Almost 60% of workers in Britain would welcome the introduction of an annual business 'summer shutdown', according to a new survey.

The study by virtual assistant provider ava found that workers in the UK feel that shutting up shop during traditionally quieter summer periods would in turn lead to a rise in productivity and cost-efficiency.

The older generation was more likely to support the idea of a summer shutdown, with 66% agreeing with the idea. Just under six in 10 (59%) in England would welcome it, compared with 68% who oppose a shutdown in Northern Ireland. Interestingly, nearly two thirds of women (63%) said they'd like to see their employer shutdown for a few weeks, but a comparatively large 44% of men disagreed with the idea.

Should we shutdown for summer?

All industries suffer downturns of productivity and profits. And whilst many simply put it down to ‘that time of year’ and do whatever they can to prepare for it, others have honed their schedules and working practices in order to capitalise on traditional lulls.

The annual summer shutdown concept has been adopted by many businesses – most notably construction equipment giants JCB, which closes its main Rochester factory for up to three weeks in the summer. Not only does it cut back on expenditure and outgoings, but it gives all staff a designated period to enjoy the summer, fully paid.

TED, the series of global conference providers, also closes for two weeks in August. Former media executive June Cohen, explained that the annual shutdown was to give hard-working staff a chance to fully recharge. Writing on the company's blog, she said: “By taking the same two weeks off, it makes sure everyone takes vacation. Planning a vacation is hard – most of us would feel a little guilty to take two weeks off if it weren’t pre-planned for us, and we’d be likely to cancel when something inevitably came up. This creates an enforced rest period, which is so important for productivity and happiness.”

Summer of sport

It’s no secret that many businesses come under real pressure in the summer months. As this Financial Times (paywall) article alludes to, the best way to boost the nation’s productivity would be to “cancel August”.

The Olympics are a matter of weeks away, Andy Murray will be looking to reclaim the Wimbledon title, and the European Championships are already underway with Thursday's clash between Wales and England eagerly anticipated. In 2014, the FIFA World Cup was estimated to have cost British businesses around £4 billion in lost productivity as a result of employees pulling sickies.

Now more than ever, it’s essential that companies reassess their operations and figure out if there’s a way to make a compromise with staff so that things keep ticking over nicely. If you know that orders start to dry up in August, does it make sense to introduce a shutdown?

You may find that a large chunk of your workforce books in a week or two of annual leave in June, July and August anyway. This is arguably an even greater challenge, as you need to cope with disruptions over a longer period than you would if you sanctioned a full shutdown for two or three weeks.

Lucie Greenwood, sales manager at ava, said: “Regardless of a company’s size or profit margins, a decrease in performance and income can be a very stressful time.

“However, it’s these periods in which you have the most time on your hands to take a step back and really look at how you work as a business. When you’re flat out and the money is pouring in, it’s very easy to assume everything is fine – when in fact there may be many aspects of your operations that can be improved.

"We tend to see a spike in clients contacting us for extra help during the summer months because a lot of their staff take annual holidays, leaving them short-handed."