Buffalo blizzard no problem for ‘telecommuter nation’

Buffalo blizzard no problem for ‘telecommuter nation’

Online collaboration between Tel Aviv and western NY didn’t skip a beat despite gigantic piles of the white stuff

The New York State Thruway at the height of last week's blizzard (Photo credit: Courtesy NYSTA)
The New York State Thruway at the height of last week's blizzard (Photo credit: Courtesy NYSTA)

Israeli companies that have opened offices in western New York are used to inclement weather – but last week’s snow fest was more than they, or anyone else in the region, banked on for mid-November. Nevertheless, at least one Israeli firm with offices in hard-hit Buffalo soldiered on – thanks to the miracle of telecommuting.

According to Buffalo resident Alan D. Percy, senior director of marketing at AudioCodes, co-workers in Israel were very impressed with the huge amount of snow on the ground – as much as 7.5 feet (2.5 meters), cheering on their Buffalo colleagues while they continued to collaborate on projects.

For snow lovers, Buffalo, New York, on the shore of Lake Erie, is perfectly situated but for everyone else, the city’s location makes for much winter misery. Although far from the Arctic zone, Buffalo is very snow-prone, getting more of the white stuff than any other US city, except for Juneau, Alaska, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. It’s because of the “lake effect” – – where cold air moving rapidly into the region hits the warm air over the surface of the lake. The air rises, cools and condenses, forming clouds that precipitate snow.

The colder the air, the greater the lake effect. An arctic high weather system that swooped into town last week dumped two-thirds of the city’s annual average of 92 inches in four days, long before the official beginning of winter.

“For four days, most everyone sat tight, watched the snow pile up outside their windows, nervously watching the weather reports hoping for the lake-effect machine to move on and bless some other neighborhood with their fair-share of the white stuff,” wrote Percy in a blog post. “Business and commerce came to a complete stop for four days. That is unless you were a member of the growing full-time telecommuter nation,” as he and his wife, both employees of AudioCodes, are. The facility has a number of Israelis from the home office on staff as well.

Fortunately, he wrote, “unlike many other natural disasters, utilities are rarely affected by snow – electricity, water, heat and most importantly, Internet access continues uninterrupted while the snow piles up around.” Using the various unified communications systems that keeps the frigid Buffalo office in touch with the staff at AudioCodes headquarters in Tel Aviv — Internet, telephony and video connections, instant messaging, email, etc. — “normal business continued for us” from home.

There was just one hitch, Percy wrote. “By the third day, everyone had heard about Buffalo’s ongoing snowstorm and wanted to ‘see what it was like.’” Pointing a video camera out the window, Percy showed off his town’s lake effect bounty, and “Co-workers in Israel gave the best reactions with a resounding “WOW.’” Friends and partners in Texas, meanwhile, “gave the second most popular exclamation ‘why do you live there?!?!’”

With the weather set to turn warmer in Buffalo this week, concerns have moved on from being snowed in to being flooded, as the huge piles of snow begin to melt. However, according to the forecasts, the warm weather will last just a couple of days and won’t be warm enough to melt the bulk of the nearly 80 inches some neighborhoods got.

Telecommuting is great, wrote Percy “but now that the week is over and life is beginning to return to normal, I did realize that telecommuting has taken something from us though…the much cherished ‘snow day.’” Not to worry, though – with winter still on the way, Percy and his fellow Buffalonians can expect much more snow – and he plans on keeping his snow shovel handy.

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