is it wrong to expect employees to work on snow days?

A reader writes:

Could you speak to snow day behavior?

My staff is half on-site and half remote. We are all expected to be able to work remotely if needed, and snow days fit that bill. I’m happy to accommodate people spending time on family care and snow removal on these days. But, I also recognize that these can feel like a bonus day and that folks want to get personal things done that they weren’t able to do over the weekend. Am I a grinch for expecting folks to work most of the day? We are one of the few departments that work through snow days and holidays.

Also, I know that it is harder to work remotely when you are not set up for it every day. I notice things like emails are shorter and work is saved for a return to the office. Any advice for staying on top of things while unable to get into the office?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 261 comments… read them below }

    1. Elizabeth*

      Ugh, same. Had that thought this morning when struggling to get out of bed because of the temperature!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Have to say, it’s really nice. But I do find that when I work from home I have to push myself a little harder sometimes. Also, I tend to EAT a lot more with food being so handy in the kitchen.

    3. Cherith Ponsonby*

      I wish I could work from home when it’s ridiculously hot (like “it is so hot the trains can’t run” sort of heat). Then again, the office has air conditioning…

  1. Retail Lifer*

    This was always frustrating for me when I was a retail manager. Obviously you can’t work from home in retail, but can you really force people to drive in through dangerous conditions? The mall could actually fine us if we failed to open, but luckily in my last year there they backed off on actually doing that. Guess they didn’t want to be responsible for someone getting into an accident while driving though a level two snow emergency just to open the store and have next to no sales because no one else was going to drive in that mess.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      This is part of the reason I’m glad some states do travel bans during storms, it’s the only time my company “officially” closes. Is it frustrating to not be allowed to travel for a day? Sure. Is it better than getting into a car accident? In my mind, absolutely.

      1. Kuododi*

        In my family growing up snow days were a nightmare. My mother was a branch bank manager and at least in US it is against Federal law for Banks to be closed more than three days in a row. Needless to say, getting Mom to work and her making sure the branch was staffed was a semi-regular nightmare.

        1. mrs__peel*

          I used to work for a federal agency, and they always opened optimistically and then waited until everyone was already at work to close the office. :(

          1. Nita*

            City agencies do it too! My husband once went on a three-hour bus ride in freezing rain, because half the subway system was closed, but his office was open. He was only in the office a half hour because management then decided to send everyone home early. And then it was another 2-3 hours for him to get back home. Biggest waste of time ever.

            1. Anion*

              We had this happen once, too, but they cancelled the buses while he was on his way home and he was stranded half an hour away. Luckily he knew the owner of a local hotel and they found a room for him. (I will never forgive the wife of his co-worker/carpool driver, who did not offer him shelter for the night–and we know it was her doing, lest anyone wonder, because he accidentally overheard co-worker asking her/arguing with her. I’m not happy with the co-worker, either, but he was truly under her thumb. The lack of invite wasn’t personal, she was just an asshole in general, but I personally cannot fathom refusing to offer a bed to a stranded co-worker even if I disliked them.)

          2. copy run start*

            AGH yes, my state agency was like this too. Still clinging to that kernel of rage years later…

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Huh. My mom worked for banks when I was younger and I don’t think I ever knew about that law. That’s nuts.

          1. Kuododi*

            That the reason why Banks are always open on Black Friday. It has nothing to do with retail. If they were closed leading to a 4day weekend for Thanksgiving it would be a violation of federal law.

        3. Goya de la Mancha*

          Snow days can be so frustrating! I mean, I wouldn’t mind working at all – no customers/phone calls?! sign me up! But when the company isn’t prepared to deal with it, grrrr. Last year we had a “delay” because the roads were so bad. We showed up at the delay time and we couldn’t even get to our building because the plows hadn’t been through yet. So we called HR/Admin and asked them what we should do (boss was out of town) – they said, “Go home and report at Noon”…wtf. So we had to drive back home on already crappy roads, only to come back two hours later on same crappy roads. Came back at Noon and the plow guys were JUST starting our area. So we had to wait on the street for them to finish (a good half hour – 45 minutes plus) before we got in for our “half day” of work. Sometimes HR/Admin just needs to get their heads out of the arses and just give people the day off.

          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

            Oh good grief, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I get not wanting or feeling like you have authority to close the office, but at a certain point you make the decision and ask for forgiveness later.

          2. Bea*

            This is outrageous. My privilege of always being in manufacturing of non essential goods is possibly blocking my ability to understand short of the medical industry why anyone is required to work in such conditions.

            1. Bryce*

              Bottomline > humanity, particularly if the rules are being set by someone who doesn’t have to show up.

              1. Bryce*

                And sometimes it really is just a lack of understanding. In high school we got a new supervisor who was from the Midwest, and the first couple of winters were a mess because he was in charge of calling delays/cancellations but hadn’t internalized how the weather and our infrastructure was different from where he used to live.

                1. Goya de la Mancha*

                  To be fair, I’m from the Midwest too, and when you get 1-2 feet of snow regularly, it would be hard to get into the though process of a city shutting down at 2-5 inches (which they should legitimately do if they do not have the infrastructure to handle it on a regular basis).

          3. MLB*

            That’s ridiculous. When we had a blizzard in 2010, our office closed. The next day they sent an email around and told us our parking lots has been cleared if people were able to make it in. I lived close so I decided to drive in. The roads weren’t bad, and the parking lots were clear, but what they failed to mention is that the road going to our building hadn’t been plowed. I almost got stuck driving up the hill – it was crazy.

          1. Xarcady*

            I don’t know about other places, but I have a second job at a large department store in a mall. They will remain open for anything short of an all-out travel ban from the governor. And even then if your shift starts one hour before the ban begins, you are expected to come in, work that hour and then drive home after the the ban starts. No matter how bad the roads are or how limited the visibility.

            1. Anonymoose*

              “ven then if your shift starts one hour before the ban begins, you are expected to come in, work that hour and then drive home after the the ban starts” Dumbest strategy ever. Like, ever. Waste of everyone’s time and totally unsafe.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            We’d all show up anyway. It was not worth spending the rest of the week getting “The Treatment” for failing to report to work. No idea why a cop did not stop me.

          3. Someone else*

            To me the definition of “snow day” the OP is using is ambiguous. Do they mean “snow days” as in “public schools are closed due to snow” or what you mentioned, local gov has indicated that only emergency vehicles are to be on the roads, or something else entirely, maybe just…particularly bad snowy weather but not necessarily directly related to school or gov closures/announcements?
            That said, since the context seems to be “if it’s a snow day, please work from home”, then I guess the travel ban angle isn’t relevant…or perhaps rather, the point is regardless of whether it’s a “snow day” in terms of specifically travel ban or not, people at this company have a method of working anyway, and thus are being asked to do so… still it was the first thing that came to mind when I read the letter: what do they mean by “snow day”.

            1. copy run start*

              I think it depends on the area. In the southern parts of the US, a snow day might be a couple inches of snow that sticks or slicks the roads. In the Midwest, usually a snow day was anything more than 5″ of snow or subzero windchills — that’s when you’d get school and business closures. In the Rocky Mountains it’s business as usual until people are flying off the roads. To really shut things down here they have to declare a travel ban, get freezing rain (not handled as well here as in the Midwest) or so much snow so fast that low-clearance cars are just stuck.

              1. Someone else*

                Right, exactly. That’s why I wasn’t quantifying the amount of snow numerically. I know where I used to live, it’d take 9″ or more to close schools. In Atlanta, 2″ and everything is shut down because it’s uncommon to get that much and the city isn’t prepared to deal with it. I still don’t know if the OP means “snow day” as in “schools are closed” or “roads are closed” or “local gov has declared state of emergency” or just “there will be plows”. If it’s a state of emergency storm, probably everything is closed and there’s not much point in working, even from home, because everybody has bigger things to deal. If it’s just that schools are closed and it’s probably safer not to drive if you don’t need to, then if everyone at the company already knows in advance they’re expected to work remotely under those circumstances, then as long as they’ve been given proper equipment to do so, there’s nothing “grinchy” about expecting them to do just that. The reasoning is “we don’t have enough reason to close, but hey it’s safer if you don’t drive, so stay where you are, but we’re open, so, work.” The alternative on that sort of snow day wouldn’t be “chillax at home instead of working”, but “go to the office despite the weather”.

    2. Red 5*

      This is actually one of the reasons I’ve left retail, and a big reason I left another job that tried to claim I was “essential personnel” when I was absolutely not in the slightest. The boss just wanted to be controlling and insist people come in because he was able to do that.

      It bothers me so much how many places feel like they can just insist that people come in and their store or business should be open when it’s absolutely not necessary to be. Sure, there are areas of the country where it’s easier to get around in bad weather because they have the infrastructure to deal with it. But where I live, on our handful of snow days each year we SHOULD close down the city because even one death of somebody driving to work when their job wasn’t essential is one too many. Heck, one injury or one accident is too many because it’s just so unnecessary. If you don’t work in emergency services, when the weather is bad you should be able to just stay home. A mall that fines a store for not opening when it’s snowing is just…that management company should get sued. I don’t know what for, but for something.

      1. kb*

        I used to work retail part-time while I also worked a 9-5-style job. I lived only a bit over a mile away from the mall I worked at, so I was called to help out during especially bad weather. I was trying to save up money at the time so I wasn’t bothered at all by being asked. I really liked working those hours, even though I had to snowshoe there, because the mall was empty and I got paid for doing virtually nothing. It seems strange that stores would go through extra effort to stay open in a blizzard when they know they’ll lose money. Close the store!

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Also a former retail manager! It drove me nuts that we had to be open on snow days. We had to scramble to staff the store, I lived the furthest away and always managed to make it in (I’d seriously leave at least 2 hours early), but a lot of people who lived closer to the store couldn’t even get out of their neighborhoods. Then we’d have no customers. Like… why are we even wasting this money on payroll and having all the lights on?!

        1. Kelly*

          The absurdity of having to open during severe weather conditions when I worked retail was mind boggling. Even on the days when it was dead, there’s only so much straightening, clean up and organizing the section you work in that you can do. I’m sure that even in January when we usually got the worst of the weather in South Dakota, it was very unlikely that daily sales covered the cost of having the store open, including both payroll and electricity.

          I’m now in academia and we’re on winter break until the end of January. I thought we should have closed the week between Xmas and New Years, as usually we get at most maybe two dozen people in during the week, most of whom don’t have an active affiliation with the university. Even this week is fairly quiet and we could honestly be open to the public in the afternoon and have the rest of the day for staff to get work done because we only have a student working the desk for several hours a day.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        It makes me wonder if they’re spending more money keeping the lights on and paying people to risk their lives coming to work than they’re bringing in. How many customers are really venturing out to the mall in a snowstorm? I worked in a grocery store for many years. Pre-snowstorm we were packed. During? Not so much.

        1. Meagain*

          I always understood it was the mall itself that was a pita. If we opened later, or not at all, or closed early, the store was fined.

          I do remember a snow er in college and boss was like YOU MUST COME IN. I was like, yea no. Fire me if you want. Nope.

