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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

How to Take an Adult Snow Day (Without Getting Into Trouble)

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One blessed day two winters ago, the city where I lived urged residents to stay home and off the roads and public transit. Shortly thereafter, a much-anticipated email from my boss arrived, notifying us that the office was closed. It was a snow day and we were all to work from home.

It was cause for celebration in the form of homemade pancakes, followed by a snowball fight with my partner and our dog, followed by steaming cups of hot chocolate and a long, lazy afternoon nap.

But, first, I begrudgingly realized, I would have to attend to my inbox. And write that article I was supposed to have into my editor by EOD. Oh, and I’d have to edit the daily newsletter. I prayed that it would only go through one round of edits and not three or four as was sometimes the case when my boss decided she didn’t like my choice of imagery or the word I used to describe Beyoncé’s parenting skills.

As is true with most jobs, there’s always something to be done—whether that’s on a snow day or at 6 PM on a Tuesday when you’re trying to meet your buddy at the gym. Here’s how to handle working (read: hardly working) during a blizzard, even if your boss is the micro-managing type.

1. Check Your Email

After your inbox alerts you to the fact that your office is closed or that you don’t need to go to work if it’s “difficult for you to get there,” you’ll want to deal with any outstanding emails right away. Reply to your boss first, if she was the one to share the snow day news. If the office manager or someone else wrote the company-wide email, touch base with your manager. Let her know specifically what’s on your agenda for the day and what you plan to turn in before EOD. Respond to any emails that require speedy responses, and mark the others unread to deal with the next day.

Then, turn the volume all the way up on your computer and make your way into the kitchen where bacon awaits. If anyone pings you, you’ll hear the alert, and you’ll get to it just as soon as it’s safe to leave the frying pan.

2. Tackle Projects of Priority

You’ll want to do this before noon so you can—you guessed it—go out and play! My partner works for himself, so luckily, we didn’t have to deal with two people’s WFH schedules and unavoidable responsibilities. While I edited the company newsletter, I sent him to turn on a TV show I could have on in the background, promising him that I needed only 30, 40 minutes, tops. Whatever your priority is, get to it first. Even if you have until end of the workday, you’ll regret putting it aside. Face the work that needs attention straight away and make sure whoever needs to know of its completion is aware that you’ve done it.

Then, once any urgent projects are completed, you can commence binge-watching Hulu’s latest original series while you languor in your PJs. You’re on group-chat, not video chat, after all. And on that note, if you’re expected to be on chat, be on it all day. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in front of your computer—if you haven’t downloaded the app on your phone, today’s the day to do it.

3. Play the Part

By this, I mean, understand what your boss expects of you on this unofficial day off, and deliver it. Unfortunately, for me, that meant being pretty much glued to chat (Did I mention that mine freaked out if I went idle on Gchat for more than a few minutes at a time?), but even I came up with a solution that would allow me to look away from my screen for chunks of blissful time.

It’s called communication. I needed groceries, and I had to take the dog outside. I had to help my partner start shoveling out the car. These were all legit things that had to happen, and my boss understood that when I explained that I’d be “back online shortly.” I’d already pleased her workaholic tendencies by checking things off my to-do list and making her aware of them; how mad could she realistically get if I wasn’t responding to everything right away because I was attending to emergency snow situations (otherwise known as dozing off in between breakfast and lunch)?

Avoid disappearing from email or your company’s preferred messaging system for hours on end, but don’t freak out about frolicking in the snow and hitting up the diner either. As long as you’re communicating and not delaying anything essential, don’t stress it. Odds are those you’re emailing about upcoming projects would also rather be sledding than answering your messages—meaning very few people are waiting by their computers for you to kick off a quarterly initiative that has no set deadline yet.

Think of a snow day like a hangover day—you know when you are supposed to be working, but you really don’t have it in you to make major headway. Obviously, there’ll be a few things that can’t wait, that you can’t ignore no matter how tempting it is. But otherwise, manage your boss’ expectations, be communicative, and then get on with enjoying your much deserved snow day.