When the sun is shining and the temperatures rise, the last place many of us want to be is inside an office working. That’s why productivity drops and absenteeism rises during summer months, according to a recent study. Tina Hamilton, president of the human resources outsourcing firm myHR Partner calls it "summer slacker syndrome."
"It doesn’t matter if a company is in its busy or slow time, employees are going on vacation or doing vacation-type things during the weekend," she says, adding that it can be especially challenging for those in the North or Midwest, where summer is a short 12-week window. "It’s hard to come back and get into a fast-paced environment."
Instead of fighting the season, Hamilton says it’s better to embrace it. "You can’t change people’s feelings and emotions about wanting to be outside in summer," she says. "It’s better to go with it, and do what you can to expose them to a little bit of summer fun. It can help them focus when it’s time to work."
While myHR Partner beats the seasonal slump by allowing employees to work from home on Fridays in the summer, other companies are getting creative in their methods for beating the summer slump. Here are six fun ideas for making the most of being outside in the warm weather.
Employees of eaHELP, an executive virtual assistant firm, become rock stars each summer. CEO Bryan Miles started producing music videos to boost productivity, blocking off time each day for a fun, non-work-related project; the first video was Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
"The team is revived as they are able to redirect their attention from daily tasks and pump their creative juices," says Miles. "Not only do the music videos create an enjoyable work culture, they increase productivity by breaking up the day, allowing for team members to unplug momentarily. The feedback has been astounding, with requests to maintain the music-video tradition."
The home-improvement company Power Home Remodeling hosts outdoor events on the first Friday of every month, each with a theme. The first event was "Kickoff to Summer" and included a picnic-style lunch served by the company executives as a way to thank the staff. After lunch, employees had the chance to relax on inflatable furniture by the river and dance to a DJ’s summer playlist. The second event had an Independence Day theme and included a Philly food truck, specialty drinks, and carnival games.
Employee feedback has been incredible following these events. "It helps make summer feel fun at work and allows them to bond with coworkers outdoors, in turn, increasing productivity," says co-CEO Asher Raphael.
The leadership at Fuse, a Burlington, Vermont-based marketing agency that specializes in millennials, likes to help employees enjoy summer by providing them with incentives to get outside. Bikes are parked in the company’s warehouse, and employees are free to use one for a leisurely ride.
"Burlington is a pretty bike-friendly town," says Heather Hennessy, digital communications group director. "People typically use them at lunchtime, but they could also take and use them on a weekend or on bike trips."
Each summer for the past three years, employees at the 3-D-printing company Mcor Technologies participate in a Tough Mudder race. Navigating the challenges of an obstacle course laid out on a mud track helps the group recharge, says cofounder and CEO Conor MacCormack.
"I know it can be harder to stay focused and motivated in the summer months, but this ritual has always helped us bring a refreshed energy back into the office," he says. "Not only does it boost morale, but the team-building component pushes everyone to work faster, smarter, and stronger as a unit. We find that a fun activity like this really does help our employees stay productive and engaged in the summer months."
Boot manufacturer Timberland has an onsite organic garden that employees get to tend in the summertime. Started in 2007, the Victory Garden yields fresh produce for employees as well as the local community. Each day volunteer gardeners water, harvest, weed, and sell the produce at the company’s "farm stand" inside the building. Proceeds raised from the sales are donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank, and last year, the company was able to give more than $2,500.
"Employees often comment that the ‘break’ outside and away from their desk is beneficial to their mental health," says Atlanta McIlwraith, senior manager of community engagement and communication. "They enjoy getting away for a short time and watering the garden, or just walking through the garden to see what’s growing."
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, online payroll service provider PrimePay is getting employees involved in "random acts of nostalgia," including sidewalk chalk.
"Chalk art is something that millennials, generation Xers, and baby boomers can all relate to," says spokesperson Janet Tirado. Employees are encouraged to draw pictures of retro iconic images, such as Pac-Man and the MTV "moon man" on company sidewalks and the sidewalks of clients.
The activity is a great icebreaker that gets conversations started, such as, "I remember when I was a kid, my mom dressed me in big shoulder pads and did my hair like Madonna," says Tirado. "Sidewalk art helps make and evoke memories."