Don’t blame technology for the death of the ‘adult snow day’

Sometimes the ability to work anywhere, despite the worst storms, makes people feel chained to technology. That’s totally the wrong attitude

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When the snow started falling on Toronto the other day, and continued falling apparently all night long, I woke up knowing two things: My kids would be staying home and, as a result, I would be going out.

This is what life is like when you’re a freelancer. It’s impossible (for me, anyway) to get anything done with three children under seven screaming through the hallways. So, as so many others delight in calling in or sending an email informing employers they will be working at home, I quickly transferred to a coffee shop where I waited for the e-mails to arrive with all the necessary teleconference bridge numbers for various meetings I knew would carry on as planned. No, there is so such thing as an “adult snow day” for many of us anymore. And for that, we should stop whining and be thankful.

For some, of course, the prospect of putting everything aside to go tobogganing or binging on Netflix is more of an occasion for mourning. That was certainly the tone of “The Adult Snow Day Is Dying, And That’s Sad,” an article that appeared in New York magazine last week. This paragraph sums it up:

The grown-up world has a tendency to strip things of their magic a bit, but the snow day still served as a wonderful stop sign from the heavens for myopic, overworked adults. What else could grind to a halt, even temporarily, the exhausting, striving adult world of meetings and reports and office memos? What else could not only suggest to the workaholic that he take a day off, but force him to because the roads were too icy, the subways all closed? What else could unite father and son on a sled on a snowy hill in the middle of a weekday?

To be fair, the author doesn’t just see this as a consequence of e-mail, teleconferences and other components of unified communications or mobile workforce solutions. There is also the fact that, by and large, companies have pulled back on many benefits and accommodating policies that previously unionized workforces may have expected.

On the other hand, the article overlooks a third and, I think, ultimately more important factor that makes an adult snow day unthinkable in many cases: the constant demands of customers. As romantic as the idea of people spending a snow day playing board games or skating at the local rink, just as many of them will be braving the wilds to their favourite coffee shops and restaurants (where, let’s face it, service staff have almost never gotten a break, no matter how bad the weather gets). Then there are those who see those “free” hours as an opportunity to shop online, do their banking or conduct all kinds of other transactions. Forget about the expectations of employers. It’s consumers who are holding companies to their promises of 24/7 service. A snow day just gives them more time to take advantage of all those omni-channel opportunities available to them.

Although it would be nice to have an extra paid holiday of sorts because of a blizzard, I’m grateful that technology means those “magical” days no longer exist (if they ever really did). Otherwise what seems like a surprise interruption would probably end up making us all work longer hours later to get caught up, eating into the weekends and other time we all actually count on.

Sorry for anyone who sees me as raining on their parade here. Or should I say snowing on it?

Image via Death To The Stock Photo

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