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Keep your cool this summer: 4 common HR headaches and how to manage them

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For HR, summer isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, summer can pose some unique challenges for HR pros.  

Of course, there are some positive sides to the season – like planning outdoor events and other engagement activities – but there are also many considerations that HR needs to keep in mind to help balance giving workers flexibility and freedom and keeping operations running smoothly.  

Here are four problems that HR pros are likely to run into during the summer months and what to do about them.   

1. Dress code 

The problem: Depending on the limitations of your dress code policy, workplace attire could cause issues during summer months, especially in particularly warm areas or areas prone to heat waves.  

Certain types of clothing may make employees feel uncomfortable and overheated, which can stop them from doing their best work. In fact, studies have shown that productivity can be affected by temperature, and higher temperatures are correlated to lower productivity. 

Solution: To combat the summer heat, many HR pros turn to summer dress codes to ensure that workers are safe, comfortable and productive.  

A summer dress code can be tailored to fit your company’s needs. It could look like allowing a wider range of clothing such as lightweight T-shirts or breathable shoes, or allowing workers with uniforms to opt for a polo T-shirt or khaki pants. 

Practical tip: Whatever type of summer dress code policy you implement, ensure that expectations are set for employees and provide a guideline, such as: 

  • When the policy starts and ends 
  • What is and isn’t acceptable, and 
  • How the policy will be enforced. 

2. Work schedules 

The problem: Most employees take advantage of the summer season to spend time outside or go on trips. When work gets in the way of that, employees can be distracted and unproductive. Plus, employees who don’t have ample time to rest and recharge can be more prone to burnout, leading to disengagement and turnover. 

Solution: To keep employees engaged and satisfied, many companies have introduced flexible schedule benefits such as “Summer Fridays” – where employees work half days or not at all on Fridays – or four-day workweeks. This benefit can be especially desirable in the summer months to help employees plan time away to recharge and reset, overall promoting a healthier work-life balance. 

Practical tip: These types of perks aren’t one-size-fits-all, and not every type of flexible scheduling policy can work for every company. There are many ways to approach flexible scheduling. 

For example, some companies may have a policy that requires employees to work their full hours for the week, just with a more flexible schedule, while others may be able to offer employees a full Friday off with no strings attached.  

3. Managing PTO 

The problem: Many workers tend to save their vacation time for summer – nearly six in 10, a 2019 Accountemps study found. These trips and vacations can often throw off workers’ schedules and create scheduling conflicts, particularly when it comes to too many leave requests at one time.  

Balancing letting employees take well-deserved time off and ensuring that all departments are running smoothly can be tricky. Not to mention, letting one employee take time off and denying another employee’s request can lead to complaints of preferential treatment.  

The solution: The best way to handle these requests is to put clear language in your employee handbook that requires employees to give ample notice for any time off requests. That way, managers can plan in advance to ensure that teams are still working efficiently. 

It can also be a good idea to hire some extra seasonal help or contract workers when necessary to allow employees to relax and recharge while keeping operations running smoothly. 

Practical tip: To avoid claims of preferential treatment – or even more severe claims such as retaliation – ensure that you have clear policies in place when it comes to handling time off requests fairly. This can include: 

  • Handling and documenting each PTO request on a first-come, first-served basis  
  • Tracking previous time off requests, or 
  • Allowing team members to trade shifts to allow for more flexibility. 

4. Health and safety 

The problem: Sometimes the heat can not only be uncomfortable – it can be dangerous. Especially when it comes to warehouse workers or those who are doing manual labor outside, the summer heat can take a real toll on their bodies. 

With stricter dress codes where workers are required to wear specific uniforms or protective gear, the wrong clothing can put employees at risk for heat-related illnesses like heatstroke and heat stress. In fact, there were 43 work-related deaths due to environmental heat exposure in 2019, and 90% of heat-related deaths occurred between May and September. 

The solution: It’s important to take all necessary precautions, even if workers don’t seem overheated or unwell. Heat can creep up quickly, and especially during the hot summer months, it’s always better to be overly cautious than risk injury.  

Although routine reminders to take breaks to cool down and drink water are helpful, HR can take some more actionable steps to keep workers healthy and safe during the summer, like: 

  • Creating designated cool-down spaces equipped with water and fans 
  • Keep coolers around the worksite stocked with water bottles or electrolyte drinks, and 
  • Ensure uniforms are made of lightweight, breathable material.  

Practical tip: If you have an especially at-risk workforce, or simply want to ensure employees are staying on top of their health, you may want to consider incentivizing employees to cool down and stay safe. 

You can encourage employees to stay hydrated by providing company-issued refillable water bottles or setting a company-wide goal for water bottle refills.  

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