift scheduled at xyz time.

    He said fine, signed it, took his copy and then said I wonder what the state’s department of labor will think of this considering the time and date shown on the form are clearly within the window that we were told not to drive by the Governor.

    His supervisor sort of just looked blankly for a moment and walked away. No surprise that he came back 1/2 hour later and asked for the form because after further consideration he was not going to be reprimanded.

    Yes, friend’s husband was smart enough to keep the form, and did file a complaint. I’d love to say that the company got in trouble, but since they rescinded their disciplinary action there wasn’t anything for the DOL to do.

    1. Not an IT Guy*

      Could the DOL even do anything if the write-up wasn’t rescinded? As far as I’m aware companies have the right to reprimand employees as they see fit.

      1. Claire Fraser*

        No idea really. I would venture to guess that they could do something (but what, who knows?) if the employee had been fired over it, but just reprimanded? Not sure they would have intervened.

  17. Chriama*

    I wish there was a way to fine companies who force their employees to come to work during travel bans. I guess they would just lie and say they weren’t forcing their employees, but it would be so nice if there was a real economic impact to their stupidity.

    1. Small town reporter*

      I used to get really irritated with a county sheriff I would interview about snow storms. He’d refuse to call a certain level of snow emergency (closing the roads to everyone but emergency/health workers, I think) because the factories in the county would complain when he did.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Well, there is an indirect way that they are fined. When you get in an accident their health insurance goes up. Or if you develop ulcers from the stress of driving through nine feet of snow to get to work that also drives up their health care costs.

      Why companies do not see this correlation is beyond me.

  18. MaryMary*

    If you have the authority, I’d also advise managers/leadership to set a blanket “bad weather/bad roads” policy instead waiting for employees to ask or until a storm is on its way. Once, after waking up very early and spending two hours trying to get to work, I called my manager to let her know it was going to take me at least an hour to get to the office. That’s when she told me I could have worked from home.

    If a manager or employer doesn’t want to say employees can work from home whenever they feel they can’t safely make it into the office, there are a number of fairly objective measures (when schools are closed, when city/county offices are closed, if a level whatever snow emergency is declared, if a state of emergency is declared…) that could be used.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Definitely, we are near Chicago and a lot of people commute a decent distance — so there’s always been a general policy of “use your best judgment”. In my case, if my 45-minute commute looks like it’s going to increase by more than 25% or so, I generally stay home.

      1. MaryMary*

        I lived in Chicago at the time and commuted to the northern suburbs. You don’t need to live too far from work for your Chicagoland commute to take a long, long time!

        1. ThatGirl*

          You’ve got that right! We had an inch of snow on Wednesday morning, and it was timed just poorly enough to cause accidents and snarl all of the expressways.

    2. Rachel*

      I’m also in the Chicago area. At my previous job, most of what I did could be done from home if necessary, and I took my work laptop home with me every night. The snow day/work-from-home policy was based on school closures – if the schools in the town where I lived and/or the town where the company was located were closed, we could work from home and didn’t have to take a PTO day.

  19. Jaya*

    We emailed our official policy earlier this week (we follow OPM), but we also advised our employees to just stay home until it was safe. If they can work, great. But not everybody can work from home, even if they have the technology… it’s not so easy to telecommute when you have children who can’t go to school or other family/roommates stuck at home too. We just ask them to be honest on their timesheets, accounting for work as work and PTO as PTO. They’re all mature and adult enough to judge what needs to be done and what can wait. If they can stay late or work on the weekends for important deadlines, we can afford them the same flexibility in emergencies.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Don’t forget about power outages. Those can nix the best laid plans. If that happens the employee may have a difficult time communicating to management that the planned telecommute is off.

      1. Editor*

        Power outages are why I don’t particularly like snowstorms. Yes, I can be inside with a real fire and be cosy if it just a snowstorm, because I will have plenty of food, the teenager next door uses my snowblower to clear both houses’ sidewalks and driveways, and I don’t have to go anywhere.

        If the power goes out, things get nasty if the outage is more than six or eight hours. The thing that has offended me about this snowstorm is that mostly all the advice has centered on dealing with the snow. But there’s no long-term planning to fix power grid vulnerabilities so snow and ice cause less havoc (particularly in the mid-Atlantic where there are fairly frequent ice storm events because it’s not as consistently cold as Vermont or Maine), and there’s no political effort to put in place some sensible worker protections so that crazy bosses are the ones disciplined for insisting people come to work when they can work from home or are not essential workers such as health care workers.

        While I can see a grocery store or gas station would want to stay open in a storm, there’s a lot of retail that should shut down but doesn’t. If customers are driving to shop at a clothing boutique or a card-and-gift shop during a travel ban, that’s a problem, and it contributes to employer unreasonableness.

        I wish employers were more sensible about this stuff so that we didn’t need a law, and I wish public officials were more explicit at news conferences, saying flat out that staying open while requiring workers to drive to work is inexcusable.

  20. 12345678910112 do do do*

    During Snowmageddon 2009-2010, my husband was a contractor for the military. The snow completely shut down DC for two separate weeks, and he had to take leave for the whole thing. Didn’t get it back, either. The base was shut down! He couldn’t go to work if he tried! It made me so angry. It was all of his leave for the year.

    1. Suzanne*

      I don’t understand making employees use up their allotted time off for things like blizzard conditions, or, as your case, the place is closed.

      1. PhoenixBurn*

        It’s absolutely stupid, and I don’t agree with it, either – but it’s based on what the company’s contract with the government says. They can’t bill for the hours when the government is shut down, so most companies force the PTO use.

