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When severe weather strikes, telecommuting is not always the answer

February 14, 2014 - Art Smith
The winter of 2014 has been particularly bad — freezing cold, snowstorms that follow one after another, schools closed for what seems like weeks — it has caused many to suffer as they wait for spring. Severe weather causes economic hardship as well, and it does so to the group that can least afford it. When the second storm in a month struck Georgia this week officials urged people to stay at home and to telecommute. Telecommuting is great when it works, but it doesn’t really work that well, that often, for that many workers.

In order to telecommute you need to have a job leads itself to it being able to do that. Retail jobs, for example, are out. The person that gets your coffee at McDonald's cannot do that job from home. When Grand Central Mall closed because of snow recently, most of those workers simply didn’t get paid for the day.

A lot of the workforce uses computers to do their jobs. Many jobs use specialty software that a person can not simple take home with them and use. In fact, the employee would likely be breaking the law, if not company policy, if they did so. Telecommuting works best for people who have jobs that are mainly web-based and don’t require them to access files stored on their computers at work. People that telecommute full-time are set up for it. The rest of us are left figuring out what can be worked on without being in the office.

If a storm is bad enough to make it so you can’t get to work, you are likely to have lost your power in the middle of the night anyway. No internet will likely mean no work, the battery power on your laptop will, at best, last a few hours. I doubt anyone is going to get any real work done on his or her iPhone.

Many companies are understanding and allow people to take vacation days if they cannot make it to work. Liberal leave policies allow people to make the judgment not to drive when they feel it is unsafe to do so, while at the same time discouraging them from taking advantage of a free snow day.

For many though, a missed day of work is a missed day of earnings. For people living paycheck-to-paycheck, that can be a bigger deal than the snow-covered sidewalks the rest of us are endlessly complaining about.


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