What This Winter and The Donner Party Can Teach Us About Work

Tim Munroe

This winter in New England, we’ve learned that too much snow makes people crazy, especially those trying to travel from Point A to Point B and back again.

Stop jumping out of windows Boston, spring’s around the corner...

But with another snowy, wintery mix forecasted for this weekend, and today being the anniversary of the rescue of the snow-bound Donner Party (I’m a history buff), here are (three) work lessons that this winter’s commute has reinforced for me, as well as few practical winter commuter survival tips.


Image by Forskaen Fotos https://www.flickr.com/photos/55229469@N07/ used under CC license

Be Prepared for the Worst (but hope for the best). With commuters to Boston logging 1.5+++ hours each way, many have learned the hard way that lesson of “always be prepared.”  How do you prepare for the winter commute? For me it’s having a laptop and power adaptor with me at all times. For drivers, its equipping your car with snow shovel, extra windshield wiper fluid, jumper cables, a tow-strap and a full-tank of gas. I pack a hat, gloves, water in my back pack and have downloaded a boat-load of Audible books to my iPhone. The same is true at work: the best teams prepare in advance for every conceivable contingency. They have a plan B.  They rehearse and they ask “what if” before the “if” happens.  They expect things to go not according to plan and prepare for that. 

Always Help Your Colleagues (or fellow commuters). We’re all in this together folks, and collaboration makes even the heaviest tasks easier to bear. I’ve pushed and shoveled out many of my commuting colleagues this winter. I’ve seen Bostonians helping the elderly through slippery patches and lifting baby carriages navigate through snow clogged walkways. Similarly, the place I work is ripe with the spirit of collaboration. And I am happy that my colleagues are around to offer advice and “arms and legs.” It’s what makes my workplace special and I know we have a better product as a result.

Time is Valuable: Don’t Waste It. Fortunately, my workplace offers a work from home option. If you don’t need to be out there fighting traffic or drudging through snow, those are hours that can be spent getting to projects you’ve been too distracted to complete in the office. Working from home allows me to take the time spent on a car or on a train and turn it into productive, revenue-generating time. And I can do it in my pajamas. If you do have to get in the car and brave the commute into Boston, make the best of it and try to be productive. On the train and in the car, I’ve powered through my audio book library on Audible.  Or, pull off the exit and camp out at a local coffee shop and catch up on emails until traffic eases.

As I write this blog post, another snow squall has moved into Boston.  Don’t let the snow get you down Boston commuters, relief is on the way. 


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