Snow Days and Tube Strikes: How Telework Policies Can Save Your Workday

Over the last week, Winter Storm Helena ground transportation to a halt across the United States. From almost three feet of snow in Colorado to slick and ice-glazed roads in Atlanta, the storm has resulted in rolling closures of offices of all industries across the country, and has continued its way up the Northeastern Coast.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, London is experiencing transportation issues of its own due to a Tube strike. According to the Telegraph, “Transport for London (TfL) advised passengers that there will be a severely reduced service across the Tube network on Sunday evening and all day Monday” due to an organized strike led by the London Underground workers. The strike, which started at 6 p.m. GMT on Sunday, January 8, is expected to last a full 24 hours.

While the circumstances are caused by drastically different situations, both those enduring the lasting effects of the winter storm in the US and those seeking alternative transport in London have the same issue: how will they get to work; will they get to work?

Instead of driving in questionable weather conditions or “queuing” up for hours waiting on other means of transportation, all of these workers could save their entire work day by simply teleworking. It’s no doubt that over the last decade, telework has become a ubiquitous term in most workplaces. In fact, a 2015 Gallup poll found that telecommuting has seen a 37 percent rise in popularity in the last decade.

But while telecommuting may continue to be on the rise, many companies still don’t have official policies regarding telework, a huge issue for situations like a Tube strike or wintery weather. In our most recent Global Telework Survey, PGi found that a whopping 85 percent of respondents in the European and Middle Eastern region and 62 percent in North America reported having no official telecommuting policy in their company.

Without clear, defined policies about telework, employees could be missing out on valuable time spent working instead of fighting through a treacherous commute due to unforeseen circumstances. We understand that building out a telework policy for your team or organization can seem like a chore that just isn’t necessary, but when unavoidable situations arise, you’ll be able to avoid the chains of emails and texts filled with “what do we do now?”

Your policy doesn’t need to be lengthy or wordy, but it does need to be strategic. To begin, consider eligibility as a top element that defines your policies. Not every employee in your organization is going to be able to work from home due to the nature of their position. But for those who are eligible, define the circumstances that are appropriate to warrant working from home, and establish working hours, communication methods and the type of equipment they’ll need to keep the day running like usual.

Using these particular elements, you can create a policy that is available to your team members should any extenuating circumstances, like a winter storm or Tube strike, arise. Preparation is key to success, and having a telework policy in place, even only as a failsafe measure, will help you be prepared for any and every workplace complication. Just think of all of the stress that your employees endure when a conflict — like unpredictable winter weather — makes getting to work dangerous, at best, and impossible, at worst. Employees and employers alike can stay safe and stress free when chaotic circumstances arise by instituting a telework policy.