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Becky Norman

HRZone

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Here comes the Sun: Boost productivity and wellbeing this summer

Temperatures are (slowly) rising, which impacts productivity and wellbeing. By taking heed of these expert tips, employers can strike a healthy balance between the two.
brown dog wearing sunglasses on blue textile: Here comes the Sun: How to boost productivity and wellbeing this summer

As the weather turns warmer and the days get longer, our working patterns and behaviours typically change. Some of us are getting excited for upcoming BBQs, holidays and time outside in nature. Others are worried about childcare over the school holidays or picking up additional work during the vacation season. Additionally, the rising heat and busy social calendar can also contribute to a slower pace of work.

How should employers prepare for summer in a way that balances productivity and wellbeing? We asked a handful of HR professionals and experts to share their tips.

Flexibility first

If you’re looking for a seamless segue into summer, HR thought leader Debra Corey suggests you start with flexibility in mind. “The biggest mistake I see companies make is having just one approach as, trust me, it’s never going to work for everyone.”

Corey recommends putting the onus on employees and their managers to discuss and agree on specific arrangements. “Have your people speak with their managers to determine when they’ll work (can they work different hours, reduced hours, a compressed workweek) and where they’ll work (from home, their holiday house, etc.). Let them work together to get the balance right for both the employee and the company. This will help everyone succeed and enjoy the summer.”

Summer is not all sun, sea and BBQs

Working parents and school holidays

Summer is not all sun, sea and BBQs, Mark Hendy, Chief HR Officer, Siderise Group Ltd, reminds us. Working parents have to juggle childcare over the school holidays with their working responsibilities. Some will feel an additional financial pinch. “I often think of those with children at home who rely on funded school meals that disappear during the summer school holidays creating extra financial hardship and the associated stresses that follow.”

On a practical note, Hendy suggests looking into discount and benefit schemes, alongside being flexible with shift start and end times to accommodate caring arrangement difficulties. But, above all, it’s about good communication: “Key to supporting employees through whatever difficulties the summer period creates is fostering a culture of open and regular communication between colleague and line manager.”

Summer wellbeing benefits

While business leaders may find the summertime productivity dip irksome, it’s important to consider the wellbeing benefits that warmer weather provides. 

“We tend to see some mental health challenges ease in the summer, as the lighter, longer days can help with conditions such as SAD,” says Kate Clay, HR Director at eStar Truck & Van. “We celebrate that, and encourage more walking clubs in the summer months to shake off any productivity slumps and make sure colleagues can get some time outside. Sickness tends to be at its lowest in summer too, so as long as annual leave is managed well, colleague productivity can remain fairly consistent.”

Consider the wellbeing benefits that warmer weather provides

‘Steer into the skid’

The summer calendar is typically filled with big sporting events dominating our screens, conversations (and pubs). Right now it’s the Euros, and Ella Overshott, culture expert at Pecan Partnership, urges employers to embrace rather than compete with this air time. 

“Steer into the skid with any specific national or world events such as the Euros, Olympics or Wimbledon. Fully embracing the spirit of these can create fresh energy and provide a fabulous reason to bring people together in person.”

Avoid a self-fulfilling productivity dip

Welcoming these social moments and extra flexibility shouldn’t mean we assume the summer months equate to low outputs, though. Overshott warns us of the risk of falling into a ‘self-fulfilling productivity dip’ by making such assumptions. “We have a habit of perpetuating rhythms to our working year which don’t always need to be the case. Whilst employees with school-age children will be planning time off, there may be equal numbers, if not more, who make the most of holiday time in June and September.”

With this in mind, think about how the summer can be used for different types of work such as design or planning, innovation or continuous improvement. “If ‘Heads Of’ are away on holiday, it’s an excellent empowerment opportunity for new voices to get involved and develop,” Overshott suggests.

Think about how the summer can be used for different types of work

Final tips for summer productivity

Summer productivity doesn’t have to suffer if employers take a proactive and flexible approach.

Hannah Gore, Head of People at QS, shares a few final tips for maintaining a balance between productivity and employee wellbeing:

  • Adjust workloads: People are more likely to be on holiday more in the summer months so proactively redistribute tasks and adjust deadlines to account for changes in resource levels. This ensures that projects continue to move forward without placing undue stress on those covering for colleagues
  • Set realistic goals: Recognise that summer might not be the best time to launch major initiatives with tight deadlines with lower team numbers. Instead, focus on maintaining steady progress on existing projects and use this period for strategic planning and review activities
  • Organise social events: Host summer-themed events, such as picnics, BBQs or after-work gatherings. These activities can strengthen team bonds and provide a much-needed break from routine
  • Casual dress code: Implement a more relaxed dress code during the summer months, allowing employees to stay comfortable in the heat
  • Communicate clearly: Keep open lines of communication about workload expectations and upcoming time off to ensure everyone is on the same page
  • Encourage time management: Help employees prioritise tasks and manage their time effectively, particularly when covering for colleagues on leave
  • Celebrate achievements: Recognise and celebrate team accomplishments, no matter how small, to keep morale high and motivate employees

If you enjoyed this article, read: Are we taking employee wellbeing too far?

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Becky Norman

Managing Editor

Read more from Becky Norman