HAS SUMMER ARRIVED?
Keeping your team happy and motivated during the summer may be difficult, especially when the weather is sunny (and hot) and most workers would prefer to be relaxing on a beach; or a sun lounger; partaking in a refreshment or two; or watching any of the many sporting events on at the moment. Instead workers find themselves working in the office, shop, factory or warehouse. So, what can you do? Obviously, you cannot give everyone the day off, on those hot summer days.
Employee engagement is a continual challenge for employers looking to keep their staff motivated and working hard. Some employers will already provide a remuneration package that provides ‘add-on’ benefits such as financial incentives and health benefits. But what about the little rewards, the “one-offs” that say: ‘good job’ or ‘thank you’?
During the summer months, it’s easy for staff to lose focus: the commute to work feels longer and a bit of a drag; temperatures rise, some employees are forced to watch the sunshine through a window, others wish they had a window.
It has been argued that the key to employee engagement is making your employees feel appreciated for what they do, and sometimes small, timely personal gestures can mean a lot more and go further towards keeping them happy.
So, is there an economic solution?
Small, inexpensive forms of engagement can go a long way to helping improve your company culture and showing that you really care about your staff needs, even if it’s just a way to acknowledge, for example, the difficulty of working during the heat during the summer period.
What about an Ice Cream/Ice lolly or an Ice pop?
It has been suggested that when the 3pm slump hits, why not surprise staff and brighten the last few hours of their day with an ice cream? It will cool them down and can provide instant gratification, as well as generate a more positive mood towards the employer.
Of course you need to keep in mind food allergies and intolerances, key health and safety issues and to make sure you don’t leave anyone out.
What about a temporary relaxation of the Dress Code?
Hot and humid conditions could lead employees to adopt a more informal approach to their dress codes.
Most organisations do have dress codes, and it is in these hot spells that employees test employers as to their enforceability. Various questions arise: Does what someone is wearing comply with the dress code? If not, would disciplinary action be justified? Should the dress code be relaxed? Are health and safety measures compromised? How do you maintain the control measures afforded by PPE?
Some employers may relax formal dress codes to ensure reasonable comfort for workers during hot weather. However, it is advisable that an appropriate level of modesty and professionalism is maintained. Overly sloppy or skimpy summer attire (for both sexes) can create its own problems. Aside from potentially being found to be offensive or distracting to co-workers, it might well expose workers to key health and safety hazards including for those working outside, heat stroke or sunburn.
Commercial considerations also come into play as customers/clients may consider the relaxed dress code to be unprofessional and be deterred from doing business with you.
So, what should you do?
Bearing all this in mind, it is important that you achieve a balance between keeping your workers comfortable, maintaining an appropriate business image and providing the right level of health and safety protection. If you are thinking of relaxing your dress code, you should exercise caution, ensure that any changes to the dress code are not discriminatory, decide what is and what isn't acceptable and let employees know.
Remember that casual clothing often depicts slogans or graphics – make sure that those that may be offensive are not permitted.
As always, dress codes should include a requirement that employees dress suitably and appropriately for work.
Health & Safety Measures
Do remember that where your risk assessments require the use of Personal Protective Equipment, it must continue to be worn irrespective of the weather condition. In addition, personnel who work outside in the summer are potentially at risk of established long term health issues caused by too much exposure to the sun. This is not just about long term risks of skin cancer but is also about sunstroke which can become an immediate issue leading to employees going on sick leave. Consequently, you should have rules and safety measures in place that protect personnel working outside. Make sure employees remain well hydrated, covered up and in some circumstances, it may be appropriate for you to provide high factor sun block and supplies of water.
Legislation does not specify a maximum temperature above which employees can legitimately decline to work. However, this does not mean employers can ignore high workplace temperatures, as they have duties of care and they should put in place reasonably practicable measures to ensure the welfare of their employees. For the most part this is common sense.
Implementing the Changes
Any changes to the dress code will need to be communicated clearly to all staff. The policy will need to be easily accessible and if it is to be a repeated policy you should think about incorporating it in the contract of Employment / Employee Handbook. Employees must be informed that a failure to adhere to the policy may be treated as a disciplinary matter and of the penalties that may result for non-compliance. Obviously a key term of the 'relaxed' code would be that such relaxation is just for specific periods as notified by management.
It may be useful to have a note on the staff notice board during the summer months to remind employees of the changes and provide guidance on what is deemed to be inappropriate attire.
Other considerations in the hot weather include enabling cold liquids to be taken, adequate ventilation, air-cooling / air-conditioning facilities - portable units are often effective in localised areas.
As always, enjoy the sun and good weather whilst we have it – if you are going away this summer, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable trip - and finally, if you have any queries, please call us.