1. Plan for gaps. Requests for time off can be hard to refuse but it’s important to ensure you maintain a skeleton staff to make sure the office continues to function properly. ‘Advance planning, and encouraging teams to work out a fair solution between them if there is a clash, can mitigate against this becoming a serious problem,’ says Lena Sabbagh, director of development at HR consultancy Penna.
2. Could you close? It’s not an option for most businesses, but if your customers aren’t going to mind then you might consider taking a leaf out of the manufacturers’ book and closing down for a couple of weeks during August, as the digger maker JCB does.
3. Be flexible. It’s bad enough being stuck at your desk while everyone else is away without your boss zealously holding you to an unwavering 40-hour work week. ‘If people have the time to start a little bit later or leave a bit earlier to enjoy their summer evenings there’s no harm in it – as long as what needs to get done gets done,’ says Lisa Pantelli, director of employee engagement consultancy People Lab. Relinquishing a couple of hours a week can pay off in spades if it makes staff that little bit more productive.
4. Think of the children. The six weeks of summer can be a nightmare for parents. ‘Smart organisations are very attuned to this,’ says Helen Rosethorn, an employee engagement expert and partner at Prophet. Making life easier for them can help reduce absenteeism. That could mean being more flexible, occasionally allowing staff to bring their kids to work or, if your company is big enough, opening a summer crèche.
5. Be a good sport. Most summers play host to big sporting events – this year it’s the Rio Summer Olympics. It is likely to coincide with a jump in the number of sick days used, but there’s only so much you can do. ‘You can’t force people to come in if they’re sick,’ says Pantelli. If there’s a major event earlier in the day then you might consider showing it on a big screen in the office.
6. Get out more. There’s nothing like a summer breeze. ‘When I was CEO of a firm within Omnicom we used to have monthly town halls, in the summer we took them outside,’ says Rosethorn. It might be worth breaking out a barbecue or some ice cream too. ‘Those kinds of touches are always appreciated.’
7. Pause for thought. Assuming you’re not overwhelmed by soaring absences, a few quiet weeks can be a chance to reflect. ‘Is there an opportunity to think about: where have we got to so far this year, what’s next, how are we aligning with our strategy?’ asks Pantelli. And perhaps spend some time figuring out how on earth you’re going to cope over Christmas.
Do say: 'The sun’s shining, who fancies a choc ice? I’m buying.'
Don't say: 'I’m off to the Algarve for six weeks, see you in September.'
Illustration: Nick Shepherd