“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
-Sam Keen

Is the Summer Slump a Thing?:

Feeling sluggish lately? As the temperature rises and employees turn to thoughts of margaritas and campground, down goes the productivity. This can amp up not only your waste of talent, but could also spiral to create more defects, decrease safety, and ultimately erode your bottom line. Here’s how the dog-days affect your productivity:

  • It takes 13% longer to finish tasks
  • 45% of your workers feel distracted
  • Your workplace attendance drops 18%

And that’s not even the bad news. Employee behaviour shifts dramatically as the temperature rises. You can expect to see:

  • 63% more socializing
  • Longer lunch breaks 51% of the time
  • 49% of people ducking out a little early

Heat Matters:

unproductive at work

Temperature plays a big role. We’re at our productive best around 20 degrees C or even cooler. David Letterman notoriously kept his studio at around 14 degrees C. He claimed that the cool air made the jokes crisper.

As the heat mercury rises, attention spans plunge. Productivity drops significantly after 25 degrees. If you don’t have A/C in your office, or even if you do, you may want to bring in a couple fans and close the blinds on south and/or west facing windows.

What Tactics Don’t Work:

Companies have tried and failed and tried again over the decades to perk up the summer slump. You’re fighting against nature, but there are ways to do it.

First, here’s what history has shown doesn’t work all that well:

  • “Summer Fridays” (ie. making people work longer Mon-Thurs so they can take Friday off). This tends to results in increased stress levels and a productivity dip.
  • Early arrival/ early departure: this is a “siesta-lite”, and involves making people start earlier so they can leave in the heat of the afternoon. But they’re tired from lack of sleep and the apathy rises quickly.

What Works:

You can’t mandate productivity from the corner office. Talk to your staff individually. Engage them frankly; they’ll appreciate that more than pretending there’s not an issue.

Tailor the solution to their needs. Do they have kids who are home from school? Then perhaps a day working remote a week is the best option.

In the office, try giving more frequent, shorter breaks during the day. Set up a comfortable spot where people can unwind for 10 minutes. Your staff will be thirsty, so have some cold water on hand. Giant companies like Google provide free catering to their staff and always have snacks and drinks available. Google isn’t doing that for charity; they’re doing it because it decreases waste.

Be flexible. Every employee has a different situation and is going to have different needs. Engage them instead of dictating to them. This is another way to eliminate waste, and like all waste management, the more proactive buy-in you have from your team, the more efficient you’ll be.