should you go into the office during severe weather?

A reader writes:

What do you recommend employees do during a storm like Sandy? I live in Boston and rely on public transportation. The MBTA (and the governor and mayor) recommend everyone who can stay home and off the streets. The MBTA is running service now, but has issued warnings that service may end or get interrupted later in the day. I think I could get to work, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to get home easily. My manager emailed our team to say she’s working from home and to use our judgement about getting to the office. I decided to stay home and I’m just curious what your thoughts are on the matter.

Obviously the office is open (to what extent staff is actually there, I’m not sure). I’m mostly curious because I’m new to the company (started in the spring) and corporate culture in general. Previously I worked at a nonprofit (in the arts) and that company always stayed open during severe weather, so I don’t think I have a good gauge about what to do.

Stay home.

When your city is telling people to stay off the streets, you stay off the streets. They issue those warnings for a reason. People are going to get killed in this storm, and in many or all cases, it’s going to be because they were on the streets.

You should also take your manager’s words at face value when she tells you to use your judgment about whether or not to come in. And note that she herself is working from home.

Reasonable employers (and even many/most that normally aren’t especially reasonable) do not expect people to put themselves in harm’s way to get to work. Your employer is sending you a very clear message. Believe it!

I’m locked in my house and not going out until Wednesday, and I hope everyone else on the east coast will do the same. Join me in wrapping yourself in a blanket, drinking tea on your couch, and preparing to read books by flashlight if your power goes out. That’s the only sensible thing to do sometimes.

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