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Are Flexible Schedules The Secret To Beating Summer’s Productivity Slump?

How to create a more flexible work environment that will help employees get more done.

Are Flexible Schedules The Secret To Beating Summer’s Productivity Slump?
[Photo: Flickr user Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner]

When you’re stuck inside during one perfect beach day after another, most adults lament the days when they had three solid months off.

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While it’s not practical for most businesses to take the summer off, there are still ways to make the most of the season without letting work responsibilities slip. Last year, a survey found that up to 30% of workplaces offer some version of Summer Fridays. If you’re a manager, this loosening of the reins might make you nervous.

The fact is that increasing work expectations happen alongside all of life’s other responsibilities. And when businesses take a more flexible approach to where their employees work from, they often find that it can increase productivity and growth.

In May 2014, University of Minnesota scientists released a study of 700 IT department employees from one Fortune 500 company, and found those whose work environments were modified experienced significant improvements in work-life balance, decrease work-family conflicts, and an improved sense of schedule control.

Here are a few tips to guide the implementation of a more flexible work environment and make summer your most successful season yet:

Treat Summer As A Trial Run For The Rest Of The Year

Flexibility during the summer is a great trial run for more formal telecommuting policies. Objectively gauge your comfort level with people working from the field: Is your unsettledness stemming from a prejudice against the new paradigm? Use the trial run as an opportunity to ask your team what they think. Together, you can find an approach that works across the board.

Set Priorities

Identify important meetings and deadlines that won’t budge, and set priorities that clarify key projects that need to be completed and those that can wait until the physical return to the office. It’s important to remember that summer vacations are important family time that, when respected, can make employees more productive and engaged when they get back.

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Explain Expectations

Set guidelines so your team knows what you expect when they’re working out of the office. Lay the groundwork that this situation requires trust, then be specific about productivity, checking in, attending meetings, submitting work, and more. Make them accountable. But also respect that they’ll need to check out for part of the day. If you’re upfront about this, you’ll gain respect and win their undivided attention during the times that matter most.

Remain Connected.

The prevalence of free video-calling services, like FaceTime, have created a culture that’s more comfortable with video calling. This trend is moving into the workforce, and the corporate world has taken note. Professional grade B2B video-conferencing technology now keeps workers connected to the office–attending meetings, collaborating on documents–regardless of their location.

If you’re still on the fence, consider these industry stats: According to Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), 79% of employees would like to work from home and 36% would choose a work-from-home option over a pay raise. To take this a little further, research from National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner demonstrated that telecommuting created the same boost in happiness as a $40K pay raise.

As for the dollar value to businesses, GWA also says that allowing employees to telecommute even half time would save companies at least $10,400 per employee per year. When properly leveraged, summer might just be one of the most productive seasons of all.

Craig Malloy is a video conferencing pioneer and the CEO of Lifesize. Craig founded ViaVideo in 1994 (acquired by Polycom) and Lifesize in 2003 (acquired by Logitech), and is always on a mission to reinvent the video communications industry.