If you need more convincing that the weather affects the economy, here’s some data: the record-breaking winter that has gripped much of the United States this season can be blamed for a $50 billion hit to the economy. And global stock markets slid early this month on bad economic news from China, where productivity dropped so abruptly that analysts suspect bad weather was to blame.
And we’re not in the clear yet: January and February are typically the worst months for weather-related absenteeism at work, according to a 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report found that, on average, 1 to 2 percent of the workforce misses work in January and February. Extreme winter weather events have been known to cause up to 10 million people to miss work.
Bad winter weather can do more harm to the economy than a hurricane or tornado because it affects larger geographical areas at once and more broadly disrupts transportation. It also affects us psychologically; absenteeism might go up simply because people don’t feel like braving bad roads and ugly weather to get to work.
So it only makes sense for you to prepare your team to work as effectively from home as they do in the office. With a little bit of planning and a few new tools and systems, the next surprise snowstorm doesn’t have to slow you down a bit.
Make sure you can access your work from anywhere.
I’ve written before about how I use software and apps by Citrix and others to work effectively from home. With ShareFile, I can access all my documents from any computer or mobile device. And, I use Evernote, so all my meeting notes and to-do lists are also cloud-based and accessible from anywhere.
Have a backup plan for accessing apps and software at the office.
I have a laptop, so remotely logging in to a work computer isn’t a necessity for me; but if your team requires access to office desktops, GoToMyPC is the perfect tool. Once you’ve set it up, you can use a home computer or mobile device to remotely access your work computer and all the software and apps you might not have at home.
Have an online meeting tool at the ready.
With GoToMeeting, my colleagues and I can meet from any location with an Internet connection and/or a telephone. In fact, because several of us are spread across the country, we include a GoToMeeting code with most meeting invitations. We can share our screens with each other and use the chat tool to share comments and links. We use our webcams, too; face-to-face interaction really does make a difference.
Create a workspace at home that’s comfortable and well-lit.
It might seem frivolous, but I firmly believe that a pleasant work environment enhances productivity. I have a small home office that has plenty of desk space, art and photos that I love, an exercise ball chair, and a little space where my kids can draw or play on their computer nearby. Good lighting is especially important for staying focused and keeping your energy up on dark winter days, so set yourself up to work by a window or lamp.
Some studies have shown that people get more work done on rainy days than on sunny days; so who knows? Maybe your winter work-at-home days will be your most productive. But be warned, once you’re able to work as effectively from home as you can from the office, you’ll probably have to kiss those free snow days goodbye.