The stark contrast between white snows and night sky is as divisive as the need to meet end-of-year goals and the temptation of seasonal pastimes. Even worse, when you’re hell-bent on completing tasks, the winter whirlwind can still undermine your fragile, hard-won productivity. What can we do to actually work harder in the coldest, darkest time of the year? Well, doomsday preppers have been ready for a different kind of winter for a long time, and they have three words for us: plan, plan, and plan. If you want to survive the long night, you have to be prepared.
Squashing the Office Flu Bug
You might dream of staying in bed all day instead of coming into the office, but this isn’t exactly what you had in mind. Sicknesses seem to spread like wildfire in a workplace, and that goes double for winter. We recommend an ounce of prevention in this instance – and a pound of cure.
Stock up on vitamins, tea, Sudafed, juice, cough drops, and cold remedies before flu season begins. Be sure to take a daily multivitamin. There is a temptation to fill up on cookies or alcohol in the colder months. This is a trap! These treats can lower your immunity defenses a bit. Instead, eat more fresh fruit than your normally would, and trade in your case of wine for a warm coat.
In the event you do get sick, you can avoid staying home by keeping a blanket, cough and sneeze supplies, herbal tea, and soup at the office. Use Purel so as to avoid spreading your disease to innocent coworkers. Notify your coworkers that you are sick so that they know to avoid sharing drinks or coming in for a friendly handshake. If your illness keeps you from coming into the office, try to get into see the doctor sooner than later. The earlier you treat it, the earlier you can return to work.
Apportion more time for your commute
The winds of winter tear through your neighborhood and leave massive snow drifts where cars used to be. Children freeze at the bus stop before the sun rises. No water comes out of the faucet when you go to the john. Snow can make you feel trapped and disheartened when it gets out of hand. No matter how magical it looks, it needs to be plowed, shoveled, and dowsed in salt to prevent ice. You can prepare for the snow ahead of time though.
Keep Heet gas line antifreeze in your trunk, as well as a gallon of de-icing window wiper fluid. Bring your car in for maintenance and an oil change just before the first frost so that you can ensure no major work needs to be done. You don’t want to neglect your vehicle and get stranded on the way home or to the office. In case you get stranded despite your efforts, install a donut in your trunk if you don’t already have one. Keep hand warmers, a blanket, and plenty of food in there as well. Some drivers like to store a go phone in their glove compartment in case they run out of juice. And don’t rely on your cell for light. A few small flashlights and road flares are very helpful as well.
Before an inclement morning, or during a midnight blizzard, set your alarm back a half hour to make time for shoveling the drive and scraping ice off your vehicle. Check the weather report a day in advance, with enough time to prepare for any snow storms or icy conditions. If you take precautions and stay alert, you can make it into the office without a hitch!
Prepare a home workstation
If you get snowed in (or influeza’d in), and unless the power is out or your illness is severe, there’s nothing stopping you from getting down to business. Check in with headquarters. Send and receive some emails with colleagues.
If you don’t relish BYOD and answering urgent emails at 2am every night, consider setting up a work station. You can purchase a relatively cheap laptop or Chromebook and expense it. If you need ammunition with which to convince the finance department: 66% of managers report that their employees are more productive when working from home, and 86% of employees report that they work better alone. You may find that you get more done at home sipping cocoa during a blizzard than you do at the office. In which case, you may earn the proud and enviable title of “telecommuter” before long.
You can forward your work landline to your cell for when you’re on the clock in PJs. You can also log into Office 365, Gmail, and other applications from home. This includes Contentverse ECM, which is accessible from the app or a web browser. If you save your company files to a shared server or a cloud location, you can either log in or use a VPN to access files from home as well. For employees or managers with a long walk or drive to the office, working from home in the winter will help you conserve energy and keep you light and speedy during office hours.
Plan your vacation carefully
Most normal people take off on the holidays, of course. Diwali, Ramadan, Christmas, Passover – we all have holiday obligations during which we prefer to kick back and spend time with our families. In some offices, everyone may be gone at once. Employees stay home. Bosses travel. Vacation time is good for recharging the batteries, and this is a good couple of months to visit warmer climes. But it’s no reason to leave your office fallow, no matter what the season.
Try splitting up vacation time with your employees. Give them a deadline for submitting vacation PTO a few months out. If they were planning on travelling, that’s an appropriate time for preparing anyway. Set a moratorium on vacation in the days leading up to holidays so that you can stay at full force for as long as possible. Consider negotiating for some half days with some employees and allow them to work from home (a staycation!) – this way, your organization remains available and up-to-date when competitors may be closed or offline.
Maintain open lines of communication
Nobody is worried about the phone lines like they used to be. They can simply get online with their phones and tablets. And power outages have got nothing on portable recharge packs. On the other hand, nobody remembers anyone’s cell phone numbers, let alone the company line. So what can you do to make sure your office stays in touch this winter?
Two words. Phone. Tree. Did you miss it? That actual tree-shaped list of contacts and numbers. You call two people. They call two people. And before you know it, everyone is in touch. Nowadays, we have text and email threads, but if the office gets encased in ice before 5am, that’s worth a phone call. Inclement weather isn’t the only reason to reach out. Employees heading out on vacation should leave an alternate number with your communications coordinator before their big trip.
If you’re expecting bad weather, feel a cold coming on, or planning to visit Bermuda, prepare a packet of information for your trusted colleagues and assistants. Include necessary passwords, especially for accessing data or editing any public facing content (like would be on your website or in your app). Write up instructions for relevant workflows or information about ongoing deals or leads.
Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here
It may seem like too late to prepare for a season in full swing. Inclement weather is upon us, and the flu has already ravaged your office. Guess what? This is the perfect time to get ready. Cough drops, vitamins, tissues, canned goods. These things keep for years. A home office is relevant in any season, even summer. And vacations always seem to whisk away colleagues at the worst possible moment. As issues come up, create a list, stock supplies, and plan your next getaway. It’s never too early to be prepared for a more productive office!