Summertime Blues? Tips for Boosting Employee Productivity
As the days lengthen and the weather warms, most people's thoughts turn to the pleasures of sunny beaches, verdant parks, and even their own backyards. But unlike school kids, there's no bell that releases employees from their desks for the summer. They've got to stay focused, and that’s not always an easy task: A recent study from Office Pulse by Captivate showed that summer attendance and productivity both dropped by 17%, while 51% of employees reported increased distraction during the summer months¹.
There are scientific reasons behind the summer dip in work loyalty, from the brain's physiological response to warmer temperatures to the unexpected negative impact of too much happiness on productivity². Regardless of the source, though, lower productivity can wreak havoc on the bottom line—and when it comes to being productive, employees are already fighting an uphill battle even without summer-related distractions. Research by Atlassian³ and Attentiv⁴ shows just how much of a drain meetings and emails can be on workers' time and attention, with emails consuming 28% of the average employee's work week and unnecessary meetings costing U.S. businesses $37 billion yearly in salaries. The struggle is real for professionals, 86% of whom report5 that poor communication is a prime cause of workplace failures.
With this in mind, what steps can you take to help maximize productivity and maintain employee engagement during the summer months, while acknowledging the built-in distractions of the season? Here are three tips for getting started.
Summer Fridays—allowing employees to work half-days on Fridays or take every other Friday off—are a popular perk that yields mixed real-world results. For some companies and employees, they can increase productivity, but for others, they create stress by pressuring employees to get a full week’s worth of work done in fewer hours. If a full summer Friday program isn't right for your office, consider offering more flexible start and end times during the summer instead (6), which not only allows staff to work when they're most productive, but can help them manage schedules for children whose day camps and summer sitters keep different hours than their schools.
We're not suggesting that you give up and expect less of your team during the summer—but consider that it also may not be the ideal time to launch critical, labor-intensive projects that ramp up the workload, which may backfire by elevating stress for already distracted employees. According to Mike Schultz, president at RAIN Group and author of Insight Selling, summer is ideal for proactive work like brainstorming and innovation⁷, which can then be put into action later in the year.
In the midst of your efforts to keep employees engaged, don't forget to provide opportunities for them to enjoy some of the summer fun they're dreaming of. Possibilities include hosting a family-friendly event; offering weekly pop-up bars with treats such as slushies, ice cream and popcorn; sponsoring contests; or even getting out of the office altogether with an offsite, field trip or volunteer activity⁹. (If you’re not sure which activities employees would enjoy most, just ask—some of their suggestions may surprise you!)
Above all, remember that this is a fleeting season, and before you know it, autumn will arrive with cooler temperatures and a renewed sense of purpose. With luck and forethought, you'll not only have kept productivity from flagging, but helped employees create summer memories to treasure, both at work and away.