Slacking off at work? Summer might impact your office productivity, studies show

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer

Whether employees are returning to their routines after a relaxing vacation or daydreaming about an upcoming getaway, summertime warmth and sunshine may impact productivity in the office.

According to a 2012 Captivate Office Pulse survey, 600 white-collar workers reported a 20 percent drop in productivity and a 19 percent decline in attendance.

Similarly, a Grasshopper survey found that 25 percent of workers were less productive during summer.

Forty-five percent admitted to being distracted while on the job, causing tasks to take 13 percent longer to complete, according to Captivate’s survey.

Woman daydreaming at work

(Photo/pixdeluxe/Getty Images)

People also tend to take slightly longer lunch breaks, according to the Andrews Sikes Group.

“Naturally in the summer, [attendance dips] and project turnaround time increases because a lot of folks are on vacation, so it’s harder to mobilize resources or people when they’re away,” said Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide.

A 2014 Harvard University study, which was conducted in a climate-controlled environment, concluded that good weather hindered workplace productivity, while employees remained focused during unfavorable outdoor conditions.

“On sunny days, participants are likely to already be distracted, as outdoor options are salient in their minds,” according to the study.

The idea of summertime as a leisurely period stems from our academic years, when