    3. Temperance*

      When I worked in shared office space, my nightmare boss would do anything she could to keep the office open to serve our clients, because they “might have important meetings”. I refused to risk my life for that crapcan job after it once took me 2.5 hours to get home in a snowstorm (a 20 minute drive, max) and I drove off the road several times. I hit a wall once, and that was it.

      She would always get really snippy about having to answer the phones and do meeting rooms on those days, but 95% of our clients weren’t showing up and she would have her husband drive her to work … IN HIS PLOW TRUCK.

      1. Moose and Squirrel*

        I had a boss like that. We were admin staff for an emergency department. Our doctors had to come in, but we were not essential staff. My boss would say “we’re not like other departments” and get pissy if you didn’t come in when our department had been closed. And like your boss she had a husband with a big truck to drive her to work in when the weather was bad. The rest of us didn’t. She was a jerk and we all glad when she retired.

        1. BananaPants*

          Our kids’ daycare center stays open when it snows unless the governor closes the roads or they lose power (both extremely rare). The director and assistant director both have big SUVs with 4WD and will pick up their staff members to get them to work in a snowstorm – they’ve said that it would be wrong to expect employees to venture out in weather that they themselves aren’t willing to drive in.

          1. Chinook*

            I can see daycarsles staying open for the same reason schools around here stay open u less the building is unsafe (i.e. flooded or no heat) – there is always one parent who will insist on dropping off their kid and no one wants to risk that kid freezing. Buses can be cancelled and even classes cancelled, but it is understood that doors will be opened.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If she wanted people to be at work so badly, she should have sent Mr. Plow Truck Husband to pick them up and bring them in.

        1. Beanie*

          My mom one time had to abandon her car on the interstate after work (along with dozens of others) to get home on a snowmobile. This was in the midwest that normally had the infrastructure to handle snow (though not as much as that storm brought). I hate to think what might have happened to her had the local snowmobile club not mobilized to rescue those that got stuck!
          (and it’s now dawning on me that her constant stress about the snows and plows all winter is likely a form of ptsd)

      3. Red 5*

        The job I mentioned where they tried to declare me essential personnel, that boss was the same way. I can’t remember what he drove, but it had four wheel drive and he lived close to the office. I lived an hour away on a good day, and my route had some dangerous patches if there was rain, let alone snow or ice. One day I called out because of a storm and said I’d just take unpaid time off if I had to. I told them flat out that I couldn’t make it in. Not only did he give me a lecture about how HE got there and my other coworkers got there (they also lived closer, and could take public transit) but I found out a week or so later that he was talking about me behind my back to my co-workers and saying that obviously I _could_ have made it in, I just lied and said I couldn’t drive in the snow because I didn’t want to come in and just wanted a day off and wasn’t it so unfair that I did that to them?

        I put in my notice shortly after that.

      4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Once I took a day off when a hurricane struck Boston. I was told the next day “everyone else made it in and we let them go early” = Translation (and I am not making this up)

        – everyone came in
        – they took attendance
        – when the hurricane struck – they sent everyone home in the hurricane.

        I was docked a day’s pay. Best day’s pay I ever lost in my life. And I did not risk my life.

        At that same job – they learned that I had an amateur radio license – and wanted me to inquire about getting a FEMA pass, so I could come into work when others couldn’t. I said – yes – I can get some type of clearance, I think, through Civil Defense orgs, BUT — it’s only to be used for civil defense. Not coming into work and writing computer programs.

        And the Blizzard of 1978 – I was lucky. That Monday was my DAY OFF! That didn’t stop asshat boss from calling me at 9 am on Tuesday – four feet of snow on my street “can you somehow make it in?” although, to be fair the guys trapped inside the office weren’t watching TV.

      5. Penny*

        Back in 2007 when we had horrible wildfires in San Diego, I remember driving to work and the roads were *deserted* because all the sensible employers told people to stay home. There might even have been a travel ban by that point. Our godawful company owner was on one of his periodic extended vacations in Brazil, so after we’d all been in the office about an hour, watching the news and getting increasingly worried, the head tech guy was like “This is ridiculous and unsafe, I don’t care what he says, everyone go home.” You’ll all be shocked to know that the owner was incredibly pissed that we all weren’t there…as people packed up their houses to evacuate, while he was thousands of miles away, relaxing. Some people just really suck.

    4. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      I worked at a bowling center (military base) when I was in college. My school was about 45 minutes from work on a clear day. I woke up one morning I was supposed to work to heavy snow, which was predicted to continue. I called my boss to verify that I wasn’t coming in (because heavy snow!!), and he told me I had to.
      So, I set out immediately before it got any worse, headed to my folks’ place because they were closer. On the way, I got blow off the highway by an 18-wheeler into the median. I took back roads the rest of the way (despite the chances of them being not plowed being much higher).
      Naturally, boss called me about 30mins before my shift to tell me the place was closed after all.

    5. TardyTardis*

      My husband once had to go into school when the sheriff was on the radio *begging* people to stay off the roads. We lived only a mile and half from the place, but there were lots of people who didn’t.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I used to always have to work remotely on snow days. Honestly, I was grateful—when the snow is that bad, no one wants to be on the roads or worrying about ensuring there’s adequate snow removal at home.

    I agree that it would be helpful to set some expectations of what should happen on days when folks are working remotely because of weather, though. For example, my boss was ok with my hours being totally weird on snow days (e.g., I’d work in 3 hour chunks with 2 hour breaks to clear snow, weatherize, etc.) as long as he knew I was available to talk by phone/email during certain core hours. So instead of a normal 9-6 day, I’d work 9–12, 2–6.5.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      This is my stance too – I can work from home if there’s bad weather (and I have a decent setup for it), and I just really appreciate even having that option.

      In my previous roles, I would be expected to still come into the office (…or call in and claim a sick day or something if I was going to refuse to drive in the conditions).

      (I am in a marketing/training role for a software company, previous roles very similar)

    2. Turquoisecow*

      My old boss used to complain that he had to work from home on snow days and go out and shovel periodically, so it was hard to focus. I had no sympathy, since I did not have work from home capabilities and had to use PTO if I didn’t come in.

      The office never closed, though, except one day, after hurricane Sandy, when there was no power. (Of course, I couldn’t connect to the emergency hotline and drove all the way in before realizing it was closed.) the second day, they had power in half the building and made us come in, then squeezed everyone into the sections that had power.

      After that, they made sure everyone had a laptop – not so we could work from home, but so that we could work in another section of the building with power (and rotate who was plugged in and who wasn’t) without having to lug towers and monitors around. We still weren’t allowed to work from home.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Because that’s efficient and effective when the power is out in the freaking building.

    3. Jesmlet*

      Came here just to say that we just got the email… super happy:

      “There is a winter storm warning for New York area. The warning does not extend to NJ and CT offices.

      Since everyone travels a bit to get to work, and to be safe, you have full flexibility to work from home or come to an office to work. If you do come to the office, be safe and drive safe.”

      My job isn’t perfect but things like this make me super grateful…

      1. Windchime*

        This is how my boss is. There were only a few of us scheduled to come in the day after Christmas, but she texted us on Christmas night and suggested we all work at home the next day due to snow and ice. I was so grateful. It’s awesome to have a boss that thinks about our safety. (It also helps that I am non-essential personnel; if I was involved directly in patient care, working from home would obviously not be possible).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      PCBH, this really makes sense. I know that if I do not go out an snow blow throughout the day the snow can be 8 or 9 feet high in my driveway. I will not get through that, I have to go out periodically during the day in order to be able to deal with this.
      OP, please be sure to find out exactly what your people are dealing with. It’s not just shoveling, it’s frozen fuel lines, no baby sitter, perhaps no power and potentially frozen water lines.
      Suppose the employee is fine, but maybe the neighbor is in trouble. You can’t ignore a plea for help in bad weather. And the more rural your setting the bigger the deal this is because rescue services are NOT coming. They are already helping dozens of other people and they are maxed out.

      I will never forget one morning, where we got up and dealt with the frozen car, the dead battery and the foot and a half snow. Then my husband drove to work. He was a half hour late. The boss said, “Learn to get up earlier.” My husband said, “I got up at 3 am. What time would you like me to get up?”

      I don’t think you want to be that boss. Ask what they are up against first. Ask what it is like for them to work from home.

      1. Nonyme*

        I had a boss say exactly that to me — that I needed to get up earlier. It made no difference what time I got up, I wasn’t leaving the house until the snow plow got there. Snow was thigh deep. No plow. What was I supposed to do, walk 22 miles to work?

  3. Roscoe*

    I think this is really about setting up clear expectations. Most snow days are predicted in advance. So like if its going to snow 20 inches tomorrow, you likely have an idea about it today. So maybe the day before you need to tell people that the office will likely be closed, and they are either expected to do whatever a reasonable amount of work or take a PTO day. Because even though I “can” work from home, if I haven’t planned it, its very hard. I have a lot of files on my work lap top, which I rarely take home. so if you are telling people that morning about a snow day, they really may not have everything they need to be fully effective.

    But, to a bigger point, yes, unless the work is TRULY necessary, I do think its being a bit of a grinch.

    1. Gabriela*

      Yeah, I am about as set up to work from home as anyone can be in my role (company laptop, VPN, company phone) and unless I know in advance I am going to be doing so, there is really no way I am going to be as productive as I am in the office. Even when I do know, it’s just something I’m unused to enough that I’m not going to adjust to my new surroundings in a day.

      1. Gabriela*

        Incidentally, several people in my office just got sent home at lunch time, because our heaters had not caught up with the overnight freeze. Luckily, my employer would never force us to use PTO for something like this, but our generous PTO is a big selling point and is supposed to somewhat make up for our lower-than-industry standard salaries.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Prediction really has markedly improved in the last few years–we finally got the district to stop robo-dialing (all listed numbers, for every individual school, starting at 5 am) to announce snow days that everyone paying attention to the weather forecast knew were likely to occur. It’s easier to plan to work from home than it was say a decade ago.

    3. KayEss*

      When I worked at a job where most of us had the ability to genuinely work from home in a pinch, predictions of seriously inclement weather always meant a message from management that we could do so as long as we were actually doing work–but some amount of lost productivity due to people working from home when that wasn’t their usual process was expected, just as a cost of doing business. Many of us had commutes that were quite long, and we really appreciated that the higher-ups took us into consideration even when the business as a whole was not being officially closed. They would even let us leave early in the afternoon and finish work from home if serious snow or ice became likely for the evening commute. It really reinforced that they valued our well-being.

    4. WellRed*

      Yes, my expectation is that I will be working from home tomorrow due to weather forecast and have set specifically aside work that can be done from home. It will not be a full day, but I wont have to count against my vaca either. In October, I had three days off because a freak storm knocked out power and the only work I could do was check email and a few minor things, which doesn’t count if you are not hourly.
      I am fortunate that it doesn’t matter to me either way. I love snow days.

      1. WellRed*

        And I did have a junior coworker who “worked from home” a few times, but I think it just wasn’t made clear that she actually needed to produce a few things, not check email.

      2. Karen K*

        Me, too, but I don’t expect to be working much, so I’ll take PTO. I’ve got plenty. I’ll check email and voicemail. That’s pretty much it. The one meeting I had scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled.

