Telestorming: When weather forces people to work from home
"I was mostly out of the loop for a couple days," she says. "There is some security in having a dispersed workforce. Just because I was not able to access things from work (in one location) did not bring our whole company to a halt. In fact, our productivity was barely affected."
Although most companies are not so integrated in remote working, Fell says the advantages of remote working are widely available.
"People are already working remotely, whether they realize it or not," she says. "Responding to email from your laptop at home in the evening or weekends or from your phone — that is telecommuting."
People are more prepared than they may think, Fell says.
A few more actions by a company, such as making documents accessible from everywhere, can make disasters and storms have less impact on essential work.
Dinnocenzo says employees can make their forced telecommuting smoother by following a few rules.
The first thing to do is to check in with the boss: "Let people know you are working from home," she says.
The next thing is to find a place to work that is conducive to getting things done: "Probably not the kitchen table," she says.
Depending on the reasons a person can't get into work, it might work to go to a local Internet café, for example.
Home not alone
Wilson's 9- and 11-year-old children are used to seeing her work at home, but usually only after dinner. During the polar cold, there was no real place for her to escape.
"If I am on a conference call with the CEO and CFO, and my kids come in the middle of a presentation, there is just no graceful way to handle the situation correctly for both sides," she said.
Dinnocenzo says to set ground rules with the family, and maybe even put a sign on the home office door if in a virtual meeting. She has also had to negotiate with a child at home and remembers telling her kindergartener to not come in the office during one of those meetings unless it was really important. Her child came in with a note asking for more Cheerios.
Fell says disasters, like the cold, can open companies up to fostering more telecommuting options — just to be an insurance policy. McGraw Hill Financial warmed up to more remote working during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she says.
But even if a company is not big on the concept, during a disaster most companies' employees can access their emails from their smartphones, laptops and tablets, Fell says: "And most people's jobs are done, at least to a certain percentage, on phone and email," she says.
Wilson says she needs to work on her home work scenarios a bit better: "Though short of locking the door, I'm not sure what to do," she says.
With promises of weather warming up, however, she hopes the problem will be solved soon.
Until the next time.