Local News

Despite Conditions, Local Workers Find Ways To Keep Working

Posted January 27, 2004

— Bad weather is bad for business. Two slow days can mean millions in lost income across the Triangle.

This week's winter storms not only slowed road travel locally; they also slowed down traffic at local businesses. A local economist said the Triangle lost almost $44 million in income over the last two days.

Many businesses will not make up the weather-related losses. So many employees went back to work Tuesday, finding creative ways to work around the weather conditions.

Software developer David Bultman, who works for SAS in Cary, managed his kids and his job from home. Most of the 264 SAS offices around the world did not take a snow day.

"I have access to my e-mail," Bultman said. "I can do my programming. I can communicate with anyone in the world."

With many schools closed again Wednesday, many parents will face that same juggling act.

For people like Martha Michaux and her husband -- two working parents -- snow days can be a logistical nightmare.

"It's extremely stressful," Michaux said. "Can we make it into work? Is it safe? Should we take the kids to work with us, or should we work from home?"

Michaux, an employee of technology company Red Hat, also worked from home Tuesday. At her feet was her son, David.

"My husband took the older two to work with him, and my 3-year-old stayed with me," she said.

Red Hat gives employees options like flexible shifts, which reduce family stress -- but also keep people working.

"As a tech company, we can't afford to lose productivity," Red Hat spokesperson Leigh Day said. "Things are moving at a really rapid pace. Everybody has a lot of responsibility to keep up with, and the fact that everyone is able to telecommute or dial in remotely is very helpful."

Red Hat even allows parents to bring children to work on snow days. Ilan and Maia Szulik enjoyed the Red Hat game room Tuesday -- complete with video games, air hockey, ping pong and even a snack bar -- while their father worked.

"I'm not worried about coming here because there's a lot of activities to do," 10-year-old Maia said, "and I'm a little happy there's not school."

Working from home, or taking the kids to work, are a great plan B. But for people whose work requires travel, plan B requires some juggling.

That's why travel agent Tony Maupin went to work Tuesday. His office was called upon to re-arrange at least 48 corporate trips this week because of the weather.

And Maupin's employees couldn't be late.

"The number one thing is that we have to get people here on time so we can take calls," he said. "We have many corporate clients that have changes, and we have to check the status of their flights.

"It could make or break a deal they are brokering."

"Corporate" Americans weren't the only ones who felt the impact of the weather. Gilbert King, station manager of a local Jiffy Lube, had one car Monday -- a mere $24 day -- and business wasn't much better Tuesday.

He had two cars Tuesday morning. But one belonged to Jiffy Lube's regional manager.

"It's not good for business," King said. "It's good to keep the customers aware that we can change their wiper blades or fix a flat tire -- stuff like that."

Local florist Matt Jones is in the business of making deliveries. But the bad weather meant his deliveries stopped.

"Yeah, two days," Jones said. "That's 250 deliveries we didn't get to make. That's business we lost, and that's really hard when you're a small business."

Snow days not only cut into the bottom line; they also can cut into vacation time. State employees, for example, have to either show up for work, use a vaction day or make the hours up in a year's time.

"Weather has a huge impact on our economy," Maupin said. "Certainly, we'll see this continue up and down the East Coast in the next week."

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