Winter Snow Storms: Should You Make Your Employees Come to Work?

by Evil HR Lady on January 12, 2011

It’s a snowy mess outside and you’re the boss. Should you require everyone to come into the office? Here are 5 things to help you make that decisions.

Winter Snow Storms: Should You Make Your Employees Come to Work?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm

my boss just called a co-worker to tell her that the roads were fine (when they weren't) and that other people were here (when there were only 3)

I at least go her to admit she was bullied into coming in.

Her subdivision is a 4.5 in sheet of ice right now.


Film Co. Lawyer January 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm

As someone who had 2 near death experiences during a blizzard when I wasn't even driving the car, you couldn't pay me enough to risk my life to go to any job.

Most of my employers, even the one I had for a courier job, told me outright that it was not worth risking my life to go to a job. I wouldn't work for someone who thought of me as disposable & could care less if I died in an accident trying to get to THEIR job.

Because of this, I never had a position in a hospital or worked as an EMT, nurse or other "essential job". My own husband works as a librarian & the city had the gall to open them when subways were closed + roads weren't plowed. On one snow day last year when schools were closed but the library was open, the director of the libraries didn't even show up to the office.

As far as I'm concerned, if the boss isn't showing up b/c of the roads, it's disgusting to expect employees to do so or get mad when they care more about their lives & not leaving their kids without a parent than going to work on icy/snowy roads. No employer I know of has EVER appreciated this kind of effort & the library does not = the hospital or even a day care center.


Rose January 13, 2011 at 12:14 am

When I worked as an English teacher in Hokkaido Japan, there were a couple principals who were gigantic jerks and completely disregarded blizzard warnings (which in Hokkaido, can easily mean several days/meters of snow). Combine that with Japanese "gambate" (buck up) attitude, and it was a bad scene.

One day, there was a bad storm and most schools let their teachers out in the morning. It was still so bad that what the teachers would do is drive in a very close convoy in case someone got stuck.
Well, one principal in a neighboring district kept his teachers until late afternoon, and they finally left in a convoy. One teacher got stuck, so they all jumped out to help him. A plow came and in the white out conditions, didn't see anyone and killed/severely injured 10 of the staff.


Anonymous January 13, 2011 at 1:36 am

I work at a school that sometimes calls snow days. When it does, the teachers and students are not required to come in, but office workers are still expected to come in. If they do not, I've been told that they get a stern talking-to about what it means to be an hourly worker. I do find that to be bad for morale for those staff members, as the office workers are already the ones who have to stick to deadlines (teachers and administrators seem to be exempt from this), keep the school running on the budget given (or their hours are the most in jeopardy when the budget isn't kept), and are the first people asked to do extra projects or to add tasks to their regular duties. When they talk about the differences in these types of rules, they always add at the end: "I guess our lives just aren't worth as much and we're more easily replaced. We're expendable, right?"

That's one thing you never want to hear your employees say, especially when they work so hard and do so much with so little.


Anonymous February 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm

i also work in a school as a cleaner the school is closed for yhe day because of snow but we still need to make the 5 mile journey into work to sign a piece of paper to say we made it in that way we will get paid and wont be repremanded it is madness the local council here do not care about their employees


HR Gal January 13, 2011 at 3:21 am

First time commenter- love your blog! I just started my own, so we'll see how that goes.

Having spent last night looking out the window and watching the snow pile up… and up…. and up… I honestly expected to be the only one in the office today! (I'm fortunate enough to have a condo that is literally just across the street from work. Provided I can walk 75 feet, I'm there.) That said, I think the key thing to remember is that it isn't worth someone's life to try to make it in to the office. Of course, I also used to work with a colleague who would swear up and down that she couldn't make it in her four-wheel-drive jeep the ten minute drive to work when one of our other office managers lived just down the street, drove a civic, and made it the 35 minutes to her location just fine.


Charles January 13, 2011 at 5:22 am

The best "snow day" policy was for a company I worked for many years ago (here in the NE US).

Due to the nature of their business (IT help desk with US clients nationwide) they did not close except for US holidays.

They felt that the decision to risk coming in was left to the employee (and the managers were good about not pressuring anyone).

As the office stayed open, if you decided NOT to come in you used a paid-time-off day.

On the rare days when the state declared that NO one should be on the roads they were "officially" closed and no one lost a paid-time-off day; however, a few hardy souls (really those of us who lived nearby) came into work anyway and were "rewarded" with an extra vacation day to be used later.

No bullying, no "talking to," no calling you "not a team-player," or any other such nonsense – just a simple policy that worked.

Afterall, treat employees like adults and they respond like adults, no?


AS January 14, 2011 at 2:53 am

You shouldn't have to "make" them come to work. They should have enough pride to fulfill their commitments.
But, at the same time, I don't call employees. Either come or don't. If you have attendance issues, you'd best hope that this one is not the straw that broke the camels back.



esra January 14, 2011 at 3:29 am

That's pretty harsh, AS. It's not like Evil HR Lady asked if you should make your employees come to work in light rain, or on especially gorgeous summer days.

