Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bad Weather and Remote Desktop

As I no longer have an office on campus, I have no need to use a remote desktop application.  But when I was in the College of Business, I did so fairly often and it worked reasonably well, for the most part.  I can only guess that current day clients are quite effective, irrespective of the platform.  (I was a Windows guy then.) 

It seems to me that (a) the university should encourage remote desktop function for much of the faculty and staff and (b) with that function in place most people should be encouraged to stay home on a day like today and work remotely.

Back in spring 2011, we had such a bad weather day where classes were eventually cancelled.  Not knowing that ahead of time, I took the unilateral step of moving my face to face classes to online for that one day.  Once I learned that classes were officially cancelled, those online sessions became optional. 

There may be some essential function that still must be done face to face on campus.  But when you have severe weather like we're having now, you put people at risk in the commute.  That should be factored in to determine what is essential and what isn't.

Virtual may not be the same as being there, but it is a lot safer.

I also want to note that temperature is not the determinant for me of what is safe or not.  We now have near whiteout conditions with high winds and snow.  That snow is layered on top of a "wintry mix" that fell earlier.  Roads will be quite slick and visibility poor.  That is dangerous.

It also seems to me that these conditions can be anticipated in advance so we should have a drill for it already in hand.  Yesterday we did receive a massmail about snow removal in the parking lots, but the rest of what I've written above wasn't considered at all.

I know from my wife that it is a big deal to cancel classes and send employees home for the day.  A major issue is whether employees get paid or if they have to take a vacation/sick day.  There should be a different option which recognized work from home as viable under such circumstances.  The reality is that many people do a significant amount of work from home outside of normal working hours.  What would be so difficult about allowing that work to happen between 8:30 and 5 on a day like today?

Let me make one last point.  For what I do now, I have all the applications I need on my home computer.  I don't need remote desktop.  It may be that many staff are in that situation.  Those who use specialized apps at work will need the remote desktop capability.  So some inventory of staff needs to be taken to see who is in which group.  This might be done via a very simple survey, so the data wouldn't be that hard to collect.

If the approach were taken, there might be an issue of remote work (or not) when the weather isn't so bad.  A policy on that would be needed.   If we had that in hand, then perhaps the ideas presented here could be implemented.  It seems like the sensible thing to do. 

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