It can be a challenge to keep employees engaged during the summer months. With a few exceptions, most companies typically experience a dip in productivity beginning around the July 4th holiday through Labor Day. Though employers should always encourage staff to take their vacation time, it is equally important to have a plan in place to help avoid worker distractions and combat the “seasonal slump.” Here are some workplace policies and practices to consider:
Offer seasonal perks such as compressed workweeks, revised work schedules, flex-time or shorter hours on Fridays to help employees achieve a better work/life balance in the summer. Make sure policies are consistent across the business and do not disrupt any area of operation. Also, by establishing a flexible scheduling policy in advance of the summer months, supervisors are better able to manage workflows and can arrange schedules according to those needs.
Safety and Wellness
Make the safety and well-being of your employees a top priority every day, and pay close attention during the hot summer months. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), factors such as working in direct sunlight, high temperatures and humidity, physical exertion and lack of sufficient fluid intake can lead to heat stress. Make certain to supply plenty of water, limit the number of hours an employee is in direct sunlight and protect against excessive exposure to heat and insects.
On the positive side, the warmer temperatures can give a boost to your employee wellness programs. Promote the benefits of exercise with a weekly walking challenge or sponsor a company sports team (like softball or volleyball). Check if your health insurance provider offers fitness discounts such as savings on gym memberships and sports equipment (like those offered by Engage’s health insurance partner, Aetna). Encourage healthier eating habits by offering seasonal fruits and vegetables or smoothies as an alternative to chips and cookies in your break lounge. Invite outside speakers to come in during lunchtime to promote health and wellness events or organizations in your community.
In most organizations, dress codes tend to be more relaxed during the summertime. Companies with business casual dress policies can offer “super casual” days during the summer, while others may want to stick with the traditional casual Friday. If your organization decides to implement a more relaxed dress code policy, make sure it’s clearly communicated to all employees, preferably in your handbook. This ensures that there are no misunderstandings regarding what is acceptable attire at work. Again, remember to enforce the policy uniformly across the entire organization.
Performance Management and Development
Because summer signals the mid-year point, and for some organizations is a slower time of year, this season provides an ideal opportunity to focus on employee development and performance. Ongoing feedback should be given throughout the year, but at this mid-year point, it is helpful to have more formal discussions with employees regarding performance metrics and progress toward meeting individual and company goals. The reduced workload for some employees during this time also provides an opportunity to schedule additional training. Employers can plan educational activities that take place out of the office, or even outdoors if practical.
Almost as popular as the year-end holiday party, a company summer outing is a staple in many workplaces. Consider organizing volunteer projects with a local non-profit or plan a more traditional company picnic. The goal should be to create a positive environment where co-workers can connect with each other and have some fun away from the office. Invite family and friends to attend as well, budget permitting.
If managed carefully and with a strategy in place, the benefits of these summertime activities and practices can extend far beyond the season.