How to stay productive and get work done during the next “Hurricane”

You probably take your ability to get to work for granted, but, as the song says, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.” We’re smack in the middle of hurricane season (Hurricane Bertha is offshore as I write this), and while we may not get a repeat of last year’s Polar Vortex, early predictions show it could be another cold and snowy winter. Whatever the commute killer is — weather, sickness, childcare or other — you need to have a plan before the literal or metaphorical eye of the storm hits.

In the era of mobile devices and remote access, you may think all of this is a non-issue — but it isn’t. For example, if a newsworthy storm were to hit where you work and force your office to be shut down for a day or two, would you still get paid? Yeah, that’s why it’s important. Without going into too much detail here, the laws are different for exempt and non-exempt employees and largely at the discretion of the employer, so a friendly inquiry to your HR department is a good idea.

There are other issues, too, like how do you find out if the office is even open? Most companies will have a way to inform their employees about office closures so find out what yours is. You really don’t want to be “that guy” — the only one who didn’t brave the cold/snow/torrential downpour/gale-force winds because you just assumed the office would be closed during the storm from hell.

One company that did hurricane preparedness right? Standard & Poor’s, a division of McGraw Hill Financial. Flexjobs.com interviewed Tina Morris and Sheila O’Neill from the Standard & Poor’s New York City office. They described Hurricane Sandy as, “…a first-of-a-kind experience for all of us” that required the company to go into crises mode and eventually find temporary alternate office space.

Obviously, this is an example of a big company and a big storm:  McGraw Hill has worldwide offices, so co-workers in London and Buenos Aires helped pick up the slack when New York workers were without power for several days both at work and at home.

Not surprisingly, an event this big changed the way McGraw Hill looks at workplace flexibility forever.

“McGraw Hill Financial has historically had very strong workplace flexibility options. However, their adoption was more on an exception basis, rather than a norm. The Sandy experience brought a level of understanding to all our teams that we can operate with a significant part of our workforce working outside of the office environment.

One particular area where we see change is around reducing our paper footprint, as we experienced having to do more on an exclusively digital basis when we were relocated. Since coming back to [our original office space], we are trying to do more tasks paperlessly.”

Most telecommuting needs won’t (thankfully) be so extreme, but knowing how you’ll not just get through it but be productive during it is half the battle. We recommend the two essential tools anyone needs to successfully work remotely (during bad weather or otherwise).

What tools can you not live without while telecommuting? Tell us in the comments!