        1. Ghost Umbrella*

          What they should do is chalk it up to overhead and not make us use PTO, but I feel like I see that done less and less these days.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Oh gosh, memories of that winter… ye gods. During Snowmageddon part 1 I spent three days in an airport hotel waiting for things to clear up enough that I could actually join my family for the holidays, and during part 2 I was trying to move. I do not miss that winter…

    3. Snow-nonymous*

      I was a grad student working part time in a DC/MD suburb during that time. My retail employer actually asked me to come in with an overnight bag so they could put me up at the hotel down the block. And then the card the manager paid with was declined and I had to pay for myself and two other co-workers! (I was eventually reimbursed) And then the next day it was a white-out with a travel ban, but of course the manager wouldn’t close the store (just in case someone came in … we had two customers all day). I had to go home with a guest services manager because I didn’t have a car and had no way home! I had to buy fresh underwear from my place of employment.

  21. Suzanne*

    I used to work somewhere that made it a policy to never close; never, that is, until a woman died attempting to get to work in the midst of a terrible storm. When the weather causes dangerous conditions, please, managers, tell your workers not to come in if they feel it is too dangerous. Unless the job involves keeping someone else alive, it’s not worth the potentially terrible results.

    1. GreenTeaPot*

      That IS horrible. I worked for a non-profit that would not close during the most horrific of storms, putting all its staff in danger. I once drove home from the heart of a small city into my home suburb in a whiteout. It was a 15-minute drive that took two hours that day. Thankfully I never saw another car, as everyone else was off the roads.

  22. LadyKelvin*

    I live in DC but I’m in Miami this week for school, so I get to miss the snow. I’m not sorry at all, though the boy is a fed contractor and it looks like he will have Friday afternoon and Monday off. Plus its our puppy’s first snow so I’m slightly saddened that I’m missing it, but then I look outside and its 72 degrees and sunny and I’m happy again. Stay safe everyone.

  23. Kate M*

    YES to making it clear what you expect from your employees. We follow the federal government, and if they close down, it’s easy for us. BUT, when there’s a 2 hour delay, my firm is so noncommittal about what that actually means. When I first started here, I was used to 2 hour delays (from school) meaning that things didn’t open until 2 hours later, so don’t even try to get there earlier. So I would get in at 11, and people would already be there and have been waiting for me to do things. And nobody will say “2 hour delay doesn’t mean anything,” they’ll say “yes, we have a 2 hour delay, if you can’t make it in until then.” But then still expect you to work earlier. What does “if you can’t make it in earlier” mean? Do I wait for the sidewalks to clear? Do I leave the house at the same time and just have extra leeway in case it takes me longer to get in? If you don’t want us to actually use the 2 hour delay, just tell us.

  24. Ama*

    I worked for a university for awhile that *hated* closing for snow, but was forced to during a couple of big snowstorms a few years back (also as our city has become more expensive and more employees and students have moved further out bad weather has become a much bigger issue than when most people lived in the neighborhoods around campus). We would get increasingly passive aggressive emails from the people in charge of closing campus when bad weather was expected: “we haven’t closed campus but if you have concerns about your commute please make arrangements with your supervisor or professor” “we’re not closing campus but we’re cancelling all events after 6 pm tomorrow” “okay, FINE, since so many of you have safety concerns we’ll close campus all day tomorrow” (that last one is only a slight exaggeration).

    1. Hlyssande*

      My college in Iowa also never closed for weather that I can recall when I was there. Even though it was on top of a hill and the ice was incredibly treacherous. And when everyone walks in the snow to avoid ice, it all becomes ice.

      1. Ad Astra*

        If this is the campus I’m thinking of, I can attest that it is a terrifying place to be in icy and snowy weather. I’ve seen more than a few campus buses slide down hills when they let off the brake to hit the gas and hold my breath each time.

        1. Hlyssande*

          Not the same one, there aren’t any buses. Mine was a very small college that shares a name with a big university in NY. And on the tallest hill in the small town. With very steep sidewalks to get to the converted houses/classrooms, athletic center, and art building down and across the street. It would’ve been safer to sled down the hill than to walk the sidewalks.

          But oh geez yes. When the buses are sliding down the hill, IT’S TIME TO CLOSE.

    2. Noah*

      The college I attended never closes for weather. Professors can cancel classes, departments or groups can cancel events, dining can close everything but the main cafeteria, but they will still insist that campus is open. The majority of students live on campus though, and can walk to classes (if the professors make it in) without any issues. There also has to be a certain number of employees around for the campus to function.

    3. Squeegee Beckenheim*

      The college I attended for undergrad was like that. We had a blizzard during finals one year and they encouraged the students to shovel themselves paths to exams (probably because none of the facilities people who would normally clear sidewalks could make it in). Of course, most students living in dorms don’t have shovels, so it was a miserable trundle to that physics test. I don’t even think the professor was there for the test, just some TAs who I hope lived very close to campus.

    4. Xarcady*

      Ugh. I worked at a state university library in New England for a while. This is basically what they would do.

      My position, working at the Circulation Desk, was for some reason deemed an “essential” state position. So there were times when most of the library staff would be allowed to go home, like the Reference Desk people, and all of Technical Services, but the Circ staff had to stay. One evening, the library director came around, announcing that all non-essential staff could go home. He got to the Circ Desk and smiled a big smile, and we all had hopes of getting to leave, but he said, “Hey! I get to go home, but you guys have to stay!” Yeah, not the big morale booster he obviously thought it was.

      The university had four (4) rooms somewhere in one of the dorms that could be reserved if you thought you might be stranded on campus overnight. You had to bring your own sheets for the bed. I think some staff had those rooms permanently reserved, because I was never able to get one. I worked the closing shift at the library, and many a snowy night, I’d be on the road, in the dark, with no other cars, on winding country roads, hoping like heck that I didn’t run into trouble, because the houses on those roads were miles apart, and I couldn’t afford a cell phone back then.

