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The peak summer holiday season is on us, when the workplace can sometimes seem like a ghost town if businesses fail to plan ahead in good time. In order to avoid the negative impacts of an understaffed office on employee morale and a business’ bottom line, it is essential for employers to always maintain sufficient staffing levels, while also considering how to keep workers happy and motivated over the summer months.

As business leaders are likely to be swamped with holiday requests over the main school holiday period, it is important to keep a skeleton staff in place in order to avoid any disruption to the everyday running of the business. To avoid having excessive numbers of staff away at the same time, it is vital to have a clear annual leave policy in place. As well as ensuring that policies are communicated to employees in writing, for example, in their employee handbook, keeping an accurate and up-to-date record of approved holiday dates will ensure that workers are treated fairly, while maintaining staffing levels throughout the summer.

An effective annual leave policy, must be developed in the context of the company’s key objectives and trading patterns. For example, some businesses may be relatively quiet over the summer months, while industries such as the catering and leisure sectors are likely to experience a peak during the warmer weather. While most businesses will endeavour to grant employees their preferred holiday dates, employees do not have an automatic right to choose when they take annual leave, and keeping the business on track should be a priority.

To ensure key areas and roles are covered over the summer months, it is helpful to put a process in place well before workers start to jet off on their summer holiday. If this involves a co-worker covering for another, organisations must make sure the individuals involved understand the assignments they have been set and agree priorities with them to ensure they are able to handle the extra work. It is also a good idea to divide up the additional tasks between a number of people in the department or office to prevent them becoming stressed or overwhelmed. Encouraging employees to write a clear and comprehensive handover document before they leave the office can also facilitate this process.

If there are a limited number of staff in the office at one time, it is important to keep them motivated. Especially in the summer months as the weather gets hot, employee wellbeing should be top of a business’ agenda. Although the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 does not identify a maximum temperature in the workplace, Regulation 7 does state that employers have a duty of care to maintain a reasonable temperature. Conducting a risk assessment and communicating directly with employees will help employers to understand what staff would consider a comfortable temperature. Providing ventilation by investing in fans or air conditioning and keeping staff hydrated by providing a water cooler should help boost staff wellbeing over the summer months.

Motivation can also be achieved through benefits such as allowing flexible working whenever possible. Whilst there is no legal requirement for employers to do so, providing ice lollies, cold drinks or summer snacks are likely to be welcomed by employees, making them feel like they are valued within the workplace.

Sourcing from a single supplier gives businesses an opportunity to reduce procurement expenses over the summer through economies of scale and reduced delivery costs. However, single sourcing also reduces the time spent on monitoring deliveries and administration which can diminish workforce stress levels. This also leaves more time for employees to manage increased workloads when staff are on annual leave.

Summer is a popular season for members of staff to take annual leave, which is essential for office productivity levels and motivation throughout the year. As long as business leaders ensure they plan ahead, set priorities and ensure that remaining employees stay motivated, it is not impossible for a business to run on a skeleton staff and capitalise on the trading opportunities which arise during the summer months.