        Unfortunately, I do need to be in before 8 am on Friday. Rats.

    5. INTP*

      I agree with this and would add a suggestion to even send out a general reminder *before* snow season starts every year. Just a reminder that your department is expected to work remotely during snow days, and a list of preparations that they need to make in case of an unexpected snow day – like having work-related bookmarks and passwords saved on their home computer, and childcare arrangements made if needed. Give people the opportunity to speak up ahead of time if working from home will be impossible due to equipment or childcare reasons, and make whatever arrangements are possible (letting them expense a cheap desktop if they have no computer, letting them take a PTO day if childcare is impossible). That way snow days should go more smoothly for everyone. (Obviously if you’re in a climate with rare snow, this might be OTT, but if a few snow days are a given, there’s no reason not to prepare.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, since this seems to be a recurring thing, have them set up to do it. Give them a day at home to set up and test their set up so they are good to go.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, me too. Short e-mails take more work than long ones. And are much more preferable.

    6. wb*

      Yeah, the letter really didnt convince me that any of the work was essential. Without a firm explanation that the department is providing essential services how are holidays and snow days different from nights and weekends? Friends of mine in tech who support services that lose Many Dollars per hour when they go down have one person on call 24/7. Police, fire, and hospitals always have shifts off that can be drawn on to cover. This honestly just sounds more like Work From Home deployed offensively so the employer can coerce people to work through a snow day by placing the burden on employees to either work or burn a day of PTO when the office is closed. Which, fine, but not already having a policy for this up beyond ‘hey why are my staff sending shorter emails?’ being wondered passively into the void seems shady.

  4. MLB*

    I’ve been in IT for over 20 years, and in some sort of support role for the last several years. Once I had the ability to work from home, I never got a snow day, even if the office was closed. In my last job, we had offices all over the country, so we were expected to provide the same amount of support as a normal day. The funny thing is that the other offices knew we had snow and were expecting a lighter than normal staff, if any at all. I’ve always resented not getting a day off when the rest of the office was closed, but it is what it is and that’s the profession I’ve chosen. But if you can get away with limited staff, I’d allow that, and have your staff rotate who needs to be available. And it’s messed up if you make them take PTO if the rest of the office is closed. Bottom line is to be flexible – I know personally I would be willing to work with my team and have things covered, if that coverage was worked out in a way that was fair to everyone.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Meh, I work remotely, and I enjoy wearing sweats and fuzzy socks on cold days instead of dressing in grown up clothes. I figure it all balances out.

      1. MLB*

        I do as well. My job now is very flexible but my last job not so much, which is why I was resentful. My boss was awful, and her work from home snow day policy changed every time we got bad weather, and was based on how convenient it was for her to come into the office. Bottom line is that the manager who wrote in needs to set clear expectations.

    2. INTP*

      I love working remotely and my company is very fair about expectations, but I’ve got to admit that I get very jealous when there’s a foot of snow outside and everyone on my Instagram is drinking spiked cider and watching Netflix and it’s a normal day for me, haha. I can’t say that it’s unfair, I just get jealous that they get to be festive about it and I don’t.

      1. Arya Snark*

        Same. I work from home FT but one of the few trade-offs is that I never get snow days. Sick days are less as well. Unless I’m really, REALLY ill, I will work as much as I am able to but if I had to go into an office, I would call in sick and wouldn’t have to work at all.

        I used to work in finance and begged for a laptop to no avail because I didn’t really travel more than once a year. Until, that is, our city got one of the epic blizzards (3-4 feet) that we are prone to now and then. The storm started in the last few days of December, which was the busiest time of the year for my department and my role in particular. We were expecting to be closed for days so I had to get my work done so the accounting team could close out year-end and I stayed several hours past the time the building closed. It took almost 4 hours to get the 12 miles home thanks to my husband’s excellent driving skills. We ended up stuck in our driveway, which was better than 1000s of other people fared who got stuck on the highway and had to be picked up by the National Guard in snowcats and taken to shelters. They gave me a laptop in January.

        1. Mike C.*

          To be quite honest, I think more workplaces should just hand out laptops in general. There are very few times you need the full desktop (and even many of those times you can remote in) and the price difference is really negligible. Mine does this and it’s come in handy plenty of times.

          For the normal workplace, add a dock, the basics and a few monitors and you’re good to go.

        2. Amy*

          My last job refused for years to get anyone but the sales staff and a few others laptops. We all had desktops. About a year after I left there was a massive * flood in the building and no one could work due to the water damage and mold issues for weeks. Almost no one who worked from that location was set up to work remotely. After that everyone got a laptop.

          *Like really massive, apparently an alarm went off somewhere overnight and the security guard only poked his head out into the elevator lobby of the floor it was going off on and then turned it off. It was on floor 15 of a 17 story building and the water spent the rest of the night working it’s way down to floor 9.

  5. High Score!*

    We spend more time with our Coworkers than family. Despite many technological advances that allow us to get more done in less time, the standard work week is STILL 40 hours. Let’s people have a little extra time unless it’s super critical.

    1. Snark*

      This is a decent point. Worker productivity has outpaced wage growth significantly. Employers are getting a LOT out of their workforces. Begrudging them an occasional snow day when it’s unsafe to come in is pretty cheapjack.

    2. Sal*

      So true. I have planning, execution, and reporting phases in my job. The execution phases are busy and 8+ hours is required for those, but most of the planning and reporting could be done in significantly less. I am a high performer and (except on execution days) really never put in a full 8 hours. It’s practically impossible, for me anyway. I stay at work but take frequent mental breaks or walks around the building.

      Based on my working style, I think if I could work 6 or 7 hour days I would be just as much if not more productive. I like reading about the companies that have done similar things as an experiment (with mixed results, to be fair).

      At least they give me comp time when I go over during execution.

  6. Snark*

    ‘Round here, we generally trust people to make decisions based on their own judgment of safety, risk, and the necessity of coming in. If significant snow is forecast, we do tell folks to bring their laptops with them so they can get some work done if they can, so they don’t miss any deadlines if they can help it.

    Generally, I think the occasional snow day – and c’mon, it’s not like this happens weekly, most places and most years – is just part of the cost of doing business. If you’re in a part of the country where it occasionally gets unsafe to drive, you should just kind of accept that there’s going to be maybe 3-4 snow days a season and factor that in.

    1. paul*


      Most places I’ve lived develop infrastructure to handle whatever amount of snowfall is regular for the area, so this probably isn’t more than a once or twice a year occurrence (hell we go 2-3 years between snow days). Getting nitpicky over *that* seems pretty tight fisted. It’s kind of understandable if it falls on a drop dead deadline I guess but short of that…

  7. sunny-dee*

    The bigger issue, OP, is that it sounds like your staff aren’t set up to work remotely. If they need files or applications that are only available on your company intranet, then they either need VPN access (and those files need to be accessible remotely) or they really need to punt those tasks until they’re in the office.

    It’s reasonable to expect people to do things like take their company laptop home or their authentication token / badge or to have a VPN set up. It’s not reasonable to be upset if those things aren’t available to them. Also, there may be issues with taking files home or copying them over to a home system or flash drive. If there are security implications, then, yeah, they’re going to have to push some stuff until they’re back in the office.

    Mainly, be clear about what your expectations are for a remote working setup. My company is really flexible on working remotely, but requirements for our home offices are part of the employee handbook. If we work from home (for example) we have to have high speed internet and not rely on Starbucks wifi.

    1. Arjay*

      I have a company laptop and VPN access, and I’ve occasionally worked from home when there was stuff that needed to get done and I couldn’t make it into the office. I wasn’t as productive as I’d be in the office though, just because I don’t have a good setup at home. I’m either on the couch or at the dining room table with just the laptop monitor instead of my dual screens and dock in the office. If I could work from home regularly, I’d set up a desk that would increase my efficiency.
      I think its reasonable to ask people to keep up with critical assignments on a snow day, but that expecting a full day of work on items that aren’t crucial doesn’t seem necessary.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      That’s a good point. I do have VPN and all that stuff… but I forgot that yes I did have to put in several requests to IT to get all that setup as it wasn’t automatic.
      If your company already has remote workers, it might be worthwhile to review this kind of thing in the fall so that most people are setup to be able to work at home during bad weather or those semi-sick days when you can work but don’t want to infect everyone.

  8. Marley*

    It’s certainly Grinch-y to expect a full day of work on a snow day. Folks have to clear sidewalks, cars, cook, possibly deal with children. Sometimes folks lose power, the furnace breaks, etc.

    Do the best you can to be flexible.

    1. Snark*

      Yeah, a lot of times, schools are significantly more conservative in their decisionmaking than employers are, because they don’t want kids walking or waiting for the bus in really bad weather.

      1. Marley*

        Right, and, in the DC area where I live, daycares tend to account for it. So, if it’s a before/after care setting that also does summer and spring break camps, they cover snow days in which schools are closed and the feds are not. We’re really fortunate in that regard–if schools are closed but work isn’t, we’re still covered.

        1. LizM*

          You’re lucky. Most places I’ve lived, the daycares follow the schools’ lead. If the schools declare a snow day, the daycares shut down too.

      2. Mike C.*

        Or because employers aren’t required to care about the safety and well being of their employees along their commute.

    2. Nita*

      Exactly. If sidewalks are not cleared, some places will fine the homeowner. And if school closes, that’s usually a last-minute thing and not everyone has child care available at the drop of a hat.

      And some work is just done more efficiently in the office, if it’s not urgent. I have the ability to work from home, and I’d rather put off certain tasks till I’m back in, than take twice as long to do them remotely.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      But the letter says “I’m happy to accommodate people spending time on family care and snow removal on these days.”

      It sounds to me like their concern is about people taking advantage of the that and blowing off work altogether. If as it also says in the letter they are already expected to have the ability to work remotely, then I don’t see any reason that it’s unreasonable to expect people to work when there is snow.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Then why not just close the office?
        If people can’t work anyway, then just shutting down might be the answer. It would be good of the company to pay for that, but most managers have no say in how that works.

  9. nnn*

    Two more things to consider:

    1. Does the nature of your work truly make it necessary to do a full day’s work every day, as opposed to doing a full week’s work every week or a full month’s work every month? In some kinds of work, a single day of low productivity is easily reabsorbed. In others, it means missed deadlines.

    2. How will the snow day affect workload? I work from home so I don’t get snow days, but many of my clients are affected by snow days, so there’s less work for me on those days. If some of your clients are going to be having a day off or working from home, it probably isn’t going to hurt if some of your employees are also having a day off or working from home.

    1. The OG Anonsie*

      Your first point is exactly what I was thinking. The LW notes that they dislike people putting some things off until they get back to the office, but… So what? Some tasks are more or less suited to being done at home than others. If people were in the office they’d be moving tasks around deciding when to do them all the same.

      I think it’s a perception issue. You’re at home, so behaviors that wouldn’t be noticed at work are suddenly remarkable. I think some people expect WFH days to have minute to minute activity and productivity to prove that you’re actually working, whether or not that actually makes sense for the work you do or if it’s even something that happens at all. When you’re at work, all your time is work, but when you’re at home the only thing that distinguishes work time is actual productivity, so some managers demand more of it than really makes sense in an effort to make it a “real” work day.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      It’s also helpful to consider your industry. If your clients or vendors are in the area and likely to take the day off, and your job involves a lot of interaction with them (waiting for email responses, having conference calls, etc), then there’s a lot you can’t get done.

