It’s too nice a day to stay indoors – that’s what we’re thinking here at the Chicago office as soon as the sun comes out (which it hasn’t in months). When the rain quits and the ‘windy’ city warms up, we get the urge to stretch our legs and soak in some Vitamin D3 straight from the source. And we’re not alone!

A Captivate Network study of 600 North American workers found that:

  • Productivity drops 20 percent during the summer months
  • Attendance decreases by 19 percent
  • Projects take 13 percent more time to complete
  • Workers are 45 percent more distracted

That’s not only due to employees taking their vacation days when the kids are off from school – it’s also due to increased difficulty focusing.

Which means the challenge, during summer, is to help the employees who are there focus better.

We’ve got a few suggestions for how to do that with employee engagement activities for summer.

 

Suggestion 1: Don’t fight a fine day, use it!

You can’t win against fun in the sun – and even if you did, would it really be winning? Spending time in sunlight has been linked to improving mood, energy levels, productivity and brain function. Invite your team to have lunch outside, hold outdoor meetings or walking meetings in a nearby park.

 

Suggestion 2: Optimize your workday for productivity

New studies on productivity show that:

  • People do their most analytical work earlier in the day
  • People do their most creative work later in the day
  • People are at their productive peak for just 3 hours a day – because that’s how long the average person can concentrate

Put those three facts together, and you may want to reschedule your morning meetings to the afternoon to give employees a chance to concentrate on demanding analytical tasks as soon as they get in to work – and ensure they’re at their creative best for when you need their ideas in your meetings.

“There’s a period of day when we’re at our peak, and that’s best for doing analytic tasks things like writing a report or auditing a financial statement. There’s the trough, which is the dip — that’s not good for anything. And then there’s recovery, which is less optimal, but we do better at insight and creativity tasks.” – Daniel Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, quoted in The Washington Post

For more information on productivity and timing, read The best time of day to get things done, according to data

 

Suggestion 3: Summer hours

Another conclusion that may be drawn from the third stat: If employees are only productive for around 3 hours a day, why not let them off early during the summer? Or allow flexible summer hours that don’t reduce work hour time, but allow people to come in earlier and leave earlier (or vice versa).

This won’t work for every business, especially businesses like ours with clients and coworkers in many different time zones. But some businesses could benefit substantially and see much higher productivity.

At least two recent studies showed that flex program workers were much more productive than their 8-to-5 peers. They achieved more, were sick less frequently, worked longer hours, were happier in their work, and less prone to burnout and psychological stress.

Interestingly, the study group that saw the best results also included managers who were given specific training “to ensure that they encouraged employees to have good work-life balance and strong professional development.”

“When this group was compared with the control group, it emerged that they were far more empowered and supported by their boss, whilst also having more time to spend with their families.

They also reported higher job satisfaction levels and felt less stressed than their colleagues.”

 

Suggestion 4: Encourage Paid Time Off (PTO)

Ninety-three percent of managers found that employees who take time off feel more motivated. Eighty-four percent of managers saw productivity rise after employees return from breaks.

The same percentage of managers observed that when employees take time off, “they return to work with improved focus and creativity.”

And 72 percent of managers agree that encouraging employees to take time off makes those employees more willing to put in long hours when really needed.

That “encouraging” part is extremely important, because it’s not enough to just offer PTO as a benefit – as the leader, you have to actively encourage employees to take it, and reassure them that they aren’t going to be negatively judged for taking time to re-energize.

Individual employees and entire companies benefit when people take their vacations and come back refreshed, creatively energized and engaged. And yet, American employees in particular are taking less time off than ever.

 

Source: The State of American Vacation 2017, Project:Time Off

 

Nervous about letting your employees out for summer? Don’t be!

You might wonder allowing your employees a bit more freedom over the summer to take time off and go outside will be a slippery-slope into laziness – but dozens of studies don’t lie. Taking breaks is one of the best things you can do for your business.

And for engaged employees, and their brave, caring leaders, it helps them stay focused and maintain the high levels of energy they need to do their best work. Engaged employees are more productive when working, and happier all around – especially when they’ve got work-life balance.

Fun fact: Richard Branson provides unlimited vacation time to his employees…

“Freed from the daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have insights into old problems.” – Richard Branson