by Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, co-authors of “Culture Without Accountability: WTF? What’s The Fix?“
If we’re honest, most of us love a good snow day. Especially for folks who live in warmer climates, dire forecasts and gathering cloud cover take us back to those glorious days when we got to ditch classroom work for snowmen, sledding, and hot chocolate. The problem comes when adults who are old enough to know better view the white stuff as a “get out of work free” card.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the snow. But rather than using weather as an excuse to slack off, they suggest using it as an opportunity to set yourself up for success.
Traffic may come to a stop when it snows, but business doesn’t. If no one has noticed, we have a connected global economy now, and it’s an accepted fact that most people can work from home these days. Out of sight doesn’t mean out of commission… or out of mind.
In other words, take the day off and the boss will notice your vanishing act. This is especially true in a sluggish economy when employers can’t afford to eat those missing man hours. Show that you’re accountable for your commitments come hell or high water (or snow and ice) and you’ll demonstrate that you can be counted on.
Besides, just like you had to make up those missed school days, the work you didn’t do won’t melt away when the sun comes out. It’s still there waiting on you. So you’re not just trying to impress the boss, you’re doing the right thing for yourself as well.
Here are a few tips on how to differentiate yourself from the pack when bad weather strikes:
1. Plan for a “hybrid” day.
Let’s address the big white snowy elephant in the room first: When you’re snowed in at home, you likely won’t keep your nose to the grindstone the entire day. There might be power outages. There might be kids demanding your attention. There might be impromptu neighborhood sled parties. That’s okay. Work intensively when you can — and on the high-payoff projects — and your “snow breaks” won’t be a big deal.
Accountable people know they control their own destiny. They’re not clock punchers. They know as long as the work gets done it doesn’t matter when or how they do it. They seize opportunities to work… and opportunities to play.
2. Think ahead before the snow starts.
When bad weather is on its way, plan ahead for what you’ll do if you can’t get in to the office. Make sure your boss and coworkers know how they’ll be able to reach you and make sure you have their winter weather contact info too.
Take home any files or other information you might need. Tie up any loose ends that will be difficult for you to take care of while working from home and reschedule any conference calls or meetings. Most bosses will understand that a snow day isn’t going to run like a normal day. What’s important is that you show that you’re doing everything in your power to keep important projects moving forward as efficiently as possible.
3. Work late the night before.
If you know it’s going to be difficult to get as much work done at home as you’d like to — you might be juggling child care duties alongside work duties, or there might be certain things you just can’t do from home — take care of any high-priority tasks the night before the snow rolls in.
Move some of the next day’s must-dos to today. Let’s be real: You’re probably not going to give your job 100 percent of your attention once the snow starts, and this way you won’t have to feel guilty about it.
4. While the kids sleep in, get a jump-start on your day.
If you can get a couple of hours of work in before they wake up, you’ll be ahead of the game. Then, if you break away from your desk for a snowball fight, no big deal.
5. Do the big things first.
If you have a chance to get only a few things done, make sure they’re the important ones with the biggest ROI. If something has to slide, make sure it’s the humdrum tasks.
Actually, this is a good way to work every day, not just on snow days. But there’s something about knowing you have a limited window of time that really helps most people get focused and productive.
6. Be responsive and reachable.
Snow days are fun, even when you’re an adult. It’s okay to enjoy some time sledding with the kids or to indulge in a hot chocolate break, but be sure to let your coworkers and bosses know what you’re up to.
Chances are they’ll be taking time to enjoy the fun side of the winter weather too. As long as you keep everyone in the loop, you can be sure that things will run smoothly until you’re all back in the office.
7. Go to extreme measures if (but only if) the situation warrants it.
If it’s absolutely vital that you’re in a specific location during a snow day — say, your biggest client is in town for a face-to-face meeting — you’ll want to pull out all the stops to get there. Even if it means getting a room at the same hotel where your client is staying so you won’t be snowed in at home, you’ll be glad you made the sacrifice.
Gauge the situation and decide whether extreme measures are called for. No, you wouldn’t sleep at the office in order not to miss an ordinary workday, but when the stakes are high, accountable people do what they have to do.
When you take a few simple steps to put your work ahead of your snow day fun, your higher-ups will notice. These are all great ways to build credibility with your bosses and coworkers. And when you do make the effort to put your work first, you can spend time building that snowman without any worries that something urgent for work has fallen by the wayside.
In 2001, drawing on their respective years of experience in senior global leadership at Motorola, Julie Miller and Brian Bedford joined forces to establish MillerBedford Executive Solutions. MillerBedford helps businesses and organizations improve strategy, culture, and leadership, while addressing issues that limit success.