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When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

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Sometimes we don’t have a choice. Like not being able to leave the house because snow is packed against the storm door. Or not being able to get the car out of the garage because a five-foot snowdrift is jammed against the garage door. Or not being able to drive to work because a two-day blizzard has ushered in dangerously cold winds and more snow than can be cleared easily even with my city’s fleet of 150 snowplows.

Mother Nature gave folks in the Twin Cities a heartless punch a couple of weeks ago that still smarts. Days after the snow has stopped swirling, muscles ache from moving mountains of snow from where it landed to where I’d prefer it to be. I’m no stranger to snow; I was born in the Midwest, and though I’ve had a taste of the good life in California (e.g., the beach at Christmas and flip-flops in January), my family opted to return to the Midwest for reasons that included “seasons” and “weather,” and even “snow.”

But this storm was a different animal–more ferocious and wild than regular winter. It brought the heartiest among us to knees in bitter agony as snow fell an inch per hour. For two excruciatingly long days, snow pelted frosted windows, accumulated in masses that hid my greyhounds from view, and slapped against exposed faces. Tragically, about a dozen people died during this storm from heart attacks while shoveling, traffic accidents, and house fires that emergency vehicles simply couldn’t reach.

Despite the very real dangers of a storm of this magnitude, people put down shovels and silenced snow blowers once Monday rolled around. It was time to commute to workplaces across the city and suburbs. Never mind that the streets weren’t entirely cleared of snow. Or that school was canceled because the temperature was considered too dangerous for kids waiting for buses.

Of course, I appreciate that some work must be done at a specific location. One of our neighbors is a resident at a hospital and was scheduled for an ER shift smack-dab in the middle of the storm. He knew he would never make it to work by car, so he donned winter boots and walked the three miles instead. I should mention that he’s of Icelandic origin.

For those of us who aren’t Icelandic or doctors and who simply need secure access to project files, corporate apps, and email, taking a day or two to work remotely should not even be up for debate–particularly when roads are impassable and weather is dangerous. One more vehicle stuck in a snowdrift does nothing for a worker’s productivity and actually presents another delay in getting roads cleared for everyone else (particularly emergency vehicles).

The world is unpredictable. But we can be certain that snow, earthquakes, floods, fires, and tornadoes will interrupt our working lives from time to time. These inevitable natural events will sometimes make travel dangerous or impossible. And they will hopefully make us think differently about how we can effectively be both productive and safe.

As for the Metrodome’s roof collapse, all I can offer is this: Even the Vikings aren’t immune from a weather-related workplace disruption.

Photo Credit: Jason Wermager

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