Summer in the Workplace
Warm weather! Vacation! Baseball! Cookouts! Pools and beaches! Camping!
While summer evokes different thoughts for everyone, it stands out as a unique and anticipated time of year. Summer also means different things from workplace to workplace. Some companies allow a relaxed pace during the summer months while others are full-steam-ahead since it’s their peak season.
Whatever the summer looks like to you and your employees, there are ways to celebrate the season while keeping employees focused and productive.
Weather: Summer brings warmer, sometimes extremely hot, temperatures which create opportunities, some requirements, and may require some planning:
- Implement a relaxed dress code – Consider allowing employees to wear more casual and lighter-weight attire as their job duties permit. While t-shirts, athletic shorts, and flip-flops may never be appropriate, allowing Polo-style shirts, capris, dress shorts, and dress sneakers or sandals may make employees more comfortable throughout the day. For employees who work outside, lightening their attire may be required to accommodate the heat while maintaining safety standards.
- Plan for extreme weather – Unfortunately, summer also brings extreme weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. Companies need to plan for all situations, continually update the plan, and, equally important, communicate this plan to their employees. While federal and state regulations may impact some actions, most should be determined by the company before they are needed. Consider: Under what circumstances will the worksite be closed? Who decides? Will employees be paid and, if so, for how long? How will employees be notified? How will operations continue? What network and other backup plans are in place? How can employees notify the company if they need help?
- Comply with heat standards – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a recommended standard for certain occupations with a high risk of heat stress and illness. While OSHA has several recommendations and is in the process of implementing a federal standard for certain work conditions, several states have their own laws protecting employee safety in indoor and outdoor work environments.
Vacations: School breaks and family vacations may mean employees will be absent and/or distracted more than other times of year. Strategies such as planning ahead and offering flexibility may help to keep employees more engaged while meeting performance expectations.
- Allow a temporary reduced schedule – If possible, allow employees to reduce their work schedule, perhaps shortening their work day or work week so they can spend more time with their families or start a weekend trip a little early. Require employees give advanced notice of their time off or perhaps make it a set schedule until Labor Day. Communicate that employees must continue to meet operational and client demands, even if schedules may periodically need to be adjusted to do so.
- Offer temporary flexible work arrangements – Similarly, allow employees to work from home if their duties and performance permits. This could include the occasional day or be a regularly-scheduled arrangement. Employees can be closer to their homes and families and, by eliminating commute times, can work the same amount of time.
- Encourage employees to use available paid time off / vacation –Some employees may have been holding on to paid time off until they could travel freely or in case they need it to quarantine for COVID-19. Others may (unsuccessfully) try to balance family time with work time. Remind employees that you offer paid time off so they can get away from work and recharge. If you have allowed employees to carry over time due to COVID-19, consider reversing your policy and, as allowed under state law, require employees to take some time off or lose it.
Celebrations: Summer offers several opportunities to relax with co-workers, whether celebrating a holiday or just a Friday.
- Host an employee event – Give employees the chance to interact with each other in a relaxed atmosphere. Celebrate the 4th of July or Labor Day. While previous years have obligated limited people and everyone bringing their own meal, you can now host a larger event with a potluck, catered food, or a food truck (although precautions such as single servers and distancing may still be necessary depending on factors). Or plan an employee outing to go to lunch or see the latest blockbuster movie. Making the effort to give them a small break will help build team cohesiveness while rewarding them for their hard work and dedication.
- Plan a family event – Since summer means more family time to many, consider an event which includes friends and family. This could be a day at the zoo, a sporting event, or a picnic with food, games, and prizes. Time it with a holiday, slow period, or back-to-school. Have several employees help with the planning to avoid burdening one person while also increasing the chances of meeting employees’ expectations.
- Coordinate community service – Give employees paid time off to volunteer for a local non-profit. They can serve meals, mentor high-risk kids, or help build a house or rejuvenate a neighborhood park. Or sponsor a team to do a fundraiser walk, giving them shirts to advertise the group (and the company).
- Extend discounts to employees – If employees could benefit from your products or services, consider offering them complimentary or at a discount. If not, perhaps find a way to pass along vendor discounts; for example, allow employees to order $25 worth of back-to-school supplies through your company, either for their needs or to donate.
Real life: Summer does not negate obligations or realties of current times:
- Soften impacts of inflation and rising costs – Employees may need to make choices between wants and needs or luxuries and bills. Consider some little ways to show your employees you understand. Offer benefits to ease the crunch everyone is feeling such as gift cards for gas, groceries, movies, or restaurants. Or perhaps allow some limited overtime to allow non-exempt employees to earn more money while increasing their productivity for the company. Or temporarily modify your policies to allow certain employees to cash out some of their paid time off in lieu of taking the time.
- Comply with new regulations – While new laws usually take effect around January 1st, several take effect during the summer. These summer laws such as those impacting paid leave, marijuana legalization, employee privacy, workplace speech, and pay rules will go into effect in different states across the country. Take time to update your policies and, when needed, post updated notices and posters.
- COVID-19 – Sorry to say this but COVID-19 is still around. While hospitalizations and deaths are down, vaccination rates are up, treatments are more effective, and quarantine and isolation times are shorter, we still need to be aware of the impacts of a COVID-19 infection since rates are expected to increase again with summer and holiday travel. Even in the best circumstances, one employee getting COVID-19 impacts productivity and could expose a group of people to it, getting a whole department or workplace sick or needing to quarantine. Stay vigilant about PPE, social distancing, ventilation, etc. to reduce the potential rippling effects.
If you and your employees are going to take advantage of the summer months, try to take action that your employees will appreciate and value. Also, before you change a policy or give a benefit, ask your HR consultant, accountant, or employment attorney to help you review the pros and cons while helping you mitigate the risks that might result from even an innocent act.
Affinity HR Group can offer support to you by researching laws, drafting policies, brainstorming ideas, and answering any questions. Subscribers to the Affinity HR Support Plan can receive this consultation as part of the plan, along with numerous other benefits. Please reach out to us at 877-660-6400 or contact@AffinityHRGroup.com with questions.
Paige McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., NIPA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as NIPA and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.