      Same for inter-departmental stuff. I used to find that even if I made it in for a snow day, I got less work done simply because others did not, and I needed answers from those people in order to finish my work. If your department relies on input from other departments who aren’t in, then is there really a benefit to your department coming in as well?

  10. Overeducated*

    Everyone hates my office’s snow day policy: you can telework as long as you have paid childcare, or you have to take a PTO day. If we are closed, so are schools and day cares, so…basically parents all have to use up PTO or be a little dishonest – if your spouse can watch the kids or they are old enough to entertain themselves, do you REALLY need to use PTO? (This is particularly annoying because we don’t have generous PTO for younger workers, and telework is supposed to be a “privilege,” but most of us cant actually use it regularly out if choice.)

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Wait, so… it’s too bad to come in to work so you can telework, but you have to either take your kids somewhere or have someone paid to come to your house? That makes negative sense.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It makes a certain amount of sense that you could be set up to telework when it’s possible for you to do so, and to say that having young kids at home means it’s not possible for you to do so. It’s stingy, but it’s logical.

        1. Mike C.*

          But what if you have childcare available from your family? Spouse, grandparents, older sibling? Can you pay them a dollar or something?

      1. nnn*

        Can you, like, promise your kids a dollar each at the end of they day if they entertain themselves quietly and don’t disturb you?

      2. Antilles*

        I would, without the slightest hesitation.
        You want to know about my child care facility? Well, it’s an extremely exclusive live-in facility, with an incredible 1 to 1 student-teacher ratio, and the woman running it is fantastic and amazing. It’s surprisingly expensive though; the facility even requires me to pay the maintenance on their building!

    2. k.k*

      That’s a horrible policy. It’s very “we’re pretending to give you this benefit to make us look good, but you can’t actually have it”.

      It’s so arbitrary too. There are many things at home that could be a huge distraction besides kids. Do they have this rule for pet owners? Because I assure you, my rambunctious pups are much more distracting than a child playing quietly.

      1. Nox*

        We just got a no remote work without daycare policy here too. We fired a few people this year who were low performers because they spent most of the day caring for kids and there was one instance of someone who was on a client call with kids going nuts in the background that the client complained about. We now require monthly proof of childcare if kids are under 13 as well as making sure you have a designated space in your home to be hardwired into [no Wi-Fi connections permitted on our laptops for PCI]

        I think it’s poopie but I get it.

      2. Mike C.*

        I have to say, WFH policies are among the most arbitrary things I’ve ever experienced. Even if it’s company wide “please work a day per week if you want” you’ll end up with managers that insist on never letting you do it for dumb reasons.

      3. Overeducated*

        Yup, it is. Fortunately managerial discretion is also arbitrary, but can work for as well as against you.

    3. CM*

      We had the same rule and I remember pausing when I got to that part of our work from home contract — wait, if my kids have a snowday, how am I going to find paid childcare? But I quickly concluded that nobody else is even reading this, let alone having an internal debate over it, so I just signed. I figured I was obeying the spirit of the law by trying to spend most of my time working rather than hanging out with my kids.

    4. Mike C.*

      Wait, they require paid childcare? I’ve seen requirements for “childcare” period, but even that’s for folks working regularly from home. On a snow day I think you can cut parents some slack, come on now.

  11. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

    It sounds like the LW is on the right track. Expect work, but be flexible. I’m not sure what else you can do.

    I’m always a little more than skeptical when people are quick to point out that they can work from home when they have a repair man coming and they need to be there, but then suddenly when there’s a snow day it’s unfair that they have to work from home.

    I always figure it evens out in the end. Yes I may have to work on that snow day, but on the flip side I didn’t have to take a PTO day that day I felt crummy enough to stay home but could still attend those conference calls and reply to emails.

    1. Snark*

      “I’m always a little more than skeptical when people are quick to point out that they can work from home when they have a repair man coming and they need to be there, but then suddenly when there’s a snow day it’s unfair that they have to work from home.”

      I think that’s a bit unfair. On a snow day, there’s shoveling and maintenance issues, kids’ school might be canceled, power might be out, driveways might need to be slowblown, elderly or disabled neighbors might need help….dunno ’bout you, but I can’t count on being able to sit in fuzzy slippers all day on a snow day. It’s a lot of work.

      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        But the LW says they are accommodating to those things. What else can they do? Is it fair to the people who aren’t set up to work from home that someone from her team can do it on non-snow days for their convenience?

        1. Snark*

          Some people will be able to work from home, some won’t, some are set up to, some aren’t, some have a 200 foot driveway to clear, some live in apartments….worrying overmuch about questions of fairness is kind of a fool’s errand. I’d expect people to bring home as much work as they can if bad weather is forecast, work as much as they are able on the day, and trust that people will be professionals in their decision making.

          1. Snark*

            And, like, if someone can’t, or doesn’t, get work done that day? If that’s part of a general trend of low productivity, that’s a performance issue. If they miss a deadline? That’s a performance issue. Otherwise? I generally take the attitude that it all works out in the end.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              And when it’s a snow day and I’m in the office anyway? I got in late, probably will leave early, and will spend half the time I’m there bitching about the weather! It all shakes out.

          2. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

            “worrying overmuch about questions of fairness is kind of a fool’s errand.”

            That was kind of my point :)

            1. Snark*

              But your opinion seems to be that the OP is doing all they can, and I think they need to be significantly less of a stickler about working during snow days.

              1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

                My opinion is, is that the OP seems to have pretty healthy outlook on what can be nominally expected for a snow day, but seems to have reason to believe that her employees are taking advantage. It’s not out of line to set expectations for those employees. And if they want to go sledding for the day, spend 8 hours shoveling their neighborhood out, or attending to other non- work related things then they probably ought not say they are working from home since they are not and take PTO.

                However, it would be perfectly reasonable for the OP to not believe or allow her employees when/if they want to work from home for non snow day reasons.

                But as I say later in the comments I think everyone gets too worked up about ‘snow days’ and what’s fair vs. unfair.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            But LW says “We are all expected to be able to work remotely if needed” which implies everyone already has the ability to do so regardless of snow.

  12. mscate*

    As an expat Australian who has never had the luxury of a snow day but has had to work in an unairconditioned office when its 47c (116f) as going home only applies to those doing manual labour, I can’t help feeling the employees are taking advantage a little.

    1. Snark*

      Let me reframe that: the fact that your employer takes advantage of you during inclement (just in the other direction) weather does not mean the employers are necessarily taking advantage here.

    2. Jeanne*

      Are you saying wanting to stay home because it snowed is taking advantage? Yet you have no idea what it’s like to drive in snow or live where the roads aren’t cleared? That’s a tad presumptuous.

      1. mscate*

        oh, i assumed the roads would be cleared, that’s completely different, no one wants to risk their lives, getting to work and back.

        1. Mike C.*

          I saw your responses, but I just wanted to add a few details.

          1. Snow can be very difficult to predict.
          2. The sort of deicing/plowing that goes on is highly correlated to how common snow events are generally, and the predictions given right before an event. Also, which roads will get plowed, when will they get plows and is there a need for plowing again?
          3. Hills vs. not hills.
          4. Are we talking about snow near the melting point or not? Is it going to remain freezing during the day or will you have a freeze/thaw cycle that creates layers of slush and compact snow/ice? Has it recently been cold?

          So yeah, even if work is good you have to wonder about your entire commute. I live on a steep hill next to a major area so if they plow I can go, if they don’t I’m stuck. It’s a tricky question.

          Also, your boss is a complete jerk. I hate so much that temp laws only deal with manual labor – back when I worked in a lab and the A/C went out the temp woul just skyrocket as all the fridges and freezers worked overtime trying to stay cool (and then put out more heat, etc). It was quite dangerous!

          1. Snark*

            And depending on where you live – my parents’ house is pretty rural – they might not see a plow for 3, 4, 5 days. My dad’s 68 years old and has been known to clear his entire street down to the next intersection. They’re also at the top of some steep hills and winding roads. And it can get well above freezing in the hot high altitude sun during the day, and then plummet to 10-15 below freezing at night. It’s very, very much not as simple as “the roads get cleared.”

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Hell, I lived in the middle of the city and when we got 2 feet of snow overnight back in 2010, my street (a side street down a big hill) wasn’t plowed for 4 days. It was impossible to get off of my street in a vehicle.

          2. Science!*

            To add to this, in rural areas, not all roads are city plowed.* I live on a dirt road so I rely on my neighbor to plow both my long driveway and my road so I can get to the main road (which the city maintains). He’s usually quick to plow in the mornings if his wife also has to work, but if her office is closed he’s a bit slower. I can shovel my driveway if I have to, but I can’t shovel 1/2 mile of dirt road :(

            *there are sooo many hidden layers of dirt road politics. I’ve been here for 3 years and still learn new things.

        2. Snark*

          Yeah, they can clear the roads – or at least plow them. Depending on the weather system, there could be a centimeter of glazed black ice under that, or hardpacked snow that’s near the same thing.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Also, they have to put the snow somewhere once it’s plowed. And salt doesn’t melt snow once the temps get low enough. It creates this weird, icy mix.

            And even light powdery snow can be terrible over really slick ice.

            But I live in the Midwest, so I get the joys of both true wintery weather and ridiculous heat index levels in the summer.

        3. Jady*

          Roads being clearly is entirely dependent on where you live.

          I live in a place where some of the main roads will be cleared, but none of the streets off of them. Depending on conditions, I can’t always reach those main roads from my home.

        4. Erin*

          I live in Michigan it can take at least a couple days to clear 3 feet or approximately 1 meter of snow. With snow plows working 24 hours making multiple passes. I have friends who work for the road commission and he said he’s worked 18 hour shifts during a storm.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      Mmm no. It’s not safe to drive, usually. I’m not going to risk my safety to get to the office.

      1. mscate*

        oh, i assumed the roads would be cleared, that’s completely different, no one wants to risk their lives, getting to work and back.

    4. Jam Today*

      Several years ago, we got a snowstorm so bad that it took one of our employees nine hours to get home. Drive in a blizzard, then come back and tell us how we’re “taking advantage”.

      1. LizBoston*

        That Thursday storm in Boston during which the state and the city released all their employees at noon, thereby blocking the roads and rendering any pre-treatment efforts completely futile? Yeah, I still have nightmares about the 8 hours it took me to go 25 miles in whiteout conditions.

      2. K.*

        One of my friends got in a car accident driving in a snow storm on the way home from a training her boss made her attend – that ended up being cancelled because of the snow. Her employer sheepishly offered to pay the costs associated with repair, which she accepted. A former colleague cracked his axle in the company parking lot because the company hadn’t done any snow removal, yet made him come in. Driving in the snow is dangerous.

