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Do Employees Truly Reap the Benefits of Summer Flex Policies?

June 4, 2024, from Canadian HR Reporter

A recent survey of almost 3,000 full-time employees in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. shows a surprising contradiction: even though employees really want flexibility during the summer, many feel too overwhelmed or busy to actually use it.


Survey data by Dayforce indicated that 83% of respondents believe flex policies during the summer can aid in the fight against burnout. Yet, more than half of employees whose companies have these policies say they can’t fully take advantage of them.


The Dilemma: Flexibility vs Productivity

Anil Verma, professor emeritus of industrial relations and HR management at the Rotman School of Management, spoke about this issue, stating that “flexibility should be matched to demand for labor, for demand for the product. If your demand is peak during the summer, then encouraging people to take more time off or to go away during summer doesn’t make sense.”


Challenges of Summer Flex Policies

The survey found many pitfalls and problems employees associate with summer flex policies.


  • 31% find it impossible to complete their work when their coworkers are away.
  • 25% have an increased level of anxiety regarding getting more things done in less time.
  • 22% are too busy to take advantage of summer flex policies, even though they are interested in doing it.


Engaging in the standard policies will not be enough; they have to communicate what they can realistically do. Verma advises to “engage in dialogue with employees to understand their needs and communicate demand patterns effectively.”.


The Disconnect Dilemma

One primary concern that employees raise is their inability to disconnect on vacation. Verma said that only 39% of survey respondents indicate that they fully disconnect on summer vacation. Some provincial governments and the Canadian federal government are considering legislating a “right to disconnect.” Still, Verma added that organizations should be getting their position laid out in policy.


“It’s got to be set from the top as policy,” he said. “The leader has to say, ‘‘This is the organizational value. We want people to disconnect and recharge and recoup their energies so they can come back to full vigour next week, so don’t bother with emails on the weekends.’ 


Balancing Employee Wants with Business Needs

Employers must also ask themselves beforehand whether their business is seasonal and whether work hours may be cut down or staff released for summer. “In many seasonal industries in Canada, activity peaks during summer, requiring more staff,” Verma notes. 


Having understood demand patterns, he adds, employers should systematically consult the staff to let them know the staffing needs. They can offer an inducement to the staff to work during peak hours. “A firm’s main objective is to serve the customer and not the employee,” says Verma. “But if you trust and inform the employee well, they can help make the right decisions.” When employers maintain open communication channels where both the required flexibility and the business demands are synchronized periodically, they can adopt a flexible working environment that meets the needs of their employees and the business during the summer period.




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