      The school was mostly a commuter school. There was no reason to keep staff there until midnight at the library. No students were there–they were all snug in their dorms or apartments or homes, while we walked the 1.5 miles from the library to the staff parking lot in the blinding snow, then crawled home at 15 miles a hour on hilly, back country roads.

      I do not look back on this time fondly.

      1. Anxa*

        If I were a student and the library closed, but my instructors didn’t adjust our due dates or exam schedules, I would be furious. So I can definitely understand someone would have to stay.

        That said, there’s no reason for you to have had to commute like that. I’m shocked they didn’t do a better job finding on campus accommodations or offer the shift to an hourly worker or student. Or had someone higher up stay behind.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      My school here never closed, even during a storm that dumped eighteen inches on us in one day (that’s unusual for this area). I actually had to drive in it to turn in a paper. Even my work closed that day!

    6. blackcat*

      During Snowmageddon, part 2 (in PA), I walked 2 miles* up hill** to get to class… which was then held in a building without power. I nearly got lost a few times in the blowing snow

      *Everyone else lived on campus, and the professor lived 1 block from campus. I was the odd one out.
      **It was not uphill both ways! And actually, uphill was easier than downhill.

    7. Talvi*

      I worked at my university library when I was in undergrad, and my boss had been there for years. Apparently, the last time the university had been closed for weather/snow was in 1987.

      The university I’m at right now will close for weather more often – the roads coming up here are very steep, and they’ll cancel classes (or exams during finals week!) if the roads are slippery enough that transit cannot make it up the mountain. I know people who’ve gotten stuck on campus because transit coming up to campus was cancelled – hasn’t happened to me yet, but there’s still a few months of winter left.

    8. HREscapee*

      I went to school in a very northern state. At the time of the 2007 Valentine’s day storm (that dumped almost 5 feet of snow) the school had not closed for weather in 20-some odd years.

      So its snowing, and first they cancel night classes on the first day. And then they cancel anything starting before 10. And then anything starting before noon. For three straight days they cancelled things in two-hour increments until finally, on the last day, they cancelled the whole day because, even if we wanted to, it turned out that it was basically physically impossible to leave the dorms because of the weight of 5 feet of constantly blowing snow made the exterior doors impossible to open. They would start digging out one end of campus and by the time they were finished the first buildings would be snowed in again. We got four days off in total, but those first three days of being dressed and ready to go to class only for them to cancel just the next block on the schedule was such BS.

  25. ThatGirl*

    I lived in Kentucky for two years, working at a newspaper, which is one of those things where it’s not vital to health or safety but people expect us to get the paper out anyway. There was a pretty bad ice storm one year, and the managing editor was going around town in his four wheel drive picking people up. I however grew up in the Midwest and got there safely by myself.

    Now I live near Chicago, and mercifully, am able to work from home – in fact it’s often encouraged when roads are lousy in general because otherwise you’re just losing productivity. They did completely shut our office down during the Groundhog Day blizzard of 2011, and it was a full 48 hours before I could even move my car from our apartment complex lot. I did some work from home, but so many people were out/stuck/etc that there wasn’t a great way to be productive anyway. But I’m definitely grateful for sane snow day policies.

    1. Hlyssande*

      Ah yes, morning paper delivery. I did that in junior high/high school in central IL and my dad and I were one of the only routes in town that delivered the one Christmas morning when we’d had over a foot of snow. I’m still surprised the paper truck managed to drop them off for us.

      We got it out somewhat late, but by gosh it was out and dry as well. And we pushed out a few stuck cars on the way there and back. Normally we got lots of complaints when we were late with delivery, but that day some of the customers actually called the paper to compliment us.

      That’s why those rich old people gave me the good tips, lol.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Ugh, working for a paper in bad weather was always the worst. We had to be in the office, often before the city had even attempted to clear any snow or salt any sidewalks, but most of us didn’t make enough money to properly maintain our 10-year-old cars. It was weird feeling a certain duty to the public but not the same duty as, like, doctors and firefighters.

      1. Editor*

        Hearing about how one reporter drove a forklift and the managing editor helped with the press and camped out in the staff lounge during a weather crisis did not make me thrilled to work at a newspaper. That was the moment I knew I’d never have a snow day at that place.

        Taking calls from people who were staying home during the storm but were upset because their papers were late was also annoying — it was hard to stay polite when the newsroom had to handle the phones because everyone in circulation was out on roads that were supposed to be closed, and the publisher and admin staff stayed home. I’m sorry your paper landed in a snowbank after you already had had your coffee, but, umm, is there anywhere without a snowbank?

  26. Allison*

    My first job was a service provider, so their priority was making sure we were as responsive to the clients as possible, and they worried that closing the office would make us seem lazy or unprofessional, so the office only ever closed when public transit shut down. And if we were there but the trains were scheduled to stop running, they still wanted us to stay until the last possible moment. Not good. I actually had a panic attack before going to work the day we were expected to get a big storm.

    It was so dumb, really. The client I was working for was in the same region, they would’ve understood if we closed for a big, scary blizzard. And a lot of our clients were based in southern states that shut down over a few inches of snow, they definitely would’ve understood!

    Since then, the employers I’ve worked for have been very chill about people choosing to work from home due to weather conditions. Even if the snow had stopped but it was still very icy, it was fine. I once worked from home the day after a storm because I didn’t want to dig my car out of 2 feet of snow first thing in the morning.

    One word of advice I give to people, when you interview for a company in a northern state where snow is likely to be an issue, ask how they normally handle snowstorms. Ask how flexible they are on working from home due to weather issues, ask if and when they normally close the office.