      3. Genny*

        In the DC area last year, they completely failed to prepare for an icy snowstorm that happened two days before the big blizzard everyone was planning for. The result? My 1.5 hour commute on public transit became a 4.5 hour commute and I eventually had to walk the last mile to my car because the bus got stuck on an icy hill. I was one of the lucky ones. We passed at least two or three other buses that got stuck long before ours did. At one point, passengers on our bus got out to push the stalled cars ahead of us forward so that our bus wouldn’t get stuck behind their stalled car. Snow days aren’t just about whether or not that exact moment is safe for driving – it’s about whether the entirety of your commute will be safe.

    5. mrs__peel*

      Snow and ice present a lot of logistical and safety challenges (especially in relation to driving and just getting in/out of the house) that aren’t present with hot weather.

      In the part of the US where I live, it’s not unheard of to get one to two feet (.3 to .6 meters) of snow just in *one day*.

    6. Lynca*

      I’ve been on both sides. Having to work in an unairconditioned office (in 100+ F weather) for weeks and having to drive home in an ice storm because my office didn’t close until midday.

      Honestly both were horrible situations that the employer shouldn’t have put me in. But I have a lot more control about whether I should go in to work with a forecasted snow or ice storm, than I do if my employer doesn’t maintain the AC.

    7. INTP*

      I think snow is a logistical issue as much as a health and safety one – there are time-consuming things that people have to do to deal with the snow, so a full 8 hours of work on top of that can be really difficult. Most are obligated by law to shovel their sidewalks within a certain time frame, and schools/daycares will also be closed, so they have their kids at home while trying to work. This can make it nearly impossible to perform a normal day’s worth of work.

      1. mscate*

        yes clearly, ignorance on my part, I thought local authorities would use snow ploughs to clear roads and such.
        No one wants to risk their lives, getting to work and back.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          They do, but that doesn’t make it safe. Visibility is typically low, snow is still falling, there may be ice, things are slick.

          My company just sent out an email to everyone in this area saying to stay home unless you’re told otherwise.

        2. Snark*

          They do. That just means you’re not driving through two thirds of a meter of snow; it doesn’t mean there isn’t still hardpacked snow and ice underneath, or ruts, and when 5cm of snow is falling per hour, it gets worse after it gets plowed.

        3. nonegiven*

          If it really snows a lot once every couple of years, who wants to spend a lot of money on snowplows and such?

          Other places where it snows a lot almost every year, it takes a while to get everything plowed, they may not get to your street for 3 days.

          1. LavaLamp*

            To give an idea of how deep and scary snow can be, my work closed early about a year and a half ago due to a snowpocolypse. My coworker generously drove me home as my ride couldn’t physcially get out of the driveway. I walked down my street so my coworker wouldn’t get stuck, and the snow was up to my hips. I’m 5’2″ tall. And that was AFTER spending two hours on the Thornton pkwy exit because half the cars on it where spun the wrong way.

          2. Kate 2*

            Yep! In my area we usually get 1 day a year of freezing rain. No one bothers doing much about it, we just accept that it happens and since it only lasts 1 day, take the day off. I think the entire county has 1, maybe 2 snowplows, and they don’t help with freezing rain anyway.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Well…. then there are times when the county runs out of money and no plows come…. So you drive to work on unplowed roads and consider it a miracle when you arrive there.

  13. Bookworm*

    Agree that it is a matter of expectations and resources. I am currently someone who works at home as the companies I work for are virtual (or will be very soon). Being sure that employees have access to the same files, co-workers for communication, etc. are important. It also depends on what you mean by “most of the day”. Does that mean they need to keep to the traditional 9-6 or 8-5 or can some things be pushed off to another time? There are often other considerations that need to be considered: if it’s a snow day for the office does this mean there are children who are home from school? Maybe another family member who needs care because their normal caregiver also can’t make it to them? An issue of electricity/internet access during bad weather? If you’re set to go into the office every day and then have to scramble to create the same setup at home due to an emergency then some flexibility is helpful.

    I’m currently dealing with a situation (for example) where it’s not always clear to me what is expected: when I’m supposed to be available to answer calls/emails or how much time I have (is it something that *really* needs an answer ASAP or can it wait until tomorrow?). When I’m online for work I’m available but I’d rather not be answering messages at like 8 PM at night. Finding that boundary between work and personal can be really important when working from home for both the office and the employee, especially if sometimes you’re in a position that sometimes requires emergency/immediate attention.

  14. BroadcastLady*

    My mantra on snow days:

    “I go to work so I can tell everyone else to stay home.”

    Gotta love the (small market, local) news biz.

    1. Betty (the other betty)*

      I used to work for a tv station in Buffalo, NY. I remember walking down the middle of the street with snow up to my thighs to get to work.

  15. AnonymousGovEmployee*

    I work for the government. It is literally part of my telework agreement that I agree to work snow days from home, as long as we are warned by our bosses to take our computers home the day before. Otherwise, we are allowed to take unscheduled leave. If there’s an issue with power/safety, that’s a different issue.

    1. Red 5*

      I’m government adjacent but our telework agreement is basically the same template. Once I signed up to be able to telework, I agreed that if I suspected I’d be out the next day because of snow I’d be taking my laptop home to telework.

      I think it’s a fair trade. But it’s likely I’m fine with this because of workplace culture, my bosses don’t actually expect us to be as productive and accomplish as much when there’s snow. We’re sort of already planning on lower effort days when it’s predicted, kind of like schools that build it in.

  16. Kiki*

    One thing I love about my current job (at a school) is that on snow days we shut down completely. We can’t take our desktops home with us and the district won’t allow us to VPN in. So I just get to sit back and relax with my cats for a day. Our first snow day of the year is tomorrow!

    1. pomme de terre*

      One of the few things I enjoy about being an adult is finding out how much teachers and school administrators love snow days. When I was a kid, my teachers always made a big show of snow days messing up their lesson plans…but now I know that they were total liars who were thrilled to be at home in their jammies.

      1. Kiki*

        It does end up being a PITA sometimes. We are going to have to cancel a lot of events tomorrow and I’m going to be dealing with hundreds of parents on Friday who want to know when Aidan’s kazoo recital is now rescheduled for. But I am still going to love sleeping in and reading by the fireplace tomorrow afternoon.

  17. Trout 'Waver*

    I had a previous boss who prided himself on forcing his employees to come to work in dangerous conditions. Once, during an ice storm, I had a tree fall on my car as I drove in to work. No major damage (it was the crown of the tree), but still. I’m not risking my life for his fucking ego.

    The rest of the company would just close up shop and not force people to use PTO. He’d then go around bragging to other department heads about how many of his people came in to work. Ugh. It was bad for morale, to put it mildly.

    When I see a high probability of a snow day, I encourage my team to find things they can take home and work on from home. Our work involves a great amount of reading technical papers, which can be done perfectly well from home. I would feel absolutely devastated if one of my employees got hurt driving in to work because they felt I was pressuring them to. Nothing we do here is worth that.

  18. Bend & Snap*

    I mean…yuck.

    I work remotely most of the time, but tomorrow we’re going to get slammed with a blizzard, so my 4-year-old will be home with me. I’ll be trying to work, keep her distracted and at some point will have to go dig out my car. Dinging someone for not working a full day because of the PITA that comes along with a snow day is grinchy unless it’s absolutely necessary.

    People have lives to juggle and nobody can control the weather.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      But it sounds like LW is expecting and accepting things like what you described, and is asking more about whether she is being unreasonable by not wanting people to blow off work entirely.

  19. Mockingjay*

    We knew snow was expected yesterday. We are in the coastal Southeast, and we don’t have snow removal equipment. So we generally hunker down during our infrequent snow and ice storms.

    Government closed its facilities. Schools closed. All the other company project leads and program managers told their teams to telework or take leave today. My team lead tells everyone the office is open and to report to work. I asked to telework, but didn’t hear from him (he was out of office yesterday), so I dutifully went in. A few others had reported as well, but not many.

    Within a half hour freezing rain began slicking the roadways. We called our supervisor (still cosily at home) and informed him we were leaving. Didn’t ask, told.

    We now have a couple of inches of fluffy snow over a layer of ice. More coming down.

    As much as I like my company, this is one area that they continually screw up – not allowing liberal leave or telework during inclement weather, or waiting until the last minute. The Powers That Be never did make an official decision.

    I am staying put today and tomorrow.

  20. mrs__peel*

    I think it makes a lot of sense to let individual employees decide if they can complete a full day’s work or not. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

    My employer allows most of us to work 1-2 days per week at home on work-issued laptops, and we have a lot of flexibility to work at home if there are snow storms, etc. (We’re in upstate New York, so that happens often!) It’s really nice to have that in place. The office rarely ever closes, unless the power goes out completely or the city bans people from driving.

    I don’t have any problem getting a full day’s work done at home in a storm, because I have no kids and I have a snowplow service that takes care of the driveway. But it’s harder for some of my colleagues who have to watch rambunctious kids all day, shovel themselves out, check on elderly parents, etc.

  21. Lily Rowan*

    I was just having this conversation, and apparently at my job, the non-exempt staff never used to have laptops, so the office was either open or closed, none of this “work at home if you can” crap, which I always hate. Now I guess everyone has laptops, so we’ll see what the call is for tomorrow.

  22. Manager-at-Large*

    Let’s consider the two cases given: in office staff and remote staff on a common snow day.
    For remote staff, they generally work from home so they should be set up, presuming power and heat and all other normal set ups. However, they still need to deal with Snow Day: children home, snow removal, neighbors needing assistance and so on. It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect them to be 100% even though their usual mode is work-from-home.

    for the office staff who are set to wfh on the occasional basis, you can expect about 80% given that this is not normal for them. They may need to clear a desk, rearrange cords and monitors and so on. That done, they still need to deal with Snow Day! the same as the remote staff need to.

    add in the “kids are home and want to play outside with mom or dad” factor – I think you can expect about 25% productivity on a snow day if they are rare. Professionals realize that projects are still due and should tend to what is critical – but if they were sick they’d not work at all that day and the projects would still move forward. If the snow day falls on Friday when there is expectation of a BIG RELEASE that night or weekend – then you need to establish and agree on different expectations.

    1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      So here’s my totally unpopular statement. If you are taking care of kids and know that your productivity is going to be 25% then you should take a PTO day.

      That being said, I really never understood why snow days end up being such a big deal. If you are in a place that doesn’t get a lot of snow then it’s a rare event because of climate. If you’re in a place that gets a lot of snow, then it’s a rare event because you have the infrastructure in place to mitigate travel risk. Personally I think people get way too hung up on it altogether.

      If you’re an employee, it’s a rare event in most cases, whatever the decision of your company is suck it up and go along with their rules.

      If you are an employer and a manager, same deal, this is most likely a rare event, who cares if your wfh staff isn’t 100% productive. Guess what… they aren’t when they are in the office either!

      1. Snark*

        “So here’s my totally unpopular statement. If you are taking care of kids and know that your productivity is going to be 25% then you should take a PTO day.”

        If it’s a rare event, what’s it matter?

        1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

          Did you miss the rest of my comment?
          If you’re an employee, it’s a rare event in most cases, whatever the decision of your company is suck it up and go along with their rules.

