By Nick Gill, Planning Director at Doner

During the summer holiday season, when the workforce shrinks, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can face challenges to keep business working at 100 %. With most people taking leave during this time and the motivation of the team being hindered by their longing to be out enjoying the sun, SMEs need to look at how they can keep staff happy and interested during the summer months.

SMEs usually have the luxury of being slightly more flexible with working hours. In my view summer should be a time to change your staff’s working hours if you can. Time-shifting is a part of our everyday lives. We watch TV on catch up and do things out of sync to suit us. So when it’s finally sunny, why don’t our work routines change? The modern workplace benefits from the increased blurring of work-life balance to the detriment of life most times, so when it’s sunny, time shift your day to start earlier and enjoy the late afternoon and evening sun.

Dom Robertson, Managing Director of RPM says you must encourage your staff to go outside. “The hardest part about working in an office during the summer months is being stuck indoors. Encouraging your workforce to get outside benefits both their mental and physical wellbeing, creating the ultimate environment for some authentic blue sky thinking. You need to make the most of those sunny blue skies as they can be very few and far between here in the UK. It’s a scientific fact that sunshine makes us happy and that happy workers are 12% more productive than sun-deprived, ceiling restricted, air con weathered workers.”

Robertson adds: “You should encourage and support exercise and fitness within your company. A study conducted by the University of Bristol found that people who exercised on work days are more productive, happier and suffer less stress than on non-gym days with 74% saying they managed their workload better. Encouraging your staff to keep fit is good thing to do all year round, however it’s much easier to get them interested in the summer! You could start a company sports team or give employees an extra 15 minutes on their lunch so they can make that lunch time running group in the park. At RPM we run a ‘Cycle to Work Big Breakfast BBQ’ exclusively for those who have chosen to cycle to work.”

Encouraging extra curricula activities can likewise be a great way to keep feeling inspired in summer. Jo Arden, Head of Strategy at 23red says “Summer Socials are a great way of getting the team together. It can be tied in as a thank you for all their hard work in the year so far, or a simple chance for them to regroup and catch up with their colleagues in an informal setting. It gives everyone something to look forward to at the end of a hard day, even if it is just a quick Friday night drink!”

Arden adds that “the summer is also a great time for inspiration. It is an amazing time for arts and culture in London, and it's not just for the tourists. Whilst the days are long make the most of it by encouraging teams to blend work with play. It'll mean fresher thinking all through the year"

Many businesses receive an increase in holiday requests over the summer. For a small company the sudden decrease in staff over a couple of months may put the pressure on other members of the team who in turn will be taking some time off. But it’s still important to ensure that team members are able to let go of their responsibilities and hand things over when they’re off. That when they go on holiday, they actually go on holiday. That they switch off their devices — or better still leave them at home. Too often we come back from vacation saying, “yeah it was great apart from the incessant phone calls and emails”. Teams need to manage expectations, delegate, say no. SMEs should follow the examples of corporates like VW that are unplugging email communication centrally after hours and during holiday time to make sure their employees remain sane.

Holidays should be a break. Staff should come back energised, not frazzled — it’s better for business, after all.