Editor's Notebook: Snow what if the weather's bad?

Working from home is not an option - it's a necessity
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Working from home is not an option - it's a necessity

Why does a small amount of snow leave one of the world's biggest economies shivering, asks silicon.com editor Steve Ranger.

We're strangely forgetful about the weather. The same stuff comes around almost every year and yet as a nation we seem utterly amazed, every time - as shown by the current blizzard of snow-related news coverage.

While we've had snow in these isles at least once before, it seems to have caught large swathes of the business community entirely unawares - hence one IT services company has reported a 20 per cent increase in enquiries over the past few days from small to medium sized businesses wanting help with putting in place better communications to help them work through the snow.

One piece of research out today calculated that Britain lost 124 million working hours last week as a result of the adverse weather conditions, three out of four workers were affected by the wintery conditions and nearly half suffered travel disruption.

The research also found that one in 10 staff worked from home and if you're one of them, like me, check out our top tips for working from home here to make sure you are getting the most out of your day.

However, the research also found a similar number were not able to work at all.

Now of course, not everyone can work from home (it's rather hard if you are a miner, a bus driver or a scuba diver, for example) but many of those people that were sitting at home doing nothing were classic knowledge workers - victims of their employers' poor IT infrastructure, albeit presumably rather cheerful victims throwing snowballs at each other on company time.

Don't let your business get frozen out by snow

Don't let your business get frozen out by snow
Photo credit: wwarby via Flickr under the following Creative Commons Licence

I can see little excuse for organisations that don't have in place the basic infrastructure to allow their staff to work outside of the office when it is more efficient to do so than struggle into the office. There's plenty of technology out there - from the latest-hype of cloud computing down to the most basic web email and word processing tools - that can help you to make your staff as effective from their sofa as they are from their desk. Just choose a set which fits your budget, operational and security requirements.

As such, it should be a standard part of an organisation's disaster recovery planning. This time it's snow, but next time it could be a gas leak that closes the office or a major transport strike - even something as trivial as a digger putting its shovel through the telecoms cables that connect your office. While such incidents won't make the headlines, they could easily put your business in jeopardy.

But perhaps it isn't simply a lack of time or budgets for the IT team - perhaps there's another issue to consider here as well. According to the survey by Citrix I mentioned above, almost half of workers felt under pressure to get to work and maintain 'business as usual'.

I think there's still a culture of presenteeism in too many organisations, with workers given the distinct impression that unless they are visible in the office they will be assumed to be slacking off in front of Murder, She Wrote instead of working on the sales forecast.

Perhaps this even leads some companies to deliberately ignore investing in technology to help staff work on the go. Maybe some companies don't put plans in place because they don't trust their employees to work from home without oversight - in which case I'd suggest they have bigger problems than those caused by a few inches of snow. Making it hard for employees to work from home won't make it any harder for them to walk out of the door to a new employer.

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