          If you are an employer and a manager, same deal, this is most likely a rare event, who cares if your wfh staff isn’t 100% productive. Guess what… they aren’t when they are in the office either!

      2. Mike C.*

        If you’re an employee, it’s a rare event in most cases, whatever the decision of your company is suck it up and go along with their rules.

        In many cases, the decision being “sucked up” is being forced to come into work at significant risk to health and safety. You see this with bosses who are petty tyrants even when authorities have instructed the public to stay home.

        That’s not something to be tolerated.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have a permanent scar on my face from one time I sucked up. I am lucky. Some folks end up dead.

      3. a different Vicki*

        Sometimes having the infrastructure in place means being able to clear snow quickly once it stops falling, and getting adequate warnings out, so people can make sure they have adequate food, flashlights, and other useful things if they’re going to be home for a few days and there’s a chance that the storm will bring down power lines. Also, I wish your statement about the infrastructure was reliably true: in a lot of places, infrastructure maintenance has been underfunded for decades. (If you want something else to worry about, look up the percentage of U.S. bridges that are in poor repair and/or significantly past their designed lifespans.)

        The current winter storm warning for my area includes the advice “If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.”

    2. beanie beans*

      I live in a “rare event” area, and we have to use PTO if we can’t make it in because of snow. So I’ve spent 2-3 hours trying to get in to work in risky conditions in order to preserve my much-hoarded vacation time. It sucks.

  23. Terbz*

    What managers should not do on a snow day:

    In January of 2015, I just started working in the call center of a bank in the Boston area (I was maybe 2 weeks into the job). This was the winter Boston got record breaking storms. One day, the public transportation (MBTA or “T”) was closed because of how bad the snow was. The call center staff was still expected in because we were “essential staff.” One coworker, Juan, who sometimes drove and sometimes took public transportation into work said he would not be able to make it via a group text within the department, because public transportation was closed for the day. My manager told him that he could still come in because he could just drive. Juan responded that he hadn’t planned on driving that day (I think he may have shared his car with his wife or adult child). Either way, the weather was so bad that the subway and buses were out of service, so should anyone really be expected to drive? Being new and seeing this exchange, I was nervous about saying anything, as I usually commuted using the subway. I ended up walking an hour in the snow to get to work that day (about 3 miles, from near the Somerville High School to Alewife station in Cambridge, if anyone is familiar with the area). When I got there, my managers assumed that I had driven (parking at this building is about $50 a month, I did not have a parking pass, and it was a terrifying day to walk, let alone drive). I told them that I had walked and they were shocked. Well, what other choice did a new employee like me, who saw a coworker being haggled through text about getting to work, think she had?

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That winter was the worst! The job I had then, we got one snow day and one work from home day and that was it. I lived close enough to the office that I could make it in without much problem, but walking through blizzards every week was not my favorite.

    2. peachie*

      Ugh, employers in Boston are the WORST about accepting that sometimes snow means you can’t travel! I admit my inner New Englander often shares the “suck it up, it’s just a little snow!” attitude, but man, sometimes your street is covered in a foot of unplowed snow and your car is so buried it’s barely recognizable, and you just can’t drive 10 miles to work!

      I’m in DC now and even though I make fun of it, I kinda don’t mind that most offices will shut down in, like, an inch of snow. I will happily take the bonus days. :)

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I’m in Boston! My employer is extremely remote-work friendly so it’s such a relief.

        But if you do go into the office, the campus is always better maintained than the roads during a storm–the facilities team is that good. It’s crazy.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Ditto – I telecommute but when a snowstorm is imminent – my employer ORDERS all to work from home.

          You don’t appreciate working for a company like this until you see how others are (mis)treated.

    3. Kristine*

      Bostonian here. I actually quit my job in February 2015 because of that snowstorm. My employer wanted me to drive from Southie to Brookline (near Newton line) and park on a steep, narrow hill that was unplowed. I told them no way. My safety wasn’t worth risking for $10 an hour. I found a new job in April.

        1. Kristine*

          Yep, that’s the one! I cried too. My car was so buried that I couldn’t even tell which one was mine and I was trying to find it while on the phone with my manager. She was lecturing me about responsibility to my job commitment and I was panicking and finally gave up and her told I wasn’t coming to work, even if that meant I’d be unemployed.

            1. Kristine*

              Low wage hourly jobs really like to stress commitment when they want you to do something outrageous…at least in my experience.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, we don’t promise our employers “to death to do we part”. And any employer who wants to hasten my death would get the same response as a spouse who wanted to hasten my death. “bye-bye!”

        2. Somerville too*

          That winter was so bad. I was losing my ***mind. It’s been 3 years and I realized while shoveling out the plowed-in snow (that heavy, icy, dirty crap) last night that I’m not over it. Still!

    4. boston worker bee*

      I worked in Boston for a few years and was one of the only people in my office who commuted from far outside the range of public transportation. It was so hard to get everyone to understand how difficult it is to get to the office when you have a 90 minute drive in GOOD conditions. Like, “man my 1 mile walk was snowy this morning, oh well!” vs “it took me 4 hours to get here and everyone on the road is a maniac and I went crazy from being in the car for so long and I shouldn’t even be here today and if you even look at me the wrong way I will END YOU.”

    5. Arielle*

      I find in Boston the attitude tends to be, “The office will be open and we leave it to your conscience whether or not you think you can get in safely.” February 2015 was the worst, THE WORST. I lived in Teele Square and was commuting to Union Square (normally a 12-minute drive within the city of Somerville, for non-Bostonians) and I could. not. get. there. My car was completely buried for weeks. The buses weren’t running, and when they were, you could stand there on top of a snowbank and watch three or four go past without stopping.

      Now I’m in the suburbs so I have an awfully good excuse not to come in – if the plow hasn’t come, I’m not making it out of my driveway, never mind 7 miles to work.

    6. Menacia*

      I am picturing your walk because I used to live in Arlington and walked, rain/shine/snow/sleet to Alewife every day. I actually miss walking, and would prefer to do it in all types of weather than driving in CT. :( I also would drive to work in the worst weather when I first started at my company to prove I could make it in…13 years later…hell to the no am I driving in snowy conditions. I also have an office set up in my home and can literally do my entire job remotely (I work in IT).

        1. Menacia*

          Every day, and yes, it was! I still miss living in Arlington, my landlady lived above me in a two family house across from an elementary school, I felt so safe there! I did not even own a car when I lived in MA (aside from Arlington I lived in Cambridge outside of Harvard, Central Square and Somerville (Davis Square) so was always on the Red Line. I also worked at MIT for almost 8 years…what a great experience that was!

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          I love the Minuteman path!! Hi Boston people!! I live just outside of Central Square near-ish the Cambridge Public Library :) Hope everyone is staying warm and safe.

    7. SallytooShort*

      Also in Boston! Was it 2015 or 2014 when it just kept hitting us every weekend? And so by the end it would be a relatively minor snowstorm but there was just nowhere to put the snow! So, you couldn’t get anywhere. And the T was basically unworkable all that February. It would take hours.

      My work was definitely not understanding.

      1. Terbz*

        It was February 2015 (my original post says January 2015, but another commenter is correct with February)

    8. Talia*

      Gah! I’m familiar with that area– that’s a *dreadful* walk. And half of it hasn’t even got sidewalks!

    9. Somerville too*

      I think we should have an open thread just about Feb 2015 and changing work habits / jobs/ managers because of it… I was losing my mind, as in, my midwestern-raised self yelled and threw snowballs at a woman who parked in ‘my’ spot right after the super bowl weekend one (I think that was the 3rd one? I’d already spent hours digging).

  24. peachie*

    My impulse response was, “I wouldn’t like it either but, well, yeah, sometimes you gotta work from home.” But reading the details (particularly Also, I know that it is harder to work remotely when you are not set up for it every day. I notice things like emails are shorter and work is saved for a return to the office. Any advice for staying on top of things while unable to get into the office?), I think OP should:

    (a) Find a way to provide her team with what they need to truly work from home; or

    (b) Plan for days when her team will not be able to work.

    If (a) were not an issue, I agree with Alison’s response of 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.”–that’s fair, and I’d appreciate having the option! But I’d be pretty frustrated if I couldn’t get a full day’s work done because of technological or logistical limitations outside my control and had to use my PTO to cover for it.

    (I’m not eligible to telecommute, but I do occasionally have to do a bit of work at home, and it is SUCH. A. PAIN. Because I can’t officially telecommute, I can’t get access to any of my files, most of my database, or non-web-browser email [Outlook online is the WORST] and it takes me three times as long to do any given task, if I can even do them at all. Even when I’m off-location and can access my files and programs–at a conference, say–it’s still going to be slow going thanks to a combination of bad wifi, slow remote desktop connections, a single tiny laptop without an external mouse. I wouldn’t slack off, but I would never be able to get as much done from home!)

  25. ThatGirl*

    So I *can* work from home, but the rest of my team (save the team lead) can’t — we are customer facing and part of the rest of the team’s job is answering phones.

    Technically answering phones is not in my job description, but we’re down a person as of a couple weeks ago and it’s busy season so I’m expected to help out as much as possible. So even though it’s extremely cold right now and we may be getting more snow as the winter progresses, I am hesitant to work from home unless it’s really dire. I’m still newish and I don’t want to make myself look bad or engender resentment.

  26. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Ha. This blog must really be rubbing off on me. I don’t have kids, don’t like kids, and anything to do with kids and parents is not on my radar at all. Or so I thought: my first thought after reading this questions was “What about people with kids? People with kids home from school on a snow day aren’t really going to be able to put in a full day’s work.”

  27. SallyForth*

    I would suggest that once the basic stuff is covered, use this as a professional development day. Most jobs have industry journals or websites that people don’t find time to get to. Do some reading, check out the competition, etc.

  28. Ann Furthermore*

    Nitpicking stuff like this is such a morale killer. Sure, you’re always going to have slackers and people who take advantage, and they should be dealt with accordingly. But by and large, people are going to do what they can and call it good. And for the most part, employees aren’t actively seeking ways to rip off their employers. So are they getting a few extra hours off? Sure. But (assuming we’re talking about exempt employees here), do they get paid for the extra hours they put in when a deadline is looming? No. It all evens out in the end.

    In my last job (and my current one), the informal rule was that when a project is about to launch, or there’s some huge, critical milestone that has to be met, everyone is heads-down, charging for the finish line, and putting in extra hours. Later, when things have slowed down, then you can take off for a doctor’s appointment midday, or scoot out an hour or 2 early here and there and no one would care. Management knew that we’d more than make up for those hours when the next deadline was approaching. It all evened out in the end. Trust people to behave like adults, and they probably will. And the ones who don’t need some extra hand-holding and guidance…but don’t take that out on everyone else.

    1. MLB*

      I couldn’t agree more. My manager at my last job was ridiculous. We had the ability to work from home, but she didn’t like people working remotely. But I was honestly MORE productive at home because I didn’t have people coming to my desk all the time to chat or ask me questions. And her snow day policy was dependent on what she was able to do. If she could drive in, the rest of us were expected to come in, even though she told us to use our own judgement. I am so grateful that my current manager is super flexible. I already WFH 2 days a week and other times as needed. As long as I get my work done, and am available to our client, she’s happy.

