Survey: Bad Weather No Longer Excuse to Miss Work
Every year, severe winter weather hits most of the United States resulting in school cancellations, impacting commute times and preventing (or at least hindering) millions of Americans from getting to work.
But while just a few decades ago, such inclement weather might have meant a cease in operations and the day off for many employees, technological advancements have made working from home an increasingly popular solution for many companies.
As the world’s largest conferencing and collaboration provider, we were curious about how winter weather disrupts employees’ working habits. We surveyed more than 200 full-time employees from winter-affected regions to find out if winter weather keeps them from getting into the office and how it impacts their overall productivity, even when working from home. See the raw survey data here.
While we confirmed that severe winter weather has forced the vast majority of employees to work from home at some point, most say they’re just as, if not more, productive thanks to today’s advanced communication and connectivity methods.
Work From Home Days Are Common, Mostly Convenient
Seventy-nine (79) percent of employees said they have worked from home due to severe snow or ice storms and/or extremely cold temperatures, suggesting that telecommuting is now a mainstream solution for companies impacted by bad weather.
Another 15 percent of respondents, perhaps those with a shorter commute, said they always go into the office no matter what the weather. Only 6 percent said they take the day off work completely, perhaps pointing to the fact that with today’s technologies, it is nearly impossible to fully disconnect from work.
The fact is that advances in computer technology and the rise of broadband have made it extremely easy for employees to work and communicate with one another outside the office. As one might expect, email is the most common method used to work and communicate when working from home.
Workers Need to Stay in Touch While Working from Home. But How?
In a testament to how far communication technology has come in recent years, over half (54 percent) of people said they used instant messaging or chat while working from home. Video chatting is pretty unpopular as a means of at-home work communication with only 11 percent of respondents saying they use it.
Email is the overwhelming favorite for workers communications needs while working from home. Ninety-three (93) percent of respondents said they used email while working from home. Couple that with the 71 percent who said the use the phone and/or conference calls to stay in touch and working from home can be as productive as working from the office.
The Impact of Working from Home
While technology is undoubtedly making it easier for people to work from home, the impact of not going into the office carries varying and sometimes significant results.
Thirty-two (32) percent of survey respondents say working from home would have real impact and affect customers and/or team members. Another 3 percent went so far as to say that working from home would have a major impact, resulting in a loss of revenue and/or missed deadlines.
On the flip side, 65 percent believe working from home due to bad weather would have only a minimal impact on their results and would just require shifting around a few priorities/deadlines, suggesting that technology is allowing the majority of employees to stay on top of their work load from home.
Productivity of Remote Workers During Weather Events
One of the main concerns associated with telecommuting is a loss in productivity due to distractions and/or lack of supervision. However when asked how productive they are working from home compared to in the office a large majority agreed that no productivity was lost from working at home.
- More productive at home – 32 percent
- Just as productive at home – 39 percent
- Less productive at home – 29 percent
The reality is that employees’ work habits vary, meaning some will prefer the office while others prefer their home. Outside factors could also affect this data. In some cases, a quiet house may actually allow for more focus than a busy workplace.
Others, however, may face more distractions at home like children home on a snow day. Depending on the type of work they do, there could also be limitations as to what they can really get done outside the office.
Most Employees Are Unaware of Company Policy on Inclement Weather
Given that so many employees have opted to work from home during a severe winter storm you might assume most companies have an inclement weather/emergency policy in place. However, 59 percent of employees said their company either does not have (43 percent) or they’re unsure (16 percent) if they have an official policy on inclement weather. Obviously many companies need to develop and communicate their policies and expectations more clearly with employees.
Even though many employees are unsure of their company’s inclement weather policy, 76 percent of respondents said their company does usually support working from home during harsh or dangerous weather. Despite this attitude, nearly half of respondents feel their office should be closed more often for significant weather events.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 62 percent of respondents said their office closes most often for winter precipitation (snow, sleet, ice storms, etc.). Just over a quarter of employee say their office never closes no matter what the weather.
Winter Weather Significantly Affects Commutes
Not surprisingly, inclement winter weather appears to affect the majority of those who still opt to commute to the office. Sixty-three (63) percent of respondents reported that inclement weather significantly or severely affects their regular commute time, compared to a fortunate 37 percent that said their commute stays the same or is only minimally affected.
While commute times varied for respondents, 47 percent of respondents said their commute took 30-60 minutes longer to make it into the office than it does on a normal day, and 11 percent said it took 60-90 minutes longer. In those cases, companies may want to reevaluate their policy and consider letting the employees use those valuable minutes working from home rather than spending them stuck in traffic.
Ultimately, we confirmed that more employees are opting to work from home during inclement winter weather instead of trekking into the office. Although not every type of job or task is suited for telecommuting, most companies can leverage the power of technology to broaden the traditional limits on when and where work happens.
By providing employees with the tools needed to complete their work remotely while also clearly communicating their expectations, companies can plow through the next winter storm without taking a hit in productivity.