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With summer on the horizon, more warmth and sunshine (meaning an increased need to be outside) and annual holidays looming, employers should get ready for a less motivated workforce.

According to research by Dayforce, almost half (45%) of full-time employees in the UK say they are less productive during the summer months, rising to 57% for those aged 18-34. It is thought that a combination of juggling family life during the summer holidays thanks to children not being in school, increased social distractions, such as travel or family commitments, spending more time outdoors during work hours, and generally doing less while the boss is away, are the most common reasons why workers get less work done during the summer.

In addition to this, productivity generally seems to go down too, with employees away on holiday, their colleagues will have been left to cover their work and meet outstanding deadlines. Plus many employees are distracted as they start to countdown to their own upcoming holiday.

What’s the solution?

Offering great flexibility during the summer can be a great support for working families and caregivers in particular. This might be in the form of revised work policies that offer:

  • Work from anywhere
  • Flexible working hours
  • Four day working weeks

In addition, it might also be helpful for managers and leaders to adjust workloads to make them manageable, especially during peak holiday times.

Company culture

However, it’s worth highlighting an alternative view. Some experts believe that ‘summer slacking’ has nothing to do with flexibility and everything to do with poor management, which in turn links back to company culture. And rather than looking to make changes during just the summer months, there are advantages to implementing policies and fostering cultures which ensure staff can thrive throughout the year.

This supports the results from Westfield Health’s survey in 2022, which concluded that the vast majority (86%) of employees said they were more productive at work if there was a good culture, while 85% said there was a link between workplace culture and wellbeing.

Accountability, measurement and fairness

For example, if your company culture has a strong level of accountability, measurement, and employees know that they will not be perceived negatively by their manager of colleagues for taking advantage of more flexible working policies over the summer, then that is excellent news. Instead organisations must fully embrace the fact that working flexibly doesn’t damage your career. Because as we all know flexible working can improve work-life balance and wellbeing and in turn increased productivity

But, on the other hand, it can be difficult to coordinate and communicate with employees who have taken advantage of more summer flexibility and of course there are other employees who may think that they are not eligible to ask for more flexible working, which may lead to feelings of unfairness. Whatever you do, you must ensure that everyone from leaders downwards takes the time to listen and understand their employee’s needs, find solutions that work and design policies that encourage, support and reward staff who choose to work more flexibly over the summer months.

Output and quality

Because as has been proved repeatedly in recent years, the number of hours someone works has no bearing on their output. Performance must be judged on output and the quality of completed work. And regardless of whether someone is working in the office or elsewhere they cannot be judged to be less committed or ignored when it comes to career learning and development opportunities.

How I can help

For advice and support when it comes to revisiting working practices over the summer and/or looking at ways to improve your company culture, please email caroline.robertson@actifhr.co.uk