am I a grinch for expecting my staff to work from home 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?

It sounds like you need to get aligned with your staff about what’s expected of people during snow days. If you expect them to work a full day of normal work, just from home, then you need to tell them that.

However, is this (a) reasonable and (b) necessary?

If people aren’t set up to work from home, then it makes sense that they’re limited in what they can do there. If that’s the case, you probably need to adjust your expectations — and decide whether having them do the small amount that they can do from is important enough that you’d rather they do that than take the day off altogether (in the latter case, presumably using PTO for the day unless your office is closed).

One option is to give people the choice. 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.”*

If the nature of the work is such that you really need them to be working and can’t give them the option of an unscheduled day off, then you’d need to make sure that they have the resources to do that — whether it’s a company-issued laptop, VPN access, or whatever else they’d need. (However, keep in mind that you might be fighting a losing battle there, since not everyone is cut out to work from home, particularly once you throw in the challenge of kids home because schools closed too. If working full days from home on snow days is truly a necessary job requirement, then you’ll have to start making it clear during your hiring process, ensure you’re hiring people who can do it, etc.)

And that brings us to the question of whether it really is necessary. It certainly could be; there are indeed jobs where the work needs to continue to be covered, and it’s possible that your department is one of those (even though it sounds like the rest of your company isn’t). But I’d start by really questioning that. If most of the rest of your company shuts down on these days, does your department really need to stay open? Obviously it’s better if work can continue uninterrupted, but you also need to acknowledge that sometimes the most practical option is to decide that things can wait a day (particularly when those occasions are relatively rare, as snow days usually are). Practical because of logistics — like whether you have a staff that can work effectively from home — and practical because of what happens to morale when you ask people to do something where (a) it seems doubtful that the payoff will justify the hassle and (b) others in similar roles in the company aren’t being asked to do the same.

* There’s also the question of whether you should ask people to use PTO for snow days at all. Certainly plenty of companies do, but there are also plenty that don’t. If you have a responsible, high-performing staff, it’s a nice perk to not make them use up PTO on a day when they’d otherwise be at work but for the weather.

This entry was posted in HR, Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.