Boosting Summer Productivity: Flexible Work Strategies
“When summer hits – and we’re talking proper sunny days; the type that generate the ‘heatwave headlines in our (very British) press – it’s best to establish the most pragmatic approach and recognize that staff aren’t going to have quite the same degree of motivation.
“During hot and sunny days, the temptation to down tools is high; the ‘off’ switch is often flicked when the weather is nice outside. We can also feel a bit lethargic. If the nights are particularly warm, we’re probably not sleeping that well which means that it’s harder to stay focused and motivated during the working day.
“This is the weather that, historically, can generate a drop in productivity of up to approximately 20 per cent as we inadvertently slip into holiday mode. Best to anticipate it, show some empathy with the team and consider the type of concessions that can be made and the practicalities involved in making them.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to show willing from small gestures like filling the freezer compartment in the kitchen with complimentary choc ices and ice lollies to allowing the workers to down tools and finish early on particularly hot days.
“By giving employees the option to finish early or to take time out during nice days, to be made up in the evening, or when they see fit, you’re demonstrating empathy as an employer as well as a degree of trust and flexibility and the majority of employees will be far happier and willing to work harder as a result.
“Similarly, as some employers offer bonus Christmas shopping days, it’s nice to reward those who haven’t booked out half of August with a bonus ‘garden’ day or afternoon during the summer months in recognition that they are putting in the hours during what is regarded as the holiday month.
“Days or half-days like these also give a nod to those who don’t have kids who can feel their needs come second to those with kids of school age when it comes to time off during the long school holiday period.
“Overall, what’s essential is to demonstrate a degree of flexibility. That flexibility can be applied to anything from relaxing the dress code (if you have one) when it’s hot, and allowing shorts and t-shirts, to making the hours flexible.
“As has been acknowledged, significantly less is achieved when the weather is nice anyway as workers are more likely to be working in less comfortable conditions (particularly if they are working without air-conditioning) and / or they are feeling resentful of the time spent indoors on a beautiful day.
“Far better to have those workers out of the office, if possible, during this time, to return refreshed or to make the hours up in conditions more conducive to work.
“Summer most definitely isn’t the time to micro-manage. Let staff take charge of their own workload and how and when they complete it, be it working from home, starting earlier or finishing earlier or making up time at the weekend.
“You’re more likely to get a higher degree of productivity and, most definitely, goodwill if you take a more relaxed and positive approach and show some flexibility.
Michael Page, director of workplace consultant, Saracen Interiors