  27. Jiffy*

    I am a nurse and I work in an outpatient medical clinic. Even when the weather is dangerous and the governor has declared a state of emergency, they still expect us to come in. I think they should close the clinic and reschedule the appointments for another day, to avoid having patients and staff out on the roads.

    When I worked in a hospita at LastJobl, I had no problem going into work no matter the weather. I wish bosses at CurrentJob would use a little more discretion in non-urgent care areas, especially when there is NO WAY the bosses will show up during a snowstorm.

  28. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I work for a company with flexible work-from-home policies– most of us work from home at least once a week. We also live in a place with no infrastructure to handle snow (even though we get it every year, apparently). This is great, because I never feel pressured to drive in ice and snow, and I can tell my team to stay home too. No one is given a hard time or even looked at funny.

    But… it kinda sucks! I want a snow day! I miss them! Back when I worked for a huge company in NYC and had no ability to work from home, when the office shut down (it did about 3 times in my nearly 10 years there), I shut down too! I want to take naps and drink hot chocolate and watch Homeland all day! But… I have no excuse and therefore have to work.

    My bf is a doctoral student. He still has studying to do, but when the university closes, he has no classes to sit in or teach. He drove me crazy last year when I had to work from home for a whole week in the snow and he got to hang out all day doing nothing and he kept interrupting me. Harrumph.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Hah, yeah, it is a small downside to being able to work from home, isn’t it? My husband’s job can only be done in his office, so if he has to stay home thanks to weather, he can sleep in and play video games!

    2. Allison*

      I’m s contractor, so I only get paid when I work. I don’t mind taking an occasional unpaid day off, but I like being able to work when I can’t get to the office. If I had to take a day off every time I was snowed in, I probably would’ve gone broke last winter!

  29. LibraryChick*

    One of the places I worked had the “snow day” policy that if the city buses weren’t running neither were we. All in all it was a good indicator of when to call it quits and stay home.

  30. Bowserkitty*

    Sometimes I want to live out in New England. Born but not raised but I loved going back on vacations. Then I see the massive snow dumps in the news.

    Where I live now we get ridiculous temperatures and winds, but nowhere near that amount of snow. It’s hard for me to decide with a game of “would you rather.”

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Amen. I grew up in coastal Rhode Island and miss it with every beat of my heart, but then I think about last winter and go “Nah… it’s nice down here… I’m not trading in 6 weeks of weak winter for that.”

  31. kk*

    My employer is great about letting people work from home. I usually do it at least once a week. However I continually get screwed on snow days because everyone knows I walk to work. “Oh, kk can make it, send her in!” No thanks. This is DC, where no one knows how to shovel a sidewalk and the sidewalks are not pretreated anyway. But it’s cool, I’ll bundle up and walk through a foot of snow worrying I’m going to bust my ass on the ice to go get your fax (that happened last year)…

    (Yes, for me walking in the snow is much safer than driving in the snow, but why should I be punished/expected to be the only one in because I choose to live close to work?)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      During Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, I was the only person on my team who lived in Manhattan. I also had power. Our office shut down but I could work from home, so I did. Once the office opened, I was told I was “expected” to go in because I could. Umm… yeeeeah… I ended up walking 73 blocks that day, very few people showed up, and no one got anything done. So I feel you. Just because you CAN walk doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

    2. Anonnn*

      During the 2010-2011 storms, my entire office in DC was being put up in the hotel next door, except me, because I lived in the district and often walked the two miles in. ‘Oh you can just walk in, and can you be here by 7?’ I threw SUCH a fit, and they let me stay in the hotel, but to this day, that boss probably still thinks she’s in the right.

    3. Book Person*

      When we got a 3 foot dump of snow last year in the space of a weekend, the city didn’t plough municipal sidewalks for a week, long after the roads were clear and dry again. I was in the office the first day back because no one was driving and I could walk on the snowy but comparatively clear roads instead of slogging through the thigh-deep banks where the sidewalks were, but I took my computer and worked from home the rest of the week when my co-workers who drove were able to return to the office. I wish cities would do more for their pedestrians, too–there’s a middle school near me, and these kids were being dropped off by the bus and having to walk down a 4-lane road because the ploughs had pushed even more snow and slush up onto the sidewalk.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      I used to live 5 minutes from work and I lost count of how many times they “closed the office,” told everyone else to stay home and sent me in to work. One time they told me to abandon my car in a snow bank and walk.

      It really sucks to be punished for proximity to work, either because you live very near or very far.

    5. Elysian*

      Yes! I know walking is safER than driving in a big storm, but just because I walk doesn’t make it safe. I still have to avoid the idiots who are driving despite the bad weather and don’t always brake in enough time. I get wet and gross and extra cold/icy trying to plow through sidewalks that people don’t shovel or salt. And the crosswalks are just as bad for pedestrians as they are for cars – basically skating rinks. So yeah, maybe I CAN make it in, but if I don’t have to, please just let me work from home in my jammies without a bruised backside.

    6. Tris Prior*

      Yep! During Snowmageddon 2011 in Chicago, I lived 2 blocks from work so was expected to go in – trudging through snow that was up to my upper thighs – while everyone else stayed home and did no work (we could not work from home). That was when I started looking again!

  32. Just some girl*

    Here in SE PA the snow isn’t supposed to start until late Friday so BRING IT ON! So thankful that this isn’t happening on a work day! And that I can basically veg all day Saturday and worry about snow removal on Sunday. So excited!

  33. AnonEMoose*

    My current job has a phone line set up (with an easy to remember number) that people can call to find out whether the office is closed if the weather is bad. My supervisor has basically said “If you don’t feel comfortable commuting, work from home.” And he means it. As long as he knows where I am and that I’m getting my work done, he’s fine with it.

    There have been a few times in the last couple of years when I’ve looked at our sidewalk, considered the amount of ice between me and the transit stop, and said “working from home today.”