  29. hbc*

    My theory is that I’ve hired good people and dickering about whether they worked 3, 6, or 8 effective hours on a snow day (when it’s hard to put in a full day through no fault of their own) is going to be a net productivity loss for the team. They go above and beyond the planned 8 hour day when it’s needed enough that it would be ludicrous to bean count on these rare occurrences. Basically, if we get to bean counting, I’ll lose.

    Similarly, when I’ve taken the vacation phone calls, had a 5am conference call before a normal workday, and flown on countless weekends, I was pretty sure that no one was going to be analyzing the length of my emails when I worked from home for whatever reason.

    I suppose it would be trickier with non-exempt employees working, but I’d bet the company losses when erring towards generosity are more than offset in goodwill and other soft factors.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, I understand OP’s general idea and yet I do agree that if OP uses those examples it won’t come across well.

    2. MLB*

      That’s because you are a good manager and have some common sense. The managers that like to nit pick about putting in a full day at home…do they stand in the shadows and keep count of how many hours a day you’re actually working when in the office? Are they writing down how many times you’re going to the bathroom, chatting with a co-worker about non-work stuff, taking a smoke break? As long as people get their work done and aren’t disrupting the office, it really shouldn’t matter. There will always be people who take advantage of this sort of flexibility, but you deal with them individually and let others be.

  30. Penfold*

    A clear snow day plan is invaluable. My previous manager/ job sent very passive aggressive emails that suggested you should make a decision that was right for you in regard to your safety, but embedded was a thinly veiled threat that not coming in was definitely wrong. (Manager lived less than 2 miles from the office, everyone else farther away.) Everyone had the ability to work remotely, but the company overall did not support it for any reason, and the office was never, never, ever to be “closed”. We did not do anything that would necessitate this sort of “plan” and I remember getting a call from a client in CA (we were in MA) during a giant storm and they were surprised we were there. They then asked if I was going to be okay to get home. I was grateful for their superior level of awareness and appreciated their concern from 3,000 miles away. Threats and uncertainty do not help get work done.

    Fast forward to the first potential snow day at my new job. Today’s email explains that we would be open but if you can’t get here, you have some options: use PTO, work remotely (provided it’s okay with your manager and you have the resources to do so), and then there was something specific for hourly employees. Amazing, clear instructions! We all have laptops, and most people here have a standard remote work agreement in place. VPN is set up, etc., so it might just be an extra day of working remotely. Or if you’re me, I was working remotely tomorrow regardless. Even though I’m already set, the sense of relief I felt knowing there was a clear plan, as opposed to the previous dread and stupidity, was palpable.

    1. Kristine*

      Ah yes, the “come in if you feel able” emails. My last company used to send those out around 7:45 am, after I’d already left for work to be there by 8:00 am, despite the fact that the mayor was on the radio on my way in telling people to stay off the roads. One night they had to get me a hotel near the office because it was unsafe to drive home.

        1. Allison*

          I always wonder what “use your best judgment” emails really mean? Do they mean “we trust you to make the choice that’s right for you” or do they mean “we trust you to know that coming in is the right choice unless the roads are literally on fire.”

      1. Turquoisecow*

        We had a number to call, which I don’t know why I bothered to call, because it always said the same thing. “Normal business hours are in effect,” followed by some bs about how you should only drive if it was safe to drive and you were able to, and work it out with your manager but really, (not stated outright but implied), get your butt to work or use your limited PTO.

        They claimed to care about our safety and reminded us to call the number, but there was almost never a closure. Also, there was never a company wide early dismissal but people in other departments would leave early, walking past me on the way out while I wondered if my manager would make me use PTO for leaving early.

        (Once, he actually left without telling me. A coworker who was beneath me but didn’t officially report to me asked me where he was, as the snow was coming down and she was wondering if she could leave. He’d already been gone for an hour, which I found out the following week when he was commiserating about his commute home with another coworker who wasn’t in that day.)

    2. Temperance*

      I used to work for someone whose husband drove a plow truck as a side job, so he would drive her to the office in the damn plow truck when we had snowstorms. I mean, good for her, I guess, but that nasty snit expected the rest of us to “make arrangements”.

    3. Science!*

      The university I used to be at had no clear snow day instructions for employees (I was a grad student so classes being cancelled didn’t mean anything in regards to whether I was supposed to be in) but at least my boss lived over an hour away so he normally called out on snow days which gave me the peace to do so as well even though I lived closer.

      My institution now has a clear policy that they email out every year where they prioritize safety but with the understanding that certain tasks HAVE to happen. I can usually work from home and I live about 30 min away and across a bridge that gets bad in the snow, so I usually don’t go in. But my new boss lives 1 mile away, so he always comes in even on bad days.

  31. CN*

    I don’t really see this as being grinch-y as it is one of the departments expected to work through snow days: also LW said it themselves – We are all expected to be able to work remotely if needed. Maybe they just need a more clear telework policy in place for inclement weather? If technology isn’t the issue (like they don’t have a computer), having examples of things that can be worked on remotely may help. We operate a lot from Google Drive which helps when we have to do things offsite, so maybe they can have something setup similar (not knowing the sector I’m not sure if their offsite setup may be more intense).

    I’m thinking if the employee only has to deal with snow removal they could at least do a full or half day OR take the day off if they have a bigger commitment (watching children) and continue their work when they get back. If they know a big snow is coming up, they can prepare for it & put in a telework/time off slip to their supervisor the day before so at least the expectation is there that they will not be doing a lot of work/won’t be working at all. It would be grinch-y to not allow it if the employee has ample leave to be used and not allowing for some flexibility if they can’t come in if it’s not really required.

    I work in public service (library) in a major city, so we rarely close/open late when it snows unless it’s blizzard conditions and public transportation is not running, so at least it seems like they have the option to come in or not (when not a lot of people do). We also have essential/non-essential, so sometimes it’s also the nature of your position if you need to be working on a snow day (onsite or remotely). We also annually rotate who is essential so that the same staff aren’t required to come in every year. I think there just needs to be expectations set so that it’s fair all around (as those who are working remotely too likely have the same kind of commitments as those who are on-site, they are just more “equipped” to be able to do the work from home).

    1. JeanB in NC*

      Our library here closes in really bad weather. Which I agree with – there’s no reason to open, you’re not going to get any customers anyway! But there’s rarely enough snow to cause a shutdown.

  32. Catarina*

    My work allows me to remote in for extreme weather, and my boss is very understanding about me being away from the computer as long as I do eventually put in a full eight hours. So if the plow comes and I need to frantically dig myself out before the next round makes the pile too high to lift, it’s okay.

  33. TeacherNerd*

    Bad thing about teaching in my particular school district here in northern Utah: My district simply refuses to close for bad snow. Fortunately, we don’t get much bad snow (we’re at about 4000 feet; those in higher elevations would have it worse), and because I live four miles from school, the worst part about slippery roads is the school’s Parking Lot of Death ™. This is especially irritating given the relative lack of plowing that doesn’t happen at 6:30 a.m., when I’m on my way to school.

    Last year, we had bad road conditions that the district should have absolutely closed for the day, but the argument was that since all the students lived close by, and we want our students to be educated and have continuing instruction, we were all required to come in. Again, for me, less of an issue, since not only do I live nearby, but I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, where we’d get several snowstorms a year (so everyone know how to drive in snow, plowing happened regularly, etc.). Most teachers, of course, do not necessarily live within school boundaries, or even within the same district in which they teach, so many, MANY teachers come from much further away. A normal 45-minute drive took teachers two hours or longer. (This affected close to 1/3 of the faculty and staff.)

    It was extremely frustrating and a very bad call.

  34. Nox*

    We just got a no remote work without daycare policy here too. We fired a few people this year who were low performers because they spent most of the day caring for kids and there was one instance of someone who was on a client call with kids going nuts in the background that the client complained about. We now require monthly proof of childcare if kids are under 13 as well as making sure you have a designated space in your home to be hardwired into [no Wi-Fi connections permitted on our laptops for PCI]

    I think it’s lame but I get it.

      1. Someone else*

        It doesn’t have to be a daycare center style daycare, just childcare, at least for me. For my company “childcare” can mean anything from “some other adult is present and not working” to “other child is 14 and watching younger siblings” or “12 year old is at after-school program until working hours are over” etc. But it is made very clear to our remote workers that you absolutely must have childcare. A person cannot be on the clock and caring for their own child concurrently. Although, I don’t think we have an explicit cutoff age where I work. I think it just indicates that one must have childcare during working hours or one cannot be the primary supervision for young children at home during work hours, or something like that.

  35. CM*

    Those of you who are saying that people should take PTO if not totally productive on a snow day — I get your point, but I would really resent an employer that was so inflexible, and would also end up using 30% of my PTO on snow days. To me this falls into a similar category as “don’t give people a hard time about showing up 5 minutes late if it’s not strictly required for their job duties.” Just cut people a little slack and they will work harder for you at other times to make up for it.

  36. Darcy*

    We don’t get snow days any longer as the email that goes out if we’re expecting inclement weather reminds everyone to take their laptops home with them and work from home. I love working from home, but do struggle on snow days. If there’s that much snow I want to help my husband with the shoveling. My kids are teenagers now so it’s not as hard to work with them at home, but they do still have questions and have loud devices going in the house. It’s a pretty standard understanding at my job that anything urgent still needs to get done, but otherwise it can be a lighter day than usual as long as we’re still checking in and supporting our field teams as needed.

  37. Ree*

    So, my general thoughts on any company that says they can’t make telework for their employees “work” is that they aren’t trying hard enough.
    My husband works as a software developer at at the headquarters of a midsize bank. EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. in his 500+ person department(umbrella of IT) MUST take their laptops home EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Not to be used for after work work, because they’re very much about wanting people to leave work at work but to be in the habit of taking their equipment home every day and to have the ability to work from home should the need arise. The company even provides bags or backpacks for the employees to use to carry their laptops. They also provide additional charging cords and other miscellany.
    The point is, whether they are at work or at home, all the IT staff must log in through THREE secure servers to work. So, if a company says it’s too difficult/complicated/whatever to have their people telework, no it isn’t. Try harder. If bank employees can log in through three or more secure servers, access sensitive data from home and put in the exact same work regardless of whether they are in their offices or in their homes, than any company can. Especially the ones I used to work for, that NEVER allowed teleworking and used GMail for their email servers and had precisely nothing behind a secure server wall. If I can respond to emails at 9pm from my phone, I think I can telework on a snow day, yes?

    Ok, rant over. ;)
    But seriously, if you are in any position of power at a company that doesn’t allow telework, find other companies that do and ASK THEM how they make it work. It pays off so much in employee loyalty and commitment!

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I have been (mostly) working at home – we get through these storms, no problem at all.

      And I can take a break and plow out my driveway before anyone tries to drive into it…

  38. Science!*

    My company never closes for bad weather. We can’t, there’s a certain task that needs to be accomplished every day and on site. It can be done on a skeleton crew, so if bad weather is predicted, the company goes around and asks for volunteers who are given a hotel room near the facility for the night and I think they get paid extra? Not sure. For everyone else, if you can’t make it in, you are expected to use PTO for the day unless you have a position where you can work from home in which case it’s up to you to decide whether to use the PTO or work from home. But most people who are cleared to work from home are salaried exempt so hours aren’t checked, and leeway is given for how much gets done.

