Snowed in? Tips and Tricks to a Productive Work From Home Day

A guide to maximizing productivity at home during the winter season.

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The winter season is in full swing, and with inclement weather hitting, employees around the country are feeling the effects of everything from delayed commutes to school closures impacting childcare. When it comes to working during a snow day, winter weather can mean a reduced staff, cancelled meetings and postponed business trips, all of which can hurt a company’s overall productivity.

But there are a few steps employees and employers can take to effectively get work done during our biggest winter storms. Here are some snow day tips and tricks to ensure that your teams work as productively from their storm hideouts as they do in the office.

Communication and Transparency

For companies without a formal flexible work policy that lays out clear guidelines on expectations when workers are remote, a snow day can often cause miscommunication and ineffective practices for many teams. Being transparent as a company about expectations in these situations becomes essential to productivity. 

Employers, when you know a big storm is coming, communicate your expectations to employees in terms of office closures and what is expected of them during the workday. Remind everyone to take home what they need to complete their work over the following day(s). 

Employees, be honest with your managers and peers about your work from home situation. If your kids are home, let your team know. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate about your schedule and availability, and in what modes you can best be reached throughout the day. 

Managers, when it comes to the best way to communicate with your teams, video and screen share meetings tend to be the most productive, supporting employee engagement and meeting efficiency by limiting opportunities for multitasking, a known productivity killer. In fact, recent data shows that when users turn on their video or screen share during meetings, attendees stay connected for 87 percent of the time, which translates into an extra 4.9 minutes of engagement over the average meeting time in the United States (41.2 minutes). With many remote employees during a snow day, video calls are the ideal tool to provide the engagement needed to get the most out of your meetings, and as a manager you can both set that expectation and model the behavior for your coworkers.  

Productive Meeting Habits 

In addition to the type of communications tool you are using, the timing and length of meetings can impact productivity, especially when you need to get in a quick driveway shovel. If you have a say in scheduling, according to Fuze research, 10:00 a.m. is generally the preferred time to hold meetings on the East Coast, where the West Coast generally prefers 9:00 a.m. On a snow day though, it’s recommended to keep meetings shorter. Workers already drop off calls at a rate of 11% if a call goes over 30 minutes. During snow days when coworkers are remote, kids may be home from school, and attention spans are short-lived, take the time to schedule shorter meetings for maximum engagement and productivity. 

Time Management 

Snow days present both opportunities and challenges for time management. On one hand, it offers a chance to use your time normally spent commuting to do something productive – maybe get a head start on emails, an extra hour of much needed sleep or workout, even if that means needing to go out for a second round of shoveling snow. Alternatively, you may use the time to check something off your list that you’ve been putting off for months, or even get ahead with  some advance planning. 

But on the other hand, things can move much slower on snowy work from home days. Transportation and communication is often slowed; schedules are derailed. One way to address this challenge is to allow for extra time between calls. In the event that someone is running behind schedule, which happens both on snow days and while in the office, consider switching calendar settings to 25- and 50-minute increments to ensure that meetings actually start on time by giving coworkers adequate time to transition from one call to another.

In the end, while the objective is to maximize productivity during your snow day, also remember that it’s important to be realistic in terms of what you can accomplish. Understand your working preference and in the morning check your calendar, establish goals for the day including priority tasks, check in with your teams regarding expectations, and try to make the day as normal as possible. And when you’ve reached your goals for the day, it never hurts to reward yourself with a celebratory cup of hot chocolate. 

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