Remember the rush of freedom you felt as a kid when school let out for summer? Your employees are likely to feel that same rush when the days lengthen and get warmer. Unfortunately, that summer itch can negatively affect employee productivity.
“Business tends to slow down in the summer," says Nick Murphy, founder of Mid-America Careers, a Midwest-focused job search engine, and host of The Job Lab Podcast. “Business owners can and should anticipate some disruptions to normal operations, particularly when it comes to sales pipelines and the lifecycle of new deals."
The “summer slump" is common, agrees Mary Camuto, owner of MC Consulting and author of Make the Most of Your Workday.
“You'll see a slowdown when your employees—and hopefully you—take vacations; schedule long weekends; and experience related distractions like travel-related errands," Camuto says.
And it's not just vacations that can hinder productivity during the summertime, adds Richard Milam, CEO of EnableSoft, which powers Foxtrot, a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software.
“Summer is full of distractions," he says, "including disagreements among coworkers as to what temperature to set the air conditioner."
Summer Slump Exceptions
Whether a summer slump occurs can also depend on the company culture, notes Summer Crenshaw, COO and co-founder of tilr, an employment placement company that uses blind matching technology.
“Our company is located in the Midwest and can have problems with seasonal affective disorder affecting employee productivity in the cold months," Crenshaw says.
—Nick Murphy, founder, Mid-America Careers
"In the summer months, however, we see a revitalization of energy and excitement amongst our team," she continues. "Although more vacations are taken in summer, employees increase their efforts prior to taking time off."
“In certain industries, such as hospitality, summer can mean increased activity," adds Jeremy Greenberg, founder of Avenue Group, which advises business owners, and CEO of Flyte Fitness, an exercise equipment and education company.
“In either case, employees see friends and children taking time off, and, understandably, can feel a desire to reduce their workloads as well."
Keeping Employee Productivity Up
Whether they're vacationing or daydreaming about a day at the beach, summertime will affect your workforce in one way or another. Here are some tips for minimizing decreased employee productivity and making the most of this time of year.
1. Offer seasonal perks.
“Compressed workweeks, revised work schedules, flextime or shorter hours on Fridays can help employees achieve a better work-life balance and boost morale overall. And that can, in turn, boost employee productivity," says Jay Starkman, CEO of human resources services purveyor Engage PEO.
“If possible, create key performance indicators—KPIs—or metrics that your team can work toward Monday through Thursday so that Fridays can be shortened or taken off altogether," Crenshaw suggests.
2. Communicate with your employees.
“The most effective way to mitigate a summer slump and resulting decrease in employee productivity is to maintain open communication with your employees," says Greenberg.
“Get a sense of how the summer months may impact work based on past experience and feedback from employees," he continues. "Begin an open line of communication with employees to discuss topics such as vacation time, early departure days and working from home or remotely."
3. Plan a company outing.
“Almost as popular as a holiday party, a company summer outing is still a staple in many workplaces," says Starkman. “Think about organizing volunteer projects with a nonprofit this summer, or plan a more traditional company picnic to get your employees engaged and reconnected with their fellow colleagues and extended families.
"Be creative and let your employees be involved in the planning," he continues. "Hold a fun event that people actually want to attend."
4. Stagger vacation times.
Plan ahead so that vacation times don't coincide—especially for key personnel. If your business is busy in summer, you can help boost employee productivity by having employees take trips at another time of year. That's what they do at Express Glass & Board Up Service, a Miami, Florida hurricane preparedness company.
“Last year when Hurricane Irma hit, two of my employees were out, and we struggled to complete our jobs," says Yaniet Santos, the company's owner. “We can't afford to lose employees to summer vacations, so before our busy season hits in June, I let my employees take all of the down-time they need. Then we're ready when/if hurricanes hit."
5. Take advantage of the slowdown.
“The temptation during the summer doldrums is to let the time slip away,"says Mike Schultz, president at RAIN Group, a global sales training company, and author of Insight Selling.
“Don't let busy work or no work seize the day," he says. "The summer is a great time to brainstorm, innovate and drive new initiatives. Inspire your employees to complete the proactive tasks they don't have time for during busier times of the year."
6. Accept some decreased employee productivity.
“Even when an organization is ideally optimized for the summer slowdown, there's no control over customer or supplier schedules," says Murphy. “A customer's vacation plans may slow or even kill a deal here and there. This isn't unlike what happens between Thanksgiving and New Year's when it's very difficult to move new deals through the process and close them as we'd expect to during other times of the year."
Vacations Vital to Employee Productivity
Though vacations may cause a dip in employee productivity, it's important that employees and owners take them.
“Everyone needs a vacation, and business owners who support and encourage employees to unplug and recharge are likely to see those employees make up lost ground once they're back in the office," says Murphy.
“To the extent that your business allows it, encourage employees to take a summer break," agrees Milam. “Make it a real summer break that doesn't include checking work email three times a day."
Taking a vacation that allows employees to completely unplug is a boon for your company, adds Camuto.
“Breaks often lead to refreshed motivation, creativity, productivity and engagement," she says.
In order to make taking a vacation easier for everyone involved and preserve employee productivity, Crenshaw suggests focusing on cross-training.
“Redundancy allows employees to take time off with an assurance that things will get done in their absence," she says. "Also make vacation coverage assignments clear to employees standing in for team members, including priorities and deadlines."
At Keystone Insurance Services, if a staff member leaves for more than two or three days, the employee's out of office voicemail doesn't allow a caller to leave a message.
“This tactic nudges customers into getting assistance from other team members, rather than waiting," says owner Brent Thurman. “That way the employee doesn't return to work with a mountain of voicemails or items to catch up on."
And if you're going out of town, you can help things run as smoothly as possible in your absence by designating one key employee to run things, suggests Murphy. That way you can return refreshed and ready to be productive.
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