As several people have stated above, personal safety is worth (much) more than perfect attendance.


Class factotum January 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I thought the main reason schools closed for snow was that school buses are not safe on slippery roads. Regular cars, however, can navigate the road (in the conditions I saw in Memphis snow and ice) if driven carefully.

I don't care if a parent doesn't come to work when there is a snow day, but if she does stay home, she needs to take a vacation day or check her email and voicemail. I always made it to work during school snow days and then couldn't get anything done because all the parents stayed home and ignored their work.


Film Co. Lawyer January 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

AS, do YOU drive out on icy roads & in blizzards or are you just another jerk who stays home while expecting employees to risk their lives??? Doing #2 makes you a total hypocrite & for your sake, I hope all your employees don't quit on the spot or do the barest minimum possible to keep a job.

I beg to differ on regular cars navigating roads safely. Try telling a native of a warm climate to drive in a blizzard. My father, a former truck driver, CAN navigate this stuff & would call BS on that generalization in a second. My husband once went to work & had to return on an evening when snow was coming down; the car got stuck trying to get up a huge hill to our home (there was no alternate route) & came close to needing a tow truck. Even a police officer who came to our house had problems getting there that same night.

Oh, and Class Factorum, have you never heard of black ice, which is very dangerous & real (my father's encountered it)? I was in the NYC blizzard & my street wasn't plowed for DAYS. The road was a snow ocean; I have the pics to prove it. We're taking snow up to your knees. Try driving in THAT.

You also sound like someone who's not really driven in snow or even known anyone who's had a real mishap; when you do, then tell me what you think about average people driving around in bad weather.

Can't exactly do what you claim when the people with 4 wheel drive & SUVs try to do 50 behind you b/c they think 4 wheel drive means they don't have to be careful or drive any slower.

I agree w/trying to do some of your work at home (and, in general, getting with the 21st century to make life easier so snow days aren't as a big an issue) but even I realize it may be harder for parents to be productive when kids are underfoot & may not have another adult to watch them. Hope no parents ever have to cover for YOU.


Suzanne Lucas January 15, 2011 at 7:28 am

After I once spent 3 hours driving home, I said, "that's it." Bad weather and I work from home.

I would never expect an employee to risk their life to do something like review annual salary increases. Hello. That can wait.


Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Where I live, it doesn't snow very often. So, when it DOES snow here, it's usually a really big deal. People do not know how to drive in snow (or on a nice day), and the roads get bad.

However, it did snow a few years ago to the point where the mayor shut the city down, and told everyone to stay off the roads unless it was an emergency. Where I work has a weather line that is based out of an entirely different city that does get snow, and they don't realize my city doesn't get snow on a regular basis. So, we had to work that day. And the company was just SO nice. If you didn't come to work, you would be counted absent, but it wouldn't count against you and you received no pay for the day.

I was the ONLY person in my dept to show up that day. And my boss didn't take any sort of action against those who didn't, because she cared about our safety. Needless to say, I was very upset over it.


Class factotum January 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Film Co Lawyer, actually, I do know what it's like to drive in snow and ice: I live in Milwaukee now. And we don't close for snow here.

My main point was that if you are not going to come to work because of the weather, take a vacation day unless you are going to work from home. I got to work every single snow day in Memphis because the snow there was not that bad – only an inch or two – and you don't get black ice in one day with snow that is gone by noon.

My frustration was that I was at work but I couldn't get anything done because people weren't checking voicemail or email.


Another Evil HR Director January 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm

This is always a tough call. I work in a business where the staff care for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, both in a day program setting and a residential setting. Leaving our residents alone and unsupervised is not an option. Obviously, no one would expect staff to be on the roads in the middle of a blizzard, but we do expect them to either plan ahead to get in before the worst happens, or get in as soon as possible afterwards. We do have staff who will call out at the first sign of snowflakes, for a shift the next day! There is a level of responsibility in this job we must demand.


bany February 2, 2011 at 11:37 am

I was the only person in my dept to show up that day…


Mike December 27, 2012 at 3:50 am

When the weather is nasty, people shouldn’t be expected to risk their lives by driving in stormy weather. Here in western New York, our winter weather can be rather fearce. In fact, we’re having a snowstorm right now, even as I’m sitting here writing this. My local community college, has a policy that says, “if you don’t feel safe driving in snowy weather, don’t.”


circun May 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm

“getting” your work your life for something other than your work. I have an issue with people who have no life and have bought in to the whole “work” thing. All you do is work work work and then you hold others to your standard. Work sucks, period and shouldn’t be the focus of your life. If its snowing and an employee doesn’t come in he shouldn’t have to use a personal day or vacation day especially, i’d explode if a boss told me to use a vacation day. no thanks butt head. An employee can not control the weather and shouldn’t be made to do something like that. Horrible management style and decision.


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