Seasonal Work Slumps: Is Great Weather Leading to Lower Productivity?

Do you notice your employee’s attention slipping during the hot summer season? Do employees ask for more time off, leave earlier, tend to come in later? This is a common occurrence all over the world although the season of distraction may differ from country to country. CNN’s Anne Fisher refers to them as the “seasonal work slumps” and gathers advice on how to deal with them.

Summer work fatigue

Some employers shift to “summer hours”: more freedom to take time off or leave work early in order to accommodate your employee’s restlessness or desire to escape summer heat.

School vacations can play into this distraction. When children’s demands increase on parents, keeping workers on task can be a daunting challenge.

Fisher refers to this problem as one of “presenteeism” rather than absenteeism but both refer to employee engagement. In the West, 20 percent of workers notice a dip in their own work productivity during the summer season; 45 percent say they are distracted and 13 percent report that work projects take much longer to complete.

Mike DiFranza, president of the digital media company Captivate tells Fisher that adjusting hours for such seasons is a losing proposition. Research finds that over half of employees that leave work early note that their productivity drops and those who attempt to make time up at other times in the week say their stress levels rise.
Consultant Randy Harrington offers some better advice for dealing with seasonal slumps.

In terms of school vacations and work, he says, it’s a bad idea to make people choose between their children and their job. These demands on their time and attention aren’t going to go away because you order them or threaten them to become more work-focused and such demands can only increase their stress levels and lower employee engagement and productivity. Harrington recommends offering more flexible work schedules such as offering evening hours or working at home. You could even think about creating childcare opportunities at your company or looking into group rates for day camp activities for your employee’s children.

Accommodation doesn’t have to be about changing work hours: you could change the nature of the work. This of course takes advance planning but your employees could still be productive during seasonal slumps if they were doing something totally different than their normal day-to-day work. Harrington gives an example: one of his clients put aside four weeks during what Harrington calls “slacker season” for their employees to put together a company yearbook, a kind of informational book about their company’s culture. Zappos made such books famous and this kind of work is productive in an entirely different way: it can help drive bonding in your company and commitment.

Another thought in the same vein: this could be a great time for you to choose projects in terms of corporate responsibility. Employees feel more committed when they feel that they’re giving back and such projects increase your reputation. Schedule times for the workers in your company to work for a cause in the community.

Slow seasons are also a great time for your employees to make another shift from normal work, that of personal development. Again, this takes advance planning but it can go far in terms of engagement and productivity in the long run. Encourage your workers to take classes, find a mentor or schedule coaching and learning seminars.

Harrington also offers two warnings. Don’t force people to attend “fun” retreats or company picnics that aren’t authentic or that they’re not inclined towards and, be certain that upper management isn’t taking time off for the beach or the golf course during seasonal slumps either.

For everything there is a season. We all have our ups and downs, our times of focus and widening, of detailed attention and big-picture imaginings. Human beings have times of ebb and flow and businesses must reflect what they’re made of.

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