When I first moved to Washington, DC, as a 20-something deputy press secretary in the late 1990s, the Snow Day was a godsend. The District ground to a halt, and Congressional staffers could take part in impromptu snowball fights in DuPont Circle, or pick up take n bake pizza from Vace, or walk to a local watering hole to ride out the storm. (That is, unless the Boss somehow found a way into the office.)
But like my beloved Blackberry, the Snow Day is turning into a distant memory. With the advent of collaboration technologies, the Snow Day has been disrupted alongside the traditional workplace.
Collaboration technologies are game-changers. They allow us to take conference calls from the car, from our home, from wherever. They have improved productivity and increased flexibility in the modern workplace. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the work-life blend that so many of us enjoy.
But there’s something lost as well. Snow Days used to mean the ability to shut down. They were days of magic and mystery, carved out by Mother Nature, of total separation from workday responsibilities.
Now, with the ability to WFW — Work from Wherever — Snow Days are just one more day in which we have to strike a balance. Those of us with kids would be remiss if we don’t spend at least a few minutes crafting the perfect snowball or finding the nearest sled-worthy hill. At the same time, with Wi-Fi, Webex, and Word, the ability to be productive isn’t limited to the office. I can write an op-ed just as easily from the family room as the conference room.
And I recognize that for some, Snow Days have always been an impossibility — that no matter the weather, a Snow Day causes headaches, impossible commutes, or lost income. But for many office workers, since we can be online rain or shine, the show must go on.
If I had the ability to put the genie back in the bottle, would I?
No, on balance, the technological advancements that create more flexibility and more freedom are well worth it.
Yet, with a nor’easter bearing down on the eastern seaboard, I feel nostalgic for the time when a Snow Day meant that we could completely unplug.