The Life of a Payroll Employee: Reflecting on 2008’s Snowmageddon

The Life of a Payroll Employee: Reflecting on 2008’s Snowmageddon

By Kristy Roberts

There is a modest coating of snow this morning with snow showers forecasted again later in the week. This has many of us at Xenium reminiscing about the infamous Snowmageddon that shut down the entire Portland-metro in December 2008.

When it snows in the Portland area, the snow usually turns to ice, and that ice creates complete chaos on the highways. One evening, during this massive (for us) storm in 2008, it took me over five hours to drive home from the office. Then, after little sleep, I awoke the next morning to do it all over again.

Whenever it snows around here, newscasters usually tell us, “Stay home. Don’t you dare go out on the roads!” Because it snows infrequently in Portland, we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with winter storms. We don’t have enough snow plows or de-icer to keep roads clear and safe. So the city all but shuts down, even after a light dusting. Stores and schools close. Mail goes undelivered.

But I’m in payroll. People, entire organizations, rely on me to get paid. That’s a pretty significant responsibility, one that can’t be put off because of nasty weather. So the weatherman doesn’t call the shots in payroll: our deadlines do.

In December 2008, the snow and ice made the roads so bad that Xenium paid for the entire payroll team to stay at a hotel near the office. This was the only way we could process payroll for our clients as planned. Even before the snow hit, we were already planning on working late to meet holiday deadlines and process end-of-year bonuses, but then driving conditions worsened. Staying at a nearby hotel made the most sense for our safety and for better time management. Of course, we all wanted to be home with our families, but that stormy night turned into a special bonding experience for our payroll team. None of us will forget it. And, most importantly, we processed payrolls in time.

But even after all that, one major issue still remained: local mail carriers couldn’t drive in the ice and snow. So what about the companies without direct deposit, the ones that relied on live, paper checks? How would we get paychecks to their employees?

People base their financial lives around when they receive their paychecks. It’s absolutely crucial that people receive their paychecks when they’re told to expect them. Imagine the stress of missed mortgage payments and phone bills across an organization’s entire staff, all because of delayed payroll. That’s not a great look for anyone involved.

We weren’t going to let (admittedly quite a bit of) snow cause a delayed delivery. We couldn’t fathom putting our clients’ employees in that bind. So we did what was right. We went to the local post offices where paychecks were stalling, retrieved the paychecks we’d tried to mail, and hand-delivered checks to our clients so we could meet their crucial deadlines.

We can’t control the weather or local mail carriers. But we knew what it would mean for these employees to receive their payments late. So we did everything we could to fix the problem.

A massive snow storm, one that shuts down the city’s normal operations, is possible every winter. And any time there are reports of impending snow, ice, or sleet, we all brace ourselves, knowing what it could mean.

Fringe pay, year-end adjustments, holiday schedules, out-of-cycle bonus runs, open enrollment, tax updates, W-2s, employee maintenance—there’s so much for a payroll specialist to do at the end of the year already. So really, even without a big storm, it’s always snowing in the winter months for a Xenium payroll specialist. There are always a million tasks to juggle, and we’re always here, shoveling them along, making sure they’re complete—and on time—for our clients and their employees.

Xenium Guest Contributor