Despite the nasty blend of snow, sleet and freezing rain that forced businesses across the Triangle to shut down, Friday was pretty much a typical work day for Quintiles manager Kathy Manavi Zieverink.
Minus, that is, the typical workplace.
Zieverink, 32, a clinical operations manager at the pharmaceutical services giant, felt fortunate to be able to work out of the second-story office in her Wake Forest home on Friday rather than make her usual drive to Durham.
“The snowstorm today really doesn’t affect me,” she said in a Friday morning phone interview. “Quintiles has given me the technology that allows me to complete my tasks wherever we are. … We’re still able to log in and access everything we need to get on with my daily tasks.”
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It wasn’t all that long ago that, when a company shut its offices for the day, it meant that work ground to a halt. But instant messaging, conferencing software and other technological marvels have altered that equation.
“We are closed today,” said Quintiles spokesman Phil Bridges. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not working. In today’s mobile work force, most of us have the ability to work from pretty much anywhere as long as we have electricity, our laptops and an Internet connection.”
That gives employers the luxury of closing their doors for the day when they conclude that weather conditions pose a safety risk without worrying that essential work won’t get done. That’s especially crucial for a company like Quintiles, which is headquartered in Durham but conducts business in 100 countries.
No. 1 PC maker Lenovo, which is based in China but has a Triangle headquarters, remained open on Friday “for critical operations only,” spokeswoman Milanka Muecke wrote in an email.
“We strongly advise employees to work with their manager and take steps to work from home,” she said. “As with any weather event, we advise employees to use personal judgment with regard to safety and wear appropriate winter attire if traveling to or from the office for critical operations.”
Business software giant SAS officially shut down its massive headquarters campus in Cary, although the offices remained “open to anyone who can safely get there and opts to go in.” But, spokeswoman Shannon Heath added, “we certainly don’t expect employees to get on the road and travel in these conditions.”
Moreover, employees who decide to stay home aren’t required to do a lick of work.
Still, she added, “many employees do choose to work from home to stay on top of their work.”
Heath, who herself was working from home on Friday, said that SAS’s policy on working from home on bad-weather days is part of its “culture of flexibility and our empowering, trusting management.”
“It’s a give and take,” she said. “SAS knows our employees are going to do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it’s at home or at the office. Our culture is, if you treat employees well, they’ll treat the company well.”
It’s business as usual, but fewer people are in the office.
Todd Olson, CEO of Raleigh software startup Pendo
Todd Olson, the CEO of software startup Pendo, walked to his company’s offices in downtown Raleigh from his Boylan Heights home on Friday morning.
But he was one of just a handful who braved the elements. The remainder of the company’s 31 employees were working from home.
“Our entire company is working online right now,” Olson said. “It’s business as usual, but fewer people are in the office.”
Of course, toiling at home is the rule, rather than the exception, for some workers.
“We have a lot of home-based employees as well,” Bridges said. “For a lot of people, there is no change.”