The death of the adult snow day

Jesse Singal had a well-circulated article last week about the death of the adult snow day. As I write this post on a snowy Sunday afternoon, I can’t help but think he really nails it. Some of the commenters on the article focus on the snow day itself. In particular, “joy2b” wrote:

Playing in the snow is fun, but there’s really no need to spend all day doing it.  It should be possible to find a couple of opportunities to go out and play during a snow day.  If it isn’t, your typical work day is probably optimistically over-scheduled.

Isn’t that the point of the article, though? At least, that’s the message I took away. A little over a year and a half ago, I took a job where I was able to work from home on a daily basis. On the balance, it’s been good. I can eat lunch with my wife. I can do quick chores during the day. I can sit on the couch and keep an eye on my three year old daughter while my wife sleeps in. There are downsides, though. My family doesn’t always know when it’s okay to interrupt me and when it isn’t. Temper tantrums and crying babies sometimes carry on the phone. Worst of all, the line between working and not working has blurred.

This isn’t entirely due to working from home. I had a similar problem in previous jobs because work email didn’t stop arriving at closing time. In the past few months, I’ve begun disabling the sync on my phone outside of working hours. I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t end up manually checking it anyway. That has helped me immensely, but the line can still be a little blurry.

I never expected to say this, but there are times I miss my commute. Having a distinct time between work and home allowed me to shift gears and take a little bit of time to read a book or watch a few minutes of Netflix, or whatever. Now I go directly from work to home with no chance to make a smooth transition.

But back to the subject of snow days. When I worked at Purdue, snow days were pretty rare. After a particularly heavy snow storm in 2007, the university closed for a day and a half. I lived in an apartment then, so I didn’t have to worry about shoveling snow. My wife and I spent the time watching movies and having snowball fights with the upstairs neighbors. It was fun. Last winter, the university close again. This time, my former colleagues were expected to work from home. I don’t know that the University was any more productive than it would have been if the IT staff had been able to take the day off, but at least people weren’t getting paid to do nothing. Maybe that’s the reason the snow day is dying. But maybe that mindset is part of the problem.

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