  34. Menacia*

    My company actually has a written policy around storm procedures. It covers when a storm occurs both before and during work hours. The number one goal on the list? Safety for the Staff! I work for a utility company, so we have to keep things going, but we have the infrastructure and technology in place so that most of the work can be done remotely. If the storm occurs before we would have to travel in, we need only contact the department to let everyone know whether we are coming in, working from home, or taking a PTO day. Even if there is an outage, an evaluation is made whether it can be pushed to when conditions have improved, or, if critical, assess who can make the fix. We are not made to feel bad AT all if we choose to work from home or take a PTO day. I do not think I could ever work for a company that was not as concerned about the safety of its employees. The majority of employees in my company have been here for 10 or more years (many over 20) and we have been recognized as #1 in customer support for all the utilities in our state multiple years in a row. Take care of your employees and they will take care of business.

  35. Melanie Z*

    My first job out of college was in Bay City, MI where I had an apartment about 4 blocks from my office. The night before a big storm my boss gave me keys to the building and suite “in case everyone else was late”. Well, we had close to 20 inches and drifts over 3 feet. I walked to work and for most of the day I was the only one of about 12 employees to show up. My boots were drenched and ruined and my jeans were soaked almost to the knee. Yet, I dutifully worked the phones, doing mostly client service work (although I was the parables and receivables department. As the premature armed up and the roads got a little better a sales manager came in about 3 or 4and complained because I had spelled one clients name wrong. The next day, my manager (the sales managers father) reminded me that we are not allowed to wear jeans at work and as a “favor to me” he was not going to write me up for working in my sock feet. That was on a Friday. I spent the weekend working on a new resume, and I had a new job by spring.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I hope you gave him back the keys immediately after that lack of gratitude, and told him next time HE could come in to open the office!

  36. Crow*

    Last year, in Boston, after the first dump of 25″ of snow my work still wanted me to come in. I take public transit and my normal commute is an hour long, but they said public transit would definitely be able to handle it. Okay.

    I waited on a corner for a bus in below-freezing temperatures for like 45 minutes, waited on a train I could fit on for 45 minutes (30 minutes after being at the train station I called work, said I’d been out for over an hour and had only made it one mile, and they said “just give it a little more time”). Eventually I got to my transfer train to be told they were running shuttles instead. I called my boss and said I’ve been out for 3 hours, 2 of which I spent outside, and if you still want me to come in, I have to go somewhere to warm up first because I’m so cold I’m in physical pain.

    Boss finally gave in and let me turn around – it took another 2 hours to get home – and work from home. When Boston shut down every Monday after that for weeks, they let me work from home. If they hadn’t, I would have started job hunting. If I’m spending as much or more time commuting, in dangerous conditions, than I am at the office, it’s not worth it. Let your employees take care of their safety – or they won’t be your employees much longer.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I know people in Boston whose employer told them they had to come in even when the T was shut down last year and had them put Uber cars on the company credit card. These friends of mine seriously feared for their safety, with the Uber cars they were in seemingly the only cars on the road at all.

      1. Allison*

        Last year, my then-boyfriend was working for Starbucks, and he wasn’t able to drive to the store for a lot of his shifts due to the ongoing parking ban in the area, and the T wasn’t always an option, so he told his manager “look, I can only do morning shifts if you pay for an Uber” and they ended up doing just that.

        At the same time, my sister was doing a 6 month co-op at some kind of government office, and they were almost always open, so the poor girl had some hellish commutes.

      2. Hlyssande*

        As if Uber is safe in those conditions? Wow. It’s just regular people driving regular vehicles.

    2. Ekaterin*

      I am SO glad I had a temporary carpool last winter, which ended up covering the entire period where we were getting new snow. My normal commute on the T was almost two hours, I don’t know how I’d have managed snow delays on top of that. Luckily I’m a teacher, so we weren’t getting called in on the really rough days.

  37. Jerzy*

    During the blizzard in 2010, the day after Christmas when we got 3 feet of snow dumped on us, I was just finishing recovering from hip surgery, planning to go back to work the following Monday. Monday, the roads were closed, as was my office. Tuesday, the office was open, and I drove there, with the trip that normally took me 12 minutes taking nearly an hour. When I finally got there, the municipal lot, which was the only way to access the building, hadn’t been touched! Parking meters were just barely popping out through the top of the snow. I took a picture, sent it to my boss and went home. I wouldn’t have wanted to trudge through that snow anyway, but I was still on crutches from my surgery! There was no way!

    My boss was PISSED that we couldn’t get into our office and demanded everyone work from home. despite not having the ability to access our emails or files remotely. I did what little I could and spent the rest of the day playing board games with my husband.

  38. ro*

    I am curious about the legal/liability implications when a manager sends out their own message to the department which contains veiled language along the lines of, “come in or else”… “be sure the weather really is bad/roads are undriveable before you say you can’t come in to work”. This is from a situation several years ago so it’s really just something I’ve always wondered. If the weather had be worse and an employee drove to work anyway since their manager had made it fairly clear to them they were expected to show up AND they had a car accident, would the manager have been trouble?

    For what it’s worth, I stayed home and even though we all KNOW this manager to be a vengeful/punitive person, I didn’t think my life was worth it. I also thought this may have been one of the few instances where HR would have sided with the employees rather than their standard route of not holding her accountable.

    Did the fact that she even sent out this email (which runs counter to our company policy, spelled out in the manual and e-mailed again to all employees this time of year- basically, use your best judgement if it safe to travel to work) open up the company to any liability?

    I would love to see the day this particular manager is held accountable for anything she does. Although I understand this particular issue is in the past. :)

    1. fposte*

      I think it would only matter if something bad does happen and somebody sues, and it’s likely that they’d be suing the company rather than her as a private individual anyway.

