This year’s polar vortex, snow-storms aplenty, etc. have given the clients and vendors that SJN Sales works with multiple opportunities to practice the skills of being productive, while working from your (generally quite comfortable) snowed-in home.
Email works pretty well for most communications. Yes, email is sometimes less than ideal for completing projects, deals, etc. But it has the undeniable advantage of maintaining radio silence between you, whomever is sharing your snow day with you, and the folks you do business with all year long.
This year, we are seeing an avalanche of bad outcomes from snow day communications that do not have the upside benefits of email. Specifically, we have witnessed multiple conference call train wrecks over the past few weeks. Conference calls that left business in worse shape than if one or more of the participants had simply called off. Conference calls that made a few people laugh and one professional squirm. The conference call of too much information, that may yet lead to a divorce and the re-homing of an apparently nice dog, have led the SJN team to have a little chat about when conference calls are not worth the trip.
Conference calls are a way of life these days. The SJN Sales healthcare IT team, that I lead, has no less than a dozen conference calls planned in an average week. The advantages of linking people across geography, and companies, without schlepping on Southwest are well known. These advantages make most people’s jobs far more pleasant than in the old, on-the-road-again, days.
If you work from home frequently, you probably have a quiet sanctum where you can conference call to your hearts delight. It’s a great way to wait for the cable guy or avoid the worst commute day of the week. It also has made it possible for legions of salespeople and other road warriors to accommodate requests for call times outside normal business hours. So far, so good. Everyone wins with accessibility and fewer hours in the car.
Snow days, however, may change your conference calling environment, even if you normally have peace and quiet at your disposal. Kids home from school on the fourth snow day of the year are not as likely to maintain their inside-voice, volume controls, as the smiling cherubs who celebrated with snow angels, back in November. Pets, other adults trying to work beside you, and the occasional drop-in neighbor who thinks that everyone being home means it’s time to roam…your block, are all reasons that you too may need to call off, take a snow day and reschedule the call.
Failure to honestly evaluate whether your snow day calling environment has deteriorated to a level that makes rescheduling the call a good plan, is of course, a judgment call. But keep in mind, as you blithely offer to schedule calls from your home office, that it is far easier to schedule a conference call than it is to get out of a conference call gone terribly wrong. Your mute button will not save you from an ambient noise level that sounds like Bronco Stadium. Your mute button will help with a brief tickle in your throat, but will not rescue you from the impression left by a crying baby backed up by a seven hungry puppy orchestra.
“Daddy, daddy. I am not interrupting because it’s a real ‘mergency, this time.” will effectively end any productivity that the call you are on may have achieved. Odd pounding noises will cause everyone on the call to evaluate their own environment, and end focused-forward motion, even if no one knows that your house is the source. Hanging up and dialing back in, after you remove the hammer from Timmy’s hands, will let everyone know that the noise originated at your home, in Newton–but will not restore the sales call or project progress. End the call, and be thankful that most of us don’t have video conferencing to add images to the mayhem in the background.
We have technology to make seamless communication available throughout virtually any natural or personal calamity. But take a hint from Old Man Winter, and the veteran sales teams at SJN, who have heard your kids whine, your dogs howl, your adorable screaming babies, yipping puppies, and even the plumbing contractors fixing your frozen pipes. Send us an email. We’ll take care of the essentials in your absence. Reschedule the call.
Snow days happen. Go make snow angels with the kids.