It's summertime and the living is easy...sort of. Vacations are planned, and celebrations for long weekends and July Fourth are in the works. And yet, there's something about these happy, warm weathered months that makes the work week feel unnatural. Several studies of white collar workers show a significant decrease in employee productivity during the summer months, as well as a drop in overall attendance. While there may not be a single cause to blame for such summer slumps, there are certainly ways we can help our employees stay productive, focused, and positive throughout the summer months.

Do: relax your office dress code a bit. This small practice has been adopted and endorsed by many businesses and is one of the easiest ways to make life easier on your employees. There's a casual, relaxed style associated with the summer months, and there's no harm in having employees embrace that. It would obviously be inappropriate to abruptly start condoning cut-off tanks and short shorts, but there's also no reason to insist employees wear a full business suit through the heat of July. Try composing a dress code that encourages employees to take on a casual, comfortable, but put together look for office hours. Being able to wear more breathable fabrics and open toed shoes makes getting up and going to work that much easier for your workers and can make them more comfortable throughout the day.

Do: schedule some employee appreciation. If you're going to show your employees some love or have an office-wide fun day, you might as well do it during the "slumpiest" months. The mentality of fun and vacation that's associated with the summer months is why so many businesses schedule their employee appreciation day(s) during this time. Employee appreciation could be as simple as a catered lunch, or it could be more like an off-site activity, a contest or game with prizes, happy hour, etc.  It might be just the extra nudge your employees need to remind them that their work is of value and appreciated, and that their employer is one worth staying productive for.

Do: try having flexible summer hours. It's not at all uncommon for businesses to take on different hours throughout the summer (unless it's something service-based that really requires certain hours for customers). A popular practice is for a business to lengthen the workday Monday-Thursday by an hour or two in exchange for closing early on Friday. Employees who have worked under this kind of schedule have reported feeling more productive and motivated to complete their work, the incentive being a shortened day to earn at the end of the week. It may even result in fewer PTO requests, because employees will be inclined to use those extra hours of freedom as travel time for a long weekend.

Gestures such as the aforementioned are great ways to make sure your employees know their lifestyles and value is appreciated. That being said, you also don't want to do too much and throw employee schedules or comfort zones too far out of whack. Think about these 'don'ts' when your business is pushing through the summer slump.

Don't: force the fun. A friend of mine recently left her promising job as a graphic designer because the firm's management forced fun on employees in a way that created too much tension. While providing opportunities for recreation or activity is definitely something that most employees seek, you have to make sure you're doing it in a ways that's sincere and non-pushy. The last thing you want is to create an atmosphere of "HAVE FUN-OR ELSE" within your office. Make sure office activities are encouraged but optional, and that your motivation for such events is to show your employees a good time rather than force merriment for the sake holding management generosity over their heads.

Don't: insist employees change their schedules. Having the option of summer hours is a luxury, but it may not be for every employee. Some professionals thrive on a consistent schedule and may be so adapted to their normal work week hours that deviating from it may throw them off (for example, a schedule that works best for a working mother may not be the same as another employee who likes to travel on weekends). The idea behind schedule flexibility is to encourage employee productivity and motivation. If it does the opposite for an employee, give them the option of declining summer hours or an alternative schedule that better facilitates productivity.

Don't: micromanage employees. This is a don't in general for me, but it seems to be exceptionally important during the summer months when employees-for whatever reason-are much less likely to tolerate dissatisfaction in the workplace. For many employees, micromanagement translates to a lack of trust and confidence in their capabilities and responsibility level. If you micromanage an employee's work flow or schedule down to every last minute, they will almost always become frustrated and less happy with their job. Instead, try and establish regular communication and a certain level of trust in employees; trust that they'll get their work done and not abuse employer generosity. Employees who are allowed to self-regulate and work independently are consistently the most reliable, productive, and happiest individuals, so do your part as an employer to encourage that kind of independence.

Published on: Jun 7, 2016