Working in Ice-land

Posted on January 28, 2014

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Record-setting snowfall and double-digit negative temps across the Midwest, ice storms in Savannah and Charleston, polar vortices spinning  through half the nation, fuel shortages at a time when America is producing more natural gas than ever—if this is the backside of global warming, then Belize is looking like a more viable option every day. Short of hopping a boat to the tropics, however, we may find some comfort in turning to the technology we keep in our living rooms and in our pockets to keep our businesses running.

While snow days are mounting for schools, they also have the potential to bury productivity in offices.  In harsh weather 25 years ago, many businesses simply would have shut down and largely missed out on the opportunity to convert time into money. Today, technology allows the pace of business to maintain its cadence with hardly a stumble. Laptops, tablets, smartphones and all kinds of hybrids thereof let us create and share documents, hold meetings, chat face-to-face, create images and video, make presentations, handle phone calls, conduct research, carry out banking transactions, and do just about anything else that once required us to shovel our way to our cars and attempt to commute along multiple snow routes.

Tens of millions of people are working from home across the United States during this succession of relentless winter storms, and that means millions of innovators are finding ways to complete even more tasks remotely. What are they up to?  Here are half a dozen ways that employees are staying productive and businesses continue to increase profits without visiting the office:

  1. Using online gaming techniques to boost customer loyalty, even when those customers are snowed in and can’t visit the store.
  2. Embracing wearable technology that helps monitor and maintain fitness for a better attitude toward work on those days when you can’t take your usual early-morning walk through the office complex or even around the block.
  3. Creating their own private social networks for company employees with applications like Yammer, which, in addition to chat, provides collaboration software and business tools (like Office 365) for sharing information across teams.
  4. Subscribing to online services to keep software up to date as well as to create and share documents. Only recently have office workers found they no longer need to bring their laptop into work for IT to load the latest productivity or connectivity tools. Subscription services always make the latest versions available, because they are updated on the host computer, which is accessed by all the subscribers.
  5. Ordering online with same-day delivery to the company’s front door instead of making an emergency run to the office supply store or equipment company. Wal-Mart, Amazon and eBay each offers some form of same-day delivery, and it’s becoming increasingly popular among stores in regions with many technology workers.
  6. Avoiding trips to the bank by using smartphones to receive payments from customers and make payments to suppliers via services like PayPal. Moreover, in January, T-Mobile announced its Mobile Money smartphone app that serves as a no-fee checking account. According to CRM Buyer, it supports “direct deposit for paychecks and the ability to deposit checks using smartphone cameras. Consumers can use it to make retail purchases, pay bills and withdraw cash from more than 42,000 ATMs nationwide.”

One additional bonus: staying at home may increase your engagement, productivity and innovation, without all the pressures and distractions of the office environment. So let it snow—just stay connected.

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