    We are expecting a big storm tomorrow so I pre-emptively asked my boss for a specific task to do at home, I’ll work on it in bits and pieces since my kids are off as well.

  39. Ladybugger*

    As a Canadian, the concept that there’s a level of weather where you wouldn’t show up for work tickles me.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It’s not so much the snow, but all the bad drivers and accidents resulting from the snow.
      It often turns a 45 minute commute into 3+ hours. Happened to me once, and I just turned around and called in.

    2. Catarina*

      I found that living farther north was actually easier for winter weather. It’s that band of the eastern U.S. that flip-flops back and forth over the freezing point that’s the worst, from New York to Maryland. The constant freeze/thaw pattern melts and re-freezes everything into sheets of black ice. When it gets cold and stays cold, driving isn’t as dangerous.

      1. AliceBD*

        Virginia and North Carolina do this too. Everything melts during the day and refreezes at night so the roads are just ice.

    3. Jiya*

      I live about an hour south of the border and drive a sedan. If there’s a way to make my car get over 3 feet of snow when my landlord hasn’t plowed, you let me know!

  40. Nervous Accountant*

    I think if you’re allowed to work from home during bad weather, then it’s not unreasonable to expect an employee to work.

    The timing here really sucks–all the crappy snowstorms happen during tax season (Jan-April) so it’s always a huge issue if we may not be able to work from home. Our company does allow for WFH only for this reason…rarely any of us are set up to work from home properly (aka, 2-3 huge monitors and desktops–I have a crappy tablet/laptop at home, and remote log in is slow af). Last year, the snowstorm happened right before the corporate deadline and my boss emailed us urging to come in. I mean…..she had someone drop her off, it’s not like the rest of us had that luxury (or would want to use it–my husband was willing to drive me but I said no). Sadly, the only ppl who showed up to the office were those who lived locally or..interns who don’t even havethat much to do. (It’s sad bc I get where they’re coming from and I think they shouldn’t have had to come).

  41. Allison*

    Basically, people should be expected to do what needs to be done that day, but shouldn’t be expected to be heads-down busy for the most part. I’d say it’s reasonable to expect that people meet deadlines, if they have any, and be responsive over email. It’s also reasonable for someone to take a few minutes here and there to pop in a load of laundry, make themselves a lunch they can’t normally make during the workweek, or an hour to clear their driveway and cars, if it stops snowing during the day, so they don’t have to do it when it’s dark and super cold, or first thing in the morning. You probably wouldn’t even notice, unless you’re monitoring people’s statuses on Skype, but then I wonder how much work you’re doing if you’re that attentive to such details.

    Working from home does have its distractions, especially if a person’s partner or roommate is also working from home. It’s not great when someone’s less productive because of it, but when people need to stay home, they need to stay home.

  42. Genny*

    I really hate companies that give a small amount of PTO and then require you to use it for snow days. I worked for a contracting company that did that. The government employees could use administrative leave, but I, with my 10 days of PTO and 6 sick days (that could only be used for sickness), had to use PTO (I wasn’t authorized for telework). The company made plenty off my contract to afford eating the cost of a snow day, but nope mandatory PTO, even for early dismissals and late arrivals. After that experience, I lean towards the side of company-paid time off or lenient telework rules.

  43. The IT Manager*

    I work from home always so obviously I am prepared to work from home.

    It does suck when others around you or others you’re aware of are allowed to be off and you have to work. It seems fair, though since I enjoy not commuting and working in comfy casual every day.

    1. whosthat*

      you have an accommodation the rest of the time–no commute, work from home, etc— that they don’t. I think it evens out.

  44. JessaB*

    One thing companies do not always take into account is people who live in different areas. Some work at home but some choose to have a longer commute. Mr B before he started work at home had an hour drive to work. The issue however was when our county had a “nobody on the roads, unless you’re essential personnel and can prove it,” order, he could not go, even if the county his office was in was fine.

    There needs to be a policy if you have staff all over the place as to what happens when different areas make different decisions on road closure. For some reason this has always been an issue in my family, people working from a distance and companies having NO plans whatsoever to deal with that.

  45. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Yes, this is bad, especially if Big Boss lives one block away in Executive Towers, and HE has no problem getting to work, then everyone else should be there, too.

    Thankfully – state and city governments declare travel bans — which means if your boss demands you disobey the ban, he’s asking you to commit a crime. Which, you can and should refuse to do.

  46. MissDisplaced*

    I’m lucky in that I can work from home almost any time unless I have in-person meetings.
    I think to answer OP’s question, if people are allowed to work from home during times of anticipated bad weather, then it’s fair to expect that they get done a fair amount (like 6-7 hours) of work, unless it’s something that simply can’t be done remotely.
    It’s also normal to expect that people be reachable via email or messaging/phone if needed, the idea being this is just as it would be in the office. I mean, this is what remote workers do… when I work at home I make sure the computer is on and the VPN is signed in with both email and VoIP, even though I do switch to my Mac sometimes! :-)

  47. Front of the House Manager*

    Ugh. I’m going through this right now with my boss. The predictions keep changing. One minute, they’re calling for 2″ max, the next, it’s 7″ max. I’m worried about my staff getting into work safely (2 people on for tomorrow live on opposite sides of the city and rely on public transit). My boss is not really listening when I tell her things like “if they shut down the buses and trolleys, none of us can get in,” and she basically doesn’t want to make a contingency plan of any sort.

    It’s maddening. We won’t even make enough money to cover payroll for the day, but God forbid we close if we get a bad snowstorm! The only time I won this battle was when she was on vacation and we got 18″ or so of snow. We all basically refused to attempt getting in. I’m basically hoping for either 2′ of snow or a dusting, because anything in between is a giant PITA

    1. Kickin' Crab*

      I think we’re probably in the same city. I rely on public transit to get to work (combination of bus, trolley, and a 15 min walk). My biggest fear is getting stranded when they inevitably shut down transit and I have to walk 4 miles home in near-blizzard conditions. My office never closes (healthcare), which means we all have to struggle in just in case one patient happens to show up. My previous employer used to pre-emptively call people so they could rebook without a fee, or just outright cancel clinics if conditions were deemed unsafe. My current employer sends out passive aggressive emails that you can cancel your own clinic if you want, but then you have to make it up on Saturday or Sunday. One of the many reasons I found a new job!

  48. AliceBD*

    My company is healthcare, so we never close and people make arrangements to come in or spend the night or what-have-you with inclement weather. However I am in the marketing department, so everybody just brought their laptops and papers home with them tonight and will work from home tomorrow if the roads are too bad to come in (we could get anywhere from nothing to a couple of inches depending on the channel). Our office is also pretty flexible about what constitutes a full day so as long as the power stays on no one in our department is really worried about it from a work perspective.

  49. Grumpypants*

    I live in an area where the local government will declare one of three levels of snow emergencies, which range from “the roads are bad, be careful” to “you could be arrested for driving.” Our office policy is to close if we’re at the middle level, which is “we’re not going to ticket anybody, but please don’t drive unless absolutely necessary.” My problem with our policy is that, if you’ve already scheduled vacation or a day off on a day the office happens to close for weather, you still have to use your PTO time while all your coworkers get a freebie. It’s a rare enough set of circumstances, but it just kills me and my coworkers when management emails our annual winter reminder that, hey, we’ve got this irrational and unfair policy that would cost us nothing to change, but we’re sticking with it!

    1. whosthat*

      That’s not all that uncommon. Sounds like your company is pretty reasonable in other ways, which is good. You had the advantage of being able to plan to have that day off, and hopefully plan something for yourself, whereas other employees did not.

  50. Rae*

    I’m torn on this, partly because I work in New England where snow is a “duh” and partly because both hubby and I now work jobs where remote setup is necessary.

    And no, we don’t get “snow days”. Days when those who are 100% office-bound get snow days and we don’t aren’t something to be jealous over. The ability to work from home and save 30-50 minutes each way a day is nothing to take for granted. So the 100% office-bound people get a “free” day off.

    So what?

    Fortunately, both of our employers are reasonable and make allowances for the extra time needed. We’re still expected to work our same number of hours, but if we do it 8-11 then take a break for an hour then do 12-2 and another break and so on and so forth, it’s fine. My husband’s company allows him to “work ahead” 2 hours and “promise” 2 additional hours by the end of the week, mine allows a total of 2. (work ahead or promised)

    Otherwise, we can take PTO.

    For jobs that have great remote policies in place and allow workers to make remote decisions for themselves, it seems very petty to demand a “free” day off when compared to fellow employees who do NOT have this freedom and truly do have no choice to work. Yeah, kids being off/no daycare makes things complicated but not impossible….especially since we are used to remote work.

    TLDR: If your company has established remote work policies and is fair with them, then work with it, it’s business.

  51. whosthat*

    There are lots of ways to deal with bad weather. It is unfortunate that many employers lack the creativity to think through them.
    1. Tell someone when they are hired whether their position is considered essential or non-essential during bad weather or emergencies. Put it in their offer letter. Take care of those essential people with some extra time off or extra pay after a weather event. If you need volunteers for other needs, give them a carrot too-maybe an extra paid day off, or lunch brought in, or travel money.
    2. Think through other positions and how they might be able to work from home during a weather event. Have a brief conversation about what is expected in that realm and give people the resources to do so. in our office, we let our boss know what we are working on and then produce that work later.
    3. Give people the option to make up hours if you can legally do so (Could be a problem for non-exempt)
    4. Set expectations with your customers or clients—here’s what we are doing in bad weather and here’s what we are not. for example, anything that is due on a day with bad weather in our Town won’t be delivered on that day. Tell them before it happens.
    5. Build in a small amount of weather days into your budget and into your employee’s leave time. If they aren’t needed, they aren’t used and they don’t have any cash value and the company isn’t out any money. Just like sick time.

    The problem is that most companies don’t think ahead. They try to reinvent the wheel every time something happens. They need to understand SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN. you can plan for it and not create so much anxiety and confusion.

  52. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Some others have already commented on the attitude in the Boston metro area corporate office culture: “Announcement: The office is open, but use your judgement about whether it is safe to come in, or whether you will work remotely.” This happens when there is over a foot of snow and a blizzard. I hate this position. If the weather conditions are really that bad, the office should be closed. If the office is open, I am coming in to the office. In my employment arrangement, I did *not* agree to work remotely. I did *not* agree to let my employer use my home to conduct business.

    I have a completely different perspective on remote work, namely: it is not a gift to me. Remote working is always positioned as something desirable and beneficial and convenient for the employee. For some, it is all those things. But of course it’s also the non-stop work environment, where there are no boundaries between home and work. I work long hours in the office, and rarely take vacation. When I step foot out that door, I am gone. Poof. I don’t check emails outside of work and I don’t work from home. I don’t have the type of job where any of that is necessary (or should be necessary). Perhaps I am living in a fantasy land of 20 years ago, when this was acceptable, but I can only tolerate my job if there is a bright hard line between home and work.

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