This week marks the official start of the summer, and as employees kick off their heels in favor of flip-flops, employers are serving up some red-hot benefits.
Three out of four HR managers who responded to a OfficeTeam survey released in June said their companies offered flexible schedules during summer months, and 63 percent of them said employees could opt to leave early on Fridays. Employees who responded to the survey agreed these are their top choices for summer benefits.
"It's very easy for productivity to drop in the summer months because naturally people just want to get out and do things, they have other things on their schedule, it's lighter longer, [etc.]," said Robert Hosking, executive director for staffing service OfficeTeam.
It's only natural for people to want to be more active and even expect some flexibility during the summer months, he said.
Of course, organizations need to do their homework and determine if it's practical before implementing such a policy.
"Some businesses [are] driven around customers or clients where they need to be on call or people need to be available to deal with issues," Hosking said. In such cases, the company may not be in a position to dismiss all workers at noon on Fridays; however, a staggered approach might be the solution.
"Maybe one Friday certain people can take off a little early and the next Friday others can — so it's setting forward a schedule knowing what your limitations are [and making sure] everybody is aware it's fair and equitable," he said.
Either way, offering flexible hours is an easy way to boost morale and may not be the blow to employee productivity business leaders dread.
"It's funny — sometimes you actually get more done in fewer hours because you're working hard to meet a deadline and they can actually get it done in a shorter window of time," he said.
Twenty-eight percent of HR managers say their companies organize activities, such as picnics or potlucks, during the summer months as a way to boost morale for the team.
"If they can't offer flex hours, maybe [they could provide] ice cream sundaes on Fridays or something like that where everybody can take a break from their job and enjoy each other's company," Hosking said.
At the very least, employers can encourage workers to take advantage of their lunch breaks and the vacation time that's due to them.
"If you're a manager or leader in a company, it's great to tell everybody else to take vacation, but if you're staying late every night and don't take it yourself, it's hard for people to believe that they can or feel comfortable doing it themselves," he said.
In addition, most HR managers (57 percent) are offering workers the option to swap out business attire for a more casual look.
Relaxing the dress code, however, can be somewhat of a slippery slope because what people perceive as acceptable or appropriate attire varies greatly, Hosking said. This is a more pronounced challenge for companies with customer-facing employees.
What's key to counter problems before they even arise is to set up and possibly even print a policy that outlines expectations of what's acceptable or not, he said.
Regardless of which summer benefit or benefits organizations choose to order off the menu, doing so isn't merely about giving employers a warm, fuzzy feeling (particularly during the summer!). It can be seen as a wise business decision for several reasons.
"From a retention perspective, there's usually periods of time throughout the year where companies are particularly busy or they have deadlines — whether it's budget period or business plans — so there's an expectation that people put a little more in during those times," Hosking said. "This is like giving a little back to them and saying, 'Thanks for all those other things,' and people do appreciate that."
Offering flexible hours or allowing workers to leave early on Fridays can also decrease absenteeism because employees can cross tasks or outings off their list that they may otherwise take time off to do.
Last — but certainly not least — it can serve as bait for potential candidates during the recruitment process.
"Particularly now as the job market is moving in the right direction ... people have other options — so if you're trying to bring someone into [your] company, it's nice to [be able to] say: 'Here are some of the perks we offer our employees,'" he said.
Deanna Hartley is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine.
Thanks to Deanna Hartley / TalentMgt / Talent Management Magazine / MediaTec Publishing Inc.
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