One of the great joys of childhood is summer break -- school's out, and you get couple of months to just relax. Even for teenagers who have summer jobs or are participating in athletic or academic programs, the warm-weather months generally offer a less taxing routine than the rest of the year.
Then, we become adults, and suddenly, the season's not much different from any other -- aside from the fact that the weather is much nicer during the rare hours we get to enjoy it.
Americans definitely want that to change. In a recent survey of U.S. office workers by staffing firm Accountemps, 52% named flexible schedules as the best summertime perk their employer could offer. The option of leaving early on Fridays came in second, at 27%.
What are companies actually doing?
This seems to be an area where what's being offered actually matches what employees want. In a parallel survey of senior managers, 54% said their companies offer flexible schedules, while 32% said it was policy to let workers leave early on Fridays. Interestingly, 53% said they offer a more relaxed summer dress codes, and 48% host company activities like picnics or potlucks, which were only named as the most-desired perks by 11% and 10% of workers respectively. Only 14% of senior managers said their companies offer none of those perks.
"When it comes to recruitment and retention, it's important to be aware of what will resonate with employees, as habits and lifestyles fluctuate throughout the year," said Accountemps Senior Executive Director Michael Steinitz in a press release. "Managers need to pay attention and help their teams achieve work-life balance."
Give the people what they want
Flexibility doesn't mean that employees will be working fewer hours. It's a matter of giving people the ability to work from different locations and at non-standard times, add hours to one day so that they can work fewer on another, or to put in some time on the weekend so they can take a comp day the next week.
They key for companies that want to provide this perk is actively managing workers, and paying more attention to how they get their jobs done than to how many hours they log sitting at their desks.
"Offering workers increased flexibility in the summer can improve employee morale and make your company an attractive place to work," Steinitz said. "These perks come at little cost to companies but often go a long way in keeping staff happy and engaged."
For those in leadership roles at businesses that aren't offering summer flexibility or shortened Fridays, you'd do well to sit down with your workers and talk about what seasonal perks they might want. It pays to listen -- especially now, amidst what is clearly a worker's labor market.
If providing these low-cost or no-cost perks that actually improve quality of life -- and let people relish summer a bit more -- keep your workforce happy, they'll ultimately pay off many times over in the form of a more productive workplace with less staff turnover. And that's a result that should give any boss a warm feeling.