Is snow a fair reason for us to skip work?


IAM the first to roll my eyes at pathetic excuses for staying off work. “Oh, I sneezed, I think I should stay at home” or “oh, I hurt my leg, I better rest up.” Usually, these are cover-ups for things like hangovers from hell and just really, really wanting to stay in bed watching Hercule Poirot all day.

I’d happily add “there’s too much snow” to the list of pathetic excuses. And usually, I do. But this winter I am prepared to make an exception. Firstly because we seem to be having snow that (wait for it) actually settles. Real snow, in other words. Most years it’s a few flakes, some hysteria, and general meltdown. That has become the routine. That’s just what we do. This year the snowfall deserves the status of, well, snowfall, albeit light. It has done what real snow does: accumulated. Become icy. Reduced visibility. Caused slush to be tracked all over the place. Killed people.

All of which is sad but not that amazing, when you look at properly snowy countries. But as long as the UK refuses to invest in snow equipment – and if you do the sums, you quickly see that it isn’t worth investing billions for weather than only affects us a few days a year – the costs of getting to work outweigh the benefits.

Getting to work in London following snowfall is not a tolerable exercise in modern living. With limited or no public transport, limited taxis, and no bicycling, what are we meant to do? If the answer is walk, then that’s asking your average Londoner to embark on a nine-mile stroll through the snow. In that time, don’t you think more can be achieved with a laptop and a cup of tea? Exactly.


EARLY on 26 February last year I looked out of my front window and watched someone ski past my house. In Brixton. Once I got past wondering where he’d nicked the skis from, I had to wonder – like everyone else in London – how the heck I was going to make it to work. As it happened, I pulled on some boots, trudged up to Stockwell, hopped on the Northern Line and pootled in as normal. So much for the city coming to a standstill.

Okay, so lots of people didn’t manage the journey, and all over the country they’ll be struggling today as well – if you’re stranded in the countryside or a part of outer suburbia that resembles The Day After Tomorrow then stranded you are, so sit back and enjoy that mug of cocoa. But for those who make it in on days when commuting looks more like a job for Ranulph Fiennes and a pack of huskies, it’s always worth it.

Business is all about overcoming challenges, after all, and there’s a particular kind of camaraderie that develops among the intrepid battlers who arrive, swaddled in woolly hats, scarves and whatever snow-defying footwear they could find. If you’re looking for an office with a positive atmosphere, look for it on a day when getting to work at all is an act of positive, go-getting adventurousness.

And that’s the problem for the ninnies who choose to stay at home. For while they sip their milky drinks and battle with their company webmail connectivity, there’ll be the niggling worry that colleagues with even more difficult routes to work managed to struggle in. And that, have no doubt, will have been noticed.