    2. Graciosa*

      As annoying as this is, the manager didn’t cause a car accident by sending an email.

      I agree it’s terrible management. I would probably find a way to point this out to her employer (even if it’s in my exit interview), but I’m having a hard time getting to proximate cause here.

  39. CWM*

    So … I manage a customer service department for a regional wholesale distributor in the Midwest. We get a lot of snow, but rarely does it rise to an actual, declared state of emergency (in which case we would close). The rest of the time, though, we need at least a skeleton crew – in my department, 30 to 40% – to continue to take and process orders. On days when the schools are closed, I’m lucky to get a quarter of my employees to their desks.

    To try and combat the problem, our big boss announced he would pay for a hotel room and meals for anyone who will stay near the warehouse in the event of forecasted snow. I personally feel this is a generous offer but understand I don’t have kids or pets that would make staying overnight a burden. Employees who do not take advantage of his offer are expected to take PTO if conditions are such they can’t get in the next morning.

    I’ve explained this time and time again, but when I remind them to put a PTO day on the calendar, they complain it’s January and they haven’t accrued any time off yet. (They are allowed to roll over up to 5 of their 15 days each year, though in my department it is much more common for people to use all their days and need to take unpaid time in the last quarter.) Unfortunately working from home is not an option in my department due to the complexity of the order intake system.

    Is it unreasonable to expect people who live in the Midwest to come to work when it snows? I get it in true snow emergencies, but we’re talking any time it flurries.

    1. Xarcady*

      The big problem might be employees with kids. If the schools are closed, someone has to stay home with the kids.

      My brother worked for a place that had to have staffing even during snow storms, but like yours not everyone needed to come in, and they had a rotating list of who would need be in and working during the next storm, be that blizzard or hurricane. So people could sort of make plans. They at least knew that they would work this storm and then get to sit out the next three, and could try to make tentative plans for child care, etc., for the storm they would have to work.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        I am at a HQ of a distributor as well; off the top of my head I wonder if the issue is less “those with children” and more of an overlap with “those that are still younger and maybe earning a little less” because, truthfully, when I made less money, my $500 car insurance deductible loomed very, very large on snow days.

        Our customer service department would be a prime example of a decent size staff doing orders (read: can cover for each other) with a VAST difference in the money the guy that’s been here 2 years makes, versus the guy that’s been here 15 years. We are talking at least double the money for some of those on staff.

        Same company I work for now, I started out here making less, as a single mom with a crappy car – I can tell you I didn’t make the drive unless I was SURE it was safe to do so. I couldn’t afford to fix the car if I wrecked it, and I certainly couldn’t have replaced it. No bus lines runs to were I work, they still don’t (I check about every 6 months! I’d love to read a book to/from work!).

        Now older, making more…I can afford a 4-wheel drive vehicle, better daycare arrangements AND the deductible should something occur. Same company, literally the exact same drive, but add another kid to the mix: it’s easier for me to make it in now than it was then, because I am not as worried about paying to fix my vehicle if I wreck it. I can also now afford a vehicle with 4 wheel drive!

        I wonder if some of the employees on your order desk could come in if they could leave their vehicle at home (some of our guys are a one-car family)? Or if a bad storm was predicted for two days out, they could make arrangements then and your company would cover hotel/meals for the night before and after a storm, leaving them the ability to plan ahead a little more?

    2. Graciosa*

      I grew up in the midwest, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to go to work in normal (albeit snowy) weather conditions.

      I just looked up some data on the average number of days of snow in Chicago, which was 28.5. That’s actually fewer than I expected. I seem to remember it snowing a *lot* when I was growing up – one year the governor had to forgive the requirement that we attend the legally mandated number of school days because it snowed so much that we would have been in school well into July trying to make up for it.

      So normal snow is definitely expected and predictable, and it’s not unreasonable to expect people to cope. Adding another 5-6 *weeks* to people’s PTO to ensure no one ever has to go out when it’s snowing seems a little extreme, which is what you’d probably have to do.

      Lest I seem too unsympathetic, I’m totally supportive of ensuring people can stay home when this is the reasonable thing to do (public transportation closed or even severely delayed, authorities asking people not to drive, etc.) and my team can telecommute pretty much at will. But please don’t whine to me about a light dusting of snow – if you can’t cope with it, move somewhere else where this is not the regular occurrence it is in the midwest.

      – Which is what I did.

      Now that I live in the much warmer southwest, I don’t deal with snow, but I get to deal with the local reaction when – horror of horrors – it’s *Raining*!

    3. unpopular*

      I’m also in a snowy area and think that part of the responsibility of having a job is getting yourself to said job on time each day in normal (for your area) weather conditions. When raising my son, that meant having arrangements for him for school vacations and snow days.

      My current employer only closes for extreme weather, such as blizzards, not normal snowfall. Many of my coworkers complain about having to come in whenever even small amounts of snow are predicted or take PTO and complain about having to do that. And some of them live much closer to work than I do.

      I think it’s completely reasonable to expect people to come to work when there are normal amounts of snow for that area. I agree blizzards and unusual weather conditions are a different matter.

  40. Barefoot Librarian*

    Thanks for posting this, Alison! I think it’s a very apropos topic (especially here in central Virginia). I’ve actually already given one of my employees the all clear to stay home tomorrow because she’s not comfortable driving in ice and snow. It’s supposed to start with sleet here about 9 or 10 am and become snow by lunchtime. I have a feeling we’ll be sending a lot of people home early. Fortunately I only live about 10 mins away so I don’t mind staying and closing up shop.

  41. Dan*

    I suppose I should give my boss credit where credit is due, because he sent out a department wide email yesterday saying that we shouldn’t even bother trying to come in and just WFH.

