Natalie Trudel

What isn’t distracting about a long-awaited North American summer? The long days, persistent sunshine, and breath-slowing heat are more than welcomed by the masses. After spending what feels like an eternity in the cold anticipating the arrival of this magnificent season, it is only natural to want to enjoy it. As I’m writing this, I can’t help but glance out of my window and daydream about lounging by the pool without a care in the world except for refreshing my cold drink. Where was I? Oh yes…  Unfortunately, the economy does not take summers off and business must go on. Should organizations be worried that their distracted summer workforce will, inadvertently, allow company productivity to dip during the summer months?

It is true that most employees take extended vacations during the months of June –September in order to enjoy the summer with family and friends. School schedules and great weather make this time of year perfect for taking holidays. The scramble to coordinate vacations and the backlog of action items that result is often a concern for managers and companies; however, there may be some consoling facts about summer vacations and their impact on performance.

Vacations are actually healthy – take them and encourage others to take them. Recent research, conducted by Grawitch and Barber, suggests that time off from work can increase productivity. It makes sense that giving employees a mental break and time to relax will refresh and invigorate them – leaving them rested and ready to perform when they return. Unfortunately, many companies are failing to realize the benefits of a properly refreshed workforce. A survey conducted by the employment firm Hudson says that more than half of American workers fail to take all their vacation days. 30% say they use less than half their allotted time and 20% take only a few days instead of a week or two.

For those who do manage to get away, there may be an expectation to work during vacation. A survey conducted in June 2011 by Harris Interactive, found that roughly 13% of employees who have taken or plan to take a vacation this summer reported they are expected to work while away. Nearly 18% noted they are not expected to work, but must be available should an emergency arise, even when on vacation. The North American workforce has become addicted to constantly checking their emails and blackberries instead of tuning out and relaxing during their time off. I guarantee that most of you reading this are guilty of that. Economic and corporate pressures often leave employees feeling guilty for taking time off – especially for senior personnel. The reality is that the results of delaying certain tasks might be less detrimental to company success in the long run than having a workforce of overworked, wired  and tired staff.

Your employees aren’t the only ones taking time-off. Data from Replicon shows that employees are 31% more likely to use vacation time in June through August than any other time of the year. What does this mean? Although your employees aren’t working during certain times, neither are your competitors’ or suppliers’. If you stop to think about the dozens of suppliers and contacts that each employee works with on a daily basis to complete tasks, it is actually quite astonishing. If that network of contacts and suppliers are on vacation, then production is delayed anyways. The trick is to equip employees with the organization skills and task planning capabilities they need to coordinate projects around vacations.

Manager vacations can empower staff. Tanveer Naseer, a well-known business coach and writer, noted that when a manager takes vacation it shows their team that they are trusted to manage themselves. Most managers make the mistake of constantly projecting their indispensability to their employees. By taking time off from work, leaders provide their team members with the opportunity to develop their skills and effectively manage the fort while they are away. This not only empowers employees, but also allows them to develop and become engaged in the company.

Performance management technology tracks performance for you! This point should be the most comforting of all. Companies that have clear, realistic, and agreed upon performance goals and who track them regularly (not just once a year) are able to glide through summer distraction and vacations without worrying about lost productivity.  Automated performance management software, such as CRG emPerform, allows you to set and track the status of performance goals in real time. If any dips in output are noticed, the matter can be seen and addressed in a timely and efficient manner. If a company’s historical performance data shows that performance declines significantly during the summer months,  they can factor that into business planning or prepare training courses or manager coaching seminars to remedy the problem – depending on the industry. Most importantly, if an employee is fully aware of the expectations set out for them for a period of time and are aware that the results are monitored, they are more likely to complete those goals instead of staring out the window wishing they were by the pool.

So don’t let the summer season scare you. Summer will try its best to distract employees with its luring glories and summer vacations will inevitably delay certain tasks; however, a well-rested, empowered, and engaged workforce will more than make up for anything that might be lost. Let technology track performance for you and even YOU will feel less guilty about taking a much needed vacation.