The winter is upon most of us across the nation. For those in the northern half, we have had an extremely cold and blustery start to the new year. For many, getting to and from work has been a challenge on more than one occasion. Whether it be below-zero temperatures, snow storms, rain storms, etc., the conditions are causing broken and disabled trains and subways, cancelled flights and undriveable roadways. Of course, these are conditions that no one should leave their home to try and traverse. This is why I’m a big supporter of remote work. Here are some tips on how to ask your boss if you can work from home.
What About Business Travel?
Still, many businesses remain open during these conditions. I’m not talking about hospitals and essential services, I’m talking about normal businesses. A family member recently called me during the sub-zero cold snap to get my perspective about going on a business-related trip of close to two hours each way in the Arctic weather. It seems when the HR folks were asked, their response was it’s your decision.
Just Say NO
The answer to this should always be “Just Say NO.” And that was my response. In fact, a level of disappointment came over me that the HR person would even put it as an option. If you’re a person who feels like this isn’t an option, sometimes you have to learn to say no. The area being driven in was negative 6 degrees (before the windchill) and, for the most part, involved driving on country roads. A car breakdown would have been a calamity for sure.
When did businesses stop caring about the safety of their most cherished resource? My family member made the wise decision not to make the trip, but that’s not the point…it should never have even been a decision to make. A few years back, during Super Storm Sandy on Long Island, I was one of a fortunate few to not lose power or be directly impacted by the massive flooding. My managing Partner (CEO) refused to close our Long Island or NYC offices after the storm came through. Our COO was able to get to the office in NYC and open it. I went and picked up our CIO, who lived nearby, and the two of us opened our Long Island office. We had less than a 20 folks (out of over 400) make it to both offices. That night, on my way home, I almost got into a car accident as none of the stop lights were working. Going in that day was one of the dumbest things I ever did. I should have said no and the two other leaders who shared executive committee responsibility should have said no too. It would take a separate post to provide all the reasons that were rationalized for opening the buildings. This included the excuse that our Long Island office housed all our network systems for the whole country. Still, hindsight is almost always 20-20.
Confronting Our Bad Decisions
I remember the days that followed when some of our leaders chastised me personally for working that day. I was taking the heat for my CEO to boot. A double whammy! But it was a bad decision and one that every HR leader should stand up to and confront. Since that incident, I have a totally different attitude when it comes to inclement or dangerous weather conditions year-round. This is just one example of the impact on Business & Change Management Learned from Hurricane Sandy. It is simply this: Never ask an employee to risk their personal safety during or after unsafe weather occurrences. Period! Do what you can to have folks work remotely and then just shut it down ’till it’s safe. And that’s all I have to say about that…