  42. Squeegee Beckenheim*

    This makes me grateful that all of the jobs I’ve had, for all of their other silly policies, have always been incredibly reasonable when it comes to dealing with inclement weather. I’ve been sent home from work early when storms were approaching and given the day off when the storm did hit. In all cases, my employer was probably more cautious than I would’ve been personally. It’s nice.

  43. Noah*

    We classify employees as I, II, or III. We have to have a certain amount of people to continue operations, and we don’t really have a choice short of a world-ending natural disaster.

    Level I employees are the ones that staff our operations center 24/7 anyways. They can run with a reduced crew, but they all plan on figuring out a way to get here no matter what. We have sleeping rooms, shower, etc available for them if they decide to just stay at the office for a few days instead of going home.

    Level II employees are generally managers/supervisors of certain key departments. In general they need telephone and internet access, but can stay home as long as they have electricity/phone/internet.

    Level II employees are admin or otherwise non-essential employees. It is safe for them to take the day off. They can also work from home if they’re able, but as long as the CEO has stated it is a weather advisory day they don’t have to use PTO.

  44. EditBarb*

    We just got an email that our office is closed tomorrow (I work inside the DC Beltway). Exempt employees are expected to telecommute, non-exempt employees get the day off (paid admin leave).

  45. Xarcady*

    Last winter in New England dealt us a lot of snow. At my retail job, they tried very hard not to close the store. They had one announced closure. I recall working several shifts where I did not sell a single thing to a single customer because no one was silly enough to go shopping for clothes in the middle of a blizzard, thus badly affecting my rating. And the managers knew I lived relatively close (5 miles) and so I got called in a lot to cover shifts where no one else in my department could make it in. It’s creepy, walking around a huge department store, with only one or two other employees in the place, and no customers.

    And then there was the Sunday that tons of snow was predicted. Checked the store emergency weather hot line and the store was going to open. I was scheduled for a short four hour shift, and I decided it simply wasn’t worth it, because the snow that had fallen on Thursday and Friday still hadn’t been completely dealt with and driving was bad before the snow started to fall on Sunday. I knew I’d take a hit on attendance points, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore.

    I never got the attendance points. Because everyone called in. And management finally decided they’d better close the store.

  46. girasol*

    After a monster Colorado snowstorm that stranded the data center team at their desks with nothing to eat but what was left in the candy machine, the department head laid in several storage boxes with blankets, pillows, cots, and some emergency food. They weren’t opened often but they were really welcome when they were. A lot of folks here keep personal office emergency kits – spare blanket, food, change of clothes – for unexpected overnights. Sometimes by the time a good manager says, as he should, “Bad weather! Everybody go home!” it may be too late for those with commutes into the mountains or to the wrong side of a flood. It’s nice to be prepared for the times when you’re snowed in but not at home.

  47. Mirilla*

    I worked at 2 companies that rarely close, don’t delay start time, or let employees leave early. It was hell. Neither job was essential to the community. Both were private companies. I came close to an accident last year on the way home, and in reality I should not have been on the road at all. It really bothers me when employers don’t treat their employees like human beings with lives that matter. If you want to reduce employee happiness & prompt them to job search, schedule them to work when all surrounding companies have closed for the day or gone home early. You’ll have a bunch of disgruntled clock watchers wondering why they work for you.

  48. Narise*

    What is recommended for a busy office that processes payroll for companies across the country? It’s very difficult to call clients and tell them separate check requests cannot be completed but it could also be that entire payrolls cannot be completed. We haven’t had to face this yet but it’s been close a few times.

  49. TW*

    Weather events are so frustrating for me. The company I work for hired me with the sales pitch of teleworking occasionally and flexibility. My project doesn’t allow telework (& I don’t count my 2 hrs of mandatory training a year I have to do from home since I can’t at my gov’t site “telework” but they do). If the government closes down or the weather is horrific they tell us “we’re open, but use your best judgement. Take PTO” if we can’t get in or if our gov’t site is closed. In 2014 when I was pregnant I drove in in almost white conditions – I needed to save my PTO for my 5 day waiting period before short term disability would kick in after giving birth. I don’t get a ton of PTO (it just doesn’t cover illness, snow days, my kids getting sick, daycare closing, AND the occasional day off or trip). I just used my last few precious hours to visit my family out of state at the holidays. I do the best I can, and I flex whenever I can (but I still have to enter in a “minimum” of 4 hours each day – either work or PTO), but its days like tomorrow I truly resent my employer. Your comment on “demoralizing” Alison is right on!

  50. Aunt Vixen*

    At my old job, at a university, we generally followed the Fed but occasionally closed even if they hadn’t (in the derecho, e.g., our building completely lost power, so we closed). When the university was closed, we were not allowed to come to work, and we were granted administrative leave. (There was often some work we could do from home, in which case we’d have done so and called those hours worked instead, but the nature of the work was such that some of it couldn’t be done remotely.) We were on a federal contract, but somehow the admin leave was baked in and I certainly wasn’t complaining.

    At my interim job, at a big federal contractor, the place never closed ever ever ever; none of the work could be done outside the building; and if you weren’t there working you couldn’t charge the time, full stop. The money was good, but the expectations were difficult.

    At my present job, we are able to work from home when necessary, not just for weather but e.g. if we’re too sick to be around other people but not too sick to come to work. It is very reasonable. I do miss the days of enforced not-working from the old job – in Snowmageddon 2010 I was not permitted to go to work for six days, and didn’t have to use a single minute of vacation (of which I had plenty, though, because the benefits there were outstanding to make up for the low pay) – but I can grok the cost of lost productivity and grudgingly admit teleworking is a much better solution where it’s feasible. I brought my work home tonight figuring I don’t really care what the Fed says tomorrow, I’m just working at home for the duration. Uncle Vixen was flat-out told to telework tomorrow and probably Monday. (We are in the DC area, yes.)

