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To avoid a summer slump, some employers offer flexible work policies

More than four in 10 full-time employed adults report being less productive during the summer months, a recent Dayforce survey finds.
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Anna Kim

5 min read

School may be out for the summer, but the office is still very much in session, at least for employees who work year-round. On top of working a nine-to-five, they may well be coordinating everything from vacation PTO to summer camp drop-off over the next few months.

With all the distractions summertime can bring, it’s no surprise that 41% of full-time employed adults report being less productive during the summer months, according to a recent survey fielded by the Harris Poll on behalf of HR software company Dayforce from May 9–15. Over one-third (35%) reported slacking off while their boss is on vacation.

Some employers have introduced more flexible work policies to beat this summer slump, the data suggests. More than one-half (58%) of those surveyed said their employer offers some type of summertime flexibility, including flexible work hours/schedules (32%), increased work-from-home options (22%), summer Fridays (19%), and seasonal work-from-anywhere options (17%).

Dayforce offers employees 10 work-from-anywhere days each year, according to Donnebra McClendon, global head of culture and belonging. To implement such programs, it’s “key to understand your business,” and to get feedback from departments that will help administer this benefit, such as operations or finance. In addition to planning and communication, “fostering a culture within the organization that really does support flexibility” is key.

HR Brew spoke with a few other employers that have found ways to introduce flexibility into their workplaces, especially during the summertime.

Work from anywhere. Similarly, PR agency ASTRSK offers work from anywhere to its employees three weeks a year. ASTRSK’s employees normally work from the firm’s New York City office two days a week, but are allowed to work from any location the weeks of the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, as well as the week between Christmas and New Year.

The July work-from-anywhere option is a longstanding benefit that has been in place for more than seven years, Lisa Horton, the firm’s president, told HR Brew. Within the last four years, ASTRSK designated the winter holiday weeks as work from anywhere, too.

ASTRSK employees receive 15 days of PTO a year, “and we really didn’t want them to have to use their PTO for time frames when we felt like we really could be flexible,” she said of the thinking behind this benefit.

These weeks tend to fall during slower periods, which opens up opportunities for other types of focus and collaboration, Horton said. “We like to use those weeks for brainstorming and coming up with creative ideas, or even just using that time to get things done that maybe fall to the bottom of the to-do list.”

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Firmwide shutdowns. US employees with consulting firm EY receive two week-long breaks a year, Wendy Edgar, HR director for the Americas, told HR Brew. The firm first gave all employees off the week of Fourth of July in 2017. It was successful enough that the board decided to make it an annual occurrence, and has since done the same for Christmas week.

While the majority of US employees get time off during these firmwide shutdown weeks, some have obligations that require them to work through these periods—Edgar’s compensation team, for example, does a compensation cycle in the summer. To account for such exceptions, EY offers “deferred holiday hours” that can be taken within three months of when an employee worked during a holiday. Employees who work December and January holidays have a six-month period to take the deferred hours.

If HR leaders want to institute a policy like this, Edgar recommended starting out with a pilot. “We didn’t want to make it official until we saw that it worked with the business,” she said of the first firmwide shutdown EY tried out in 2017. Once EY’s leaders saw it worked well, it was easier to secure their buy-in.

Preparation is key, she added. Managers “try to prepare not only internally, but with their clients, to set expectations so that the team really can enjoy their time,” Edgar said. “Our message is, we will be there for urgent things…but really, this time off and disconnecting is healthy.”

Virtual workweeks. Hybrid employees who typically work two in-office days for insurance company Liberty Mutual can work fully remotely for seven weeks between July and the end of the year, Chief People Officer Jen Ughetta told HR Brew in an email via PR rep Liz Pollock.

These “virtual-first” workweeks coincide with holidays, including the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and the last two weeks of the year. Liberty Mutual first tried out virtual weeks last year, according to Ughetta.

“These virtual-first weeks are being offered as another way to support work-life balance and give employees time back in their days to do things they enjoy—like spending time with family or traveling,” she said.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.