HR Guide to Summer in the Workplace
It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day signals the return of warm weather, summer activities, and plenty of HR and workplace issues from enforcing dress code and attendance policies to planning a company outing or event. This is your guide to managing summer in the workplace.
Spell out specifics in your dress code policy.
Dress code tends to become more open to interpretation during the summer (sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, capris, skirts, etc.), so be sure to specify exactly what you mean by “business casual” attire instead of leaving it to the employee’s discretion. Spell out acceptable and unacceptable types of clothing and shoes (and examples), colors and styles (depending on your industry or type of organization), and specific days or situations that require different attire (such as formal or casual) that the usual. Also, be sure that you apply the dress code policy uniformly and consistently.
Provide flexible scheduling.
Now is an ideal time to remind employees of your attendance policy as issues of consistently coming into work early or late or “calling off” tend to become more of a problem during the summer months. Another way to address this issue is by introducing flexible scheduling options to allow employees to better self-manage their work/life throughout the summer. In the summer, employees are typically faced with greater work/life constraints such as more activities, family obligations, and children home from school. Seasonal perks like flex-time, shorter hours on Fridays, compressed work weeks, and revised work schedules are all offered by some employers during the summer to help employees achieve better balance.
Hire an intern or new graduate.
Another useful way organizations provide relief to their employees during the summer months is by hiring an intern or new graduate. Interns offer a variety of workforce support and assistance with special projects at an affordable cost. They also bring fresh ideas and perspectives, technical knowledge, and a desire to learn. New graduates offer similar capabilities. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of hiring and compensating an intern or new graduate, check out our Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey for detailed information about recruiting, hiring, training, engaging, and paying interns and new graduates.
Offer time off from work.
Time off is a common request during the summer with three major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Be sure to communicate the paid time off your organization intends to provide for these holidays. Consult our Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey for information about which paid holidays employers plan to offer this year.
Additionally, scheduling and coordinating summer vacations requires an efficient and fair process to ensure that employees are able to take time off when desired, but also that the business is able to meet its demands. Here are some common ways organizations effectively coordinate vacations and paid time off:
- Use a vacation planner or vacation planning system.
- Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates of vacation – such as a vacation request form. Build in supervisory approval.
- Require employees to schedule time off in advance, but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule.
- Have employees coordinate vacation time with their coworkers and/or self-manage vacation time. This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
- Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve vacations (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
- Specify the limits of taking vacation (i.e. people with the same skill set can’t be out at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
- Monitor and take into account other leaves (FMLA, maternity/paternity, sick, disability, etc.).
- Remind employees that the business’ needs need to come first when scheduling vacations. As an employer, you do have the right to require an employee to postpone a vacation or require advanced notice. If you do promise vacation, however, you may be legally bound to it, according to Ohio law.
Start (or re-energize) your wellness program.
There’s no better time to start or re-energize a wellness program than at the beginning of summer. Summer is an ideal time for employees to get into shape and improve their well-being and the workplace can help them do that. Employees also tend to be more interested in wellness at this time of the year given the nice weather, outdoor activities, and greater availability of fresh and healthy foods. This can boost participation rates which help you keep your workforce healthier and manage the sting of rising health insurance costs. Here are some ideas for your summer wellness program:
- Introduce a walking program
- Hold company-wide wellness/fitness competitions, challenges, or team-building functions
- Coordinate informal pick-up sports at lunch-time or after work
- Provide fresh fruit and vegetables
- Hold seminars on nutrition-related topics
- Encourage employees to go outside during their lunch break, or even hold meetings outside
Plan a company outing or event.
The summer is a great time to plan a company outing or event and many businesses take advantage of the nice weather to spend time informally socializing with their employees. Outings and events are great opportunities to get to know your staff, show appreciation, and do some team-building. Here are some tips for planning a summer event, provided by ERC’s own event experts:
- Form a committee. Don’t plan your event alone. Get other employees involved in planning the outing and event and delegate responsibilities.
- Define the event or outing’s purpose. Is the outing intended to be a social or networking event? Or is it an event that celebrates or recognizes something?
- Determine the location. Outdoor locations are ideal for summer events, but make sure that the venue fits your audience and the type of event you are creating. A formal event will need a formal setting.
- Set a date. Identify a couple potential dates and confirm the availability of the location as well as those that need to attend the event. Provide confirmations.
- Create an agenda or timeline for the event. Lay out the entire event in terms of breaks, activities, meals, etc. and the times that they should take place. Assign roles to people on your committee and have them “own” certain tasks.
- Communicate details. Be sure that your guests have all the information they need about the event or outing (i.e. location, directions, timing, attire, meals provided, response directions, and contact information).
- Select food and activities. Make sure these are relevant to the type of event and the people attending, and also consider any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For example, if children will be attending the event, activities and food selections should be fitting.
- Test-drive the event. Test equipment, walk through the venue, and get familiar with the things you’ll need during the outing. Pretend like you’re the guest.
- Make it unique. Traditions are great, but try to build an element of surprise into your outing or event to make each year exciting. This could be a new location or venue, different entertainment, or a new giveaway.
Continue to train and guide performance.
Engagement can often become stale in the summer months. That’s why performance management, training, and development should not wane during the summer months. It’s important to keep investing in these practices so employees stay engaged and productive. For example, the summer signals mid-year, which is an ideal time for employees to meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and progress towards goals and objectives set at the beginning of the year. This discussion can help refocus employees on their goals, help establish new projects and objectives, and identify what additional support is needed. Additionally, while many employers refrain from scheduling training during the summer due to vacations, this actually can be an ideal time for training and development – especially if business is slower than normal during this season.
Have a contingency plan for severe weather.
More severe weather is being predicted for this summer. Be sure that your organization has contingency and disaster recovery plans in place to deal with unexpected power outages, damages, and other issues that severe weather (such as thunderstorms, tornados, flooding, etc.) could cause for your business and its employees.
Prepare for budgeting.
The summer passes quickly and budgeting will be just around the corner. With most employers planning to provide salary increases this year, it may be worthwhile for your organization to benchmark your employees’ compensation so that you are prepared to make good decisions about market adjustments and compensation increases when budgeting time approaches. Keep a compensation project on your agenda this summer and use our recently published 2011 compensation surveys as resources. Similar to compensation, use the slower summer months to catch up on major HR projects that have been on your to-do list.
The key to managing summer in the workplace is to acknowledge employees’ work/life needs, balance work with fun, and continue to engage.
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