Can’t Get Enough Summer Time

Today’s post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute. When employees can’t get enough summer time, they’ll find it on their own.

We’ve often written about the divide between the kinds of flexibility benefits that are offered to workers in jobs that can be done on a laptop (marketer, software designer, analyst) vs. those that can’t (home health aides, EMTs, retail workers). The former can work from home or lakeside when the long days of summer lead to early dismissals and long weekends. The latter have to show up. All of them need the flexibility to balance their responsibilities inside and outside of work, but as our board member John Hollon has written, those whose jobs require presence generally don’t enjoy the same level of flexibility as their office worker peers.

Another of our favorite topics is what it takes to build a culture of trust. Our board member Sharlyn Lauby wrote about this recently. Not because it’s nice to do. But because trust leads to all kinds of other desirable organizational outcomes: better collaboration between colleagues, lower turnover, better customer service, etc.

I bring up these topics of trust and flexibility because over and over we see how intertwined they are for workers, especially those on the frontlines. The good news for frontline workers is that their leverage with their employers is growing.

This chart represents the most current JOLT (job openings and labor turnover) from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of June, there were 0.8 workers available per job opening; i.e. there are more job openings than workers available to fill them. In fact, there has been less than one job seeker per job opening since March of 2018.

And who are these hard to find candidates? Some are the lucky ones who’ll be able to work from home or a vacation spot during the dog days of August. Many though, according the analysis below from the Economic Policy Institute, are in those jobs requiring presence: hospitality, food service, healthcare, government, etc.

Astute employers know they should focus on results and not face time for those lucky employees with laptop jobs. While some may not have received that memo yet, more and more see flexible work options as a strategic benefit. With unemployment remaining at record lows, this more open minded and democratic appreciation of flexibility is finding it’s way to the frontline as well.

If you are interested in extending more flexibility to our workers, here are a list of strategies we’ve compiled over time to help managers help their frontline workers have schedules that will work for them:

  • Have a formal (ideally written) policy regarding time off requests and execute that policy consistently to ensure that your workers trust that the process is fair.
  • Provide workers with paid time off – to refresh themselves and to help avoid absence abuses – and encourage workers to take that time.
  • Take advantage of automated scheduling and analytics tools to ensure that managers have visibility into worker availability and can plan for shift coverage.
  • Provide workers with accrual information and make it easy for them to check their time, request shift changes, or even swap shifts with coworkers. Bonus points if they can do so from their own phones.
  • Plan work initiatives with the higher rate of vacationing workers in mind; avoid launching major initiatives when resources will be scarcer.
  • Consider flextime policies (e.g. 4 x 10 hrs days) during summer months. Another example is manufacturing companies that move from 5-day, 8-hour schedules to 12-hour shift schedules.  There’s a popular pattern (12-hrs) called the “every other weekend off” schedule, in which employees never work more than 2-3 days in a row and get Fri, Sat, and Sun off every other week. Absences go way down for companies that implement this schedule, compared to more traditional schedules.  It doesn’t require any more people and results in the same level of production; it’s simply a more employee-friendly schedule.
  • Seek insight into how to address staffing coverage in summer months by looking at historical trends of both labor drivers AND vacation time booked.  Doing this requires quite a bit of discipline and analysis, but once the models are in place, you can re-run them with little additional effort.

How are you ensuring that summer time absences don’t sink your productivity?

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