  51. Miki*

    I’ve read all of your comments, very insightful. This is my story (Eastern Europe and Former YU people will remember this event) In 2012, in early February , it was Friday afternoon when the snow started to fall. And fall, and then fall some more. It didn’t stop for 3 days. We ended up with over 6 feet of snow. And then temperatures dropped for a full week to close to -20 C. Mind you this is mountainous region. Comparing this upcoming and very much announced storm and the one I’ve been trough makes me wonder why was not even a peep on TV, news outlets, radio you name it about maybe possible snow event of enormous proportions. Nada, zilch. The whole country was on standstill.

    Oh, and work policy there: you have to show up for work, even if it means that you literally just have a path the width of your shoulders to use. Public transport was snowed in, as were other cars so walking is only option.Then you’re given a shovel to clear up parking lot for director’s car that might or might be levitating to the cleaned up spot, in addition to all other sidewalks around the Library building.

  52. Maya Elena*

    After reading some of the crazy snow-day policies, my company’s doesn’t seem so bad. Nonetheless, let’s see what people think.

    My inside-the-Beltway DC employer, a large corporation, is known to not budge on weather conditions except at the rarest of circumstances. Employees below a certain supervisory level do not have the capability to work from home; those that have it may still be required to take PTO if they do not physically come in.

    What’s most frustrating, though, is that they have insisted, in the past, that exempt employees who take the opportunity to leave 2 hours early make it up within the next week. Of course, any extra time put in earlier that week doesn’t count. Note that my office is predominantly back-office, not client-facing, and I’d guess that most employees at this location are actually exempt (except for contracted cleaning and security).

    Today, the head of my department generously allowed us to ask our supervisors to come in earlier so as to beat the storm on the way home. It seems a bit stingy, considering that most people work more than their allotted 40 hours usually, and definitely do not take nearly all of the hidden kinds of breaks, leave days, etc. that they’re technically entitled to.

    Anyway, hoping everyone affected stays safe, cozy and warm – in office or out!

  53. gsa*

    A had a Manager that said, “If you live in or work in a county where the schools are closed, ‘do not come to work'”. Easy to understand and simple to follow.

  54. KR*

    When we have more than 6 or so inches of snow, the roads are bad or its snowing throughout the day, usually my supervisor just texts me that the office is closed for the day. Even if it isn’t actually closed, he usually has a good radar for when it’s time for a snow day so I’m grateful for that.. (It’s funny too because he lives walking distance from the office)
    Unfortunately I don’t get any PTO, so this is all unpaid. :/

  55. meekshy*

    I work in administration/recruitment for a private university in Central NY – you (we?) Syracuse people are absolute brutes in the snow. There is NEVER enough snow that a campus snow day is called – this is the Snow Capital of US, we’re braving the arctic circle, “just go slow”, etc etc.

    I moved here this past summer after having lived/attended college/worked in Houston, TX – all of my driving experience is on flat, never icy roads with zero snow.
    We’ve had a “mild” winter here in CNY so far (30 inches last week! ha!) but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sheer terror of my 40 mile commute in the snow.

    Luckily, everyone knows I’m that “snow-shy Texan” and give me a little extra leeway when it comes to this! Nobody else on staff though! Yikes.

    Took me 2 hours to get to work last week. And Monday I said eff it and took a personal day. No biggie. But I’m the only one who did…

    I need better tires, y’all.

    1. CheeryO*

      Buffalonian here – good tires are crucial! 4-wheel drive is also very, very nice to have. Keep practicing, and you’ll get used to it in time. So much of winter driving is just accelerating and decelerating slowly, taking turns slowly, and just letting your car coast when you need to slow down a little.

      I feel ya on the lack of snow days. I think classes were cancelled once in the six years that I was in college/grad school in Buffalo. We got an insane blizzard in November 2014 (7′ of snow basically overnight), and I got an unbelievable four days off from work, but they were still begging people to come in if at all possible. (It took me two days to get my front door open and another two days to get my car fully cleared off, so I told them to eff off.)

  56. Jonno*

    My office is generally good about allowing us working from home when it’s bad out. They are already making sure we take our laptops home so if monday (or even tuesday) it’s still bad we’ll be able to telecommute.

    My partner is a team lead at a big box retail store who closes tonight (until 11:30) and has to open the next day (at 8 am) and they are just going to “stay the night” since blizzard conditions will probably have set in by then. I won’t see him all weekend and I think it’s ludicrous that they would do that! There are no showers! I want to drive to get him but I’m afraid it will be so crazy that we’ll both be in danger. It’s only a few miles but still. Something seems so wrong about this! Will people actually be going to shop?!?!? Come on!

  57. anncakes*

    I work at a vet clinic in the DC area, and management tried to get clients to reschedule procedures that were booked for today. Hardly anyone wanted to reschedule, and these are not urgent things we’re talking about. Management made the decision to stay open to accommodate these people, and the staff who work the evening shift have to wait around for an update from management as to whether they need to come in. It’ll depend on what’s happening, how many procedures they end up doing, and how long it’ll take for those procedures to be done. Patients need to stay for at least a few hours after their procedure is done to make sure they recover properly from the anesthesia, so even if management wants to shut the doors by 3 pm, they can’t if a patient isn’t fully recovered and isn’t ready to be discharged. Which means the staff who came in are at risk for getting stuck in bad weather because a client didn’t want to reschedule a dental cleaning. As for the evening staff, most live at least an hour away, and management’s deadline for notifying them whether they need to come in is, of course, an hour before that shift starts. It’s very frustrating, and all of this is unpaid time off in an industry with very low pay.

Comments are closed.