Just the name Jonas is enough to send shivers down the spines of many people residing in the Northeast. And with good reason: Winter Storm Jonas brought some of the largest snowfalls on record for New York City’s Central Park (26.8 inches), Washington, D.C. (17.8 inches), and Philadelphia (22.4 inches). The storm packed a mean one-two punch to people who had to commute into work. Although the storm hit over a weekend, many streets remained unplowed for days, making it almost impossible for people to dig out their cars, much less commute to work.

This setback equates to major losses not only for workers (especially those who work on an hourly or commission-based payscale), but for businesses as well. 1MFWF Supporter Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a single snow day can cost Northeast regional employers a staggering $1.3 billion in lost productivity. 

Here’s where work flexibility comes in. Nearly half of all U.S. employees could potentially perform at least some of the responsibilities of their jobs remotely—a perfect solution to weather emergencies like Winter Storm Jonas. But it’s not enough to have a flex plan in place just for catastrophes, because it takes time to iron out the details. Plus, the benefits of flex extend far beyond disaster preparedness: not only do attraction and retention rates get a boost in companies that offer flex, but productivity soars, too. 

It would seem that companies who are hesitant to adopt a flexible work policy could take a financial (and productivity) cue from the White House. During his two terms as Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama has weathered (no pun intended) three mega storms. While the Snowmageddon of 2010 prompted a four-day shutdown of many government offices, the White House has done much to improve their workflow since then. As part of their family-friendly policy, flexible work is now part of the White House’s modus operandi, with 72 percent of federal employees eligible to work from home. As Politico reports, White House Communications Director Jen Psaki shared, “Over the course of seven years, your processes and systems are just more well tuned.”

“Winter storms are always a wake-up call for companies that haven’t adopted flexible workplace strategies”, said Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics. And with about 80 percent of people stating that they want to work flexibly at least part of the time, it simply makes sense for employers to implement flexible work policies. After all, employers who offer flexible schedule jobs stand to save about $11,000 per each half-time telecommuter. In the end, providing work flexibility is a smarter way for companies to do business, making every day a sunshine day.

photo credit: istockphoto.com