Public Affairs Ireland | Training and Development | Conferences

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Whether or not the fine weather stays with us, workplaces across the country may still see a drop in productivity and motivation through the summer months. There are several reasons for this. Our school careers meant that summer was a time of rest, and of play. The sunlight we receive during these months is known to lift your mood (as proven by the frequency of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD), so we tend to seek it out, often to the detriment of our work. Add in to this having school-going children suddenly free of their weekly routine, and it’s no wonder motivation suffers May to August. The research into the demotivating effects of the summer on workers may not have reached Ireland yet, but if the weather here progresses the way some predictions expect it to, decreased motivation may be something management will need to watch out for.

What the studies say

A study of American office-workers found that, during the summer months, productivity dropped by 20%. The study, conducted by Captive Network, also noted that projects during the summer take 13% longer to complete, on average. Employees are reportedly up to 45% more distracted than they usually are. Attendance also saw a decrease of 19%.

In Mazars’ 2016 Employee Motivation Survey, it was found that the half of the respondents (50%) said that a healthy work-life balance was a key motivator. Keith McCarthy, the Director of Human Resource and Organisation Development Consulting at Mazars said,

“Employers need to … consider introducing more flexible working options and well-being focused initiatives to help attract high calibre staff, increase productivity, staff morale and retention”.

Biologically-speaking, higher temperatures can make employees feel sluggish and distracted, taking away from their work.

On the flip-side of SAD, Summer Slacker Syndrome (SSS) is a term coined by the HR Professionals behind My HR Partner Inc., on their blog. It sums up the hazy, lazy attitude of workers during the summer months, especially when the weather is good. However, Randy Harrington Ph.D., a notable author on Transformational Leadership, told them:

“Summer is different mainly because kids are out of school …. The whole world turns upside down”.

Childcare is already a key concern for Irish parents, with cost and availability frequently being lambasted. The demand, then, increases during the summer months when children who would normally have been in school from the morning until the late afternoon are suddenly free all day. This leads to concerns over where the money is better lost – in work hours, or spent on childcare.

Summer, then, presents a Perfect Storm for management. But there are ways to combat the drop in productivity, and manage employee motivation during the summer time.

How to combat it

  • Be flexible: Time in Lieu, adjusted working hours, and flexible schedules are all favourable during the summer months. Management should be prepared to make accommodations not only for those who have children, but for all employees willing to work their contractual hours, albeit during different hours than they would the other nine months of the year. Companies may also offer an earlier cut-off time on Friday afternoons. A study lead by the University of California, Irvine, found that productivity rises around 11am and peaks at 3pm. That means that starting earlier and finishing in the late afternoon could help keep employees motivated.
  • Make accommodations where possible: It may not always be possible to let your employees out early on a Friday, or for everyone in the office to change their hours. However, engaging with workers and making it known that you are acknowledging the change of season, and thus, circumstances, has been mentioned frequently as a key to good motivation management. Even something as small as introducing a “Casual Friday”, or having a more lax approach to the office dress code in general can boost morale and motivation.
  • Use the quiet time to upskill: Summer is the perfect time for training, as it breaks up the monotony of the office grind. Not only does it get you out of the office, but it also offers the chance for networking – a key part of any career’s development. For those in the public sector, the quiet season is a great time to fill their CPD requirements. Training injects new vigour and life into employees, who are generally eager to apply their learning to their everyday work.
  • Get planning, keep busy: Use the time to set future goals, organise schedules, work on plans and develop projects for the coming months. While business is slower, teams can come together more easily to discuss upcoming projects. Cross-departmental projects and new ventures also help to shake up the office environment and ensure that employees stay present and motivated, despite the sunshine. The study by the University of California, Irvine, also found that employees were happiest when they were doing the “busywork” we often put off during busier times of the year. Activities such as filing, filling in spreadsheets or clearing out our inboxes keep us occupied and productive without the stress of a challenging project. Summer is prime time for work like this.
  • Make sure employees take their paid leave: Research done by SHRM noted that most HR professionals are in agreement – holidays improve productivity. A chance to recharge your batteries, whether it’s abroad or in your back garden, means you return to your desk with renewed energy.

Are you worried about managing the motivation, and the talent, of your team?

PAI, in association with Mazars, are holding a Masterclass this Friday, 17 June, entitled “Harnessing people potential – Motivation and Talent”. For more info, click here.

It is free for members. Registration for non-members is €145. You can book through the form below, or by calling us on (01) 819 8500, or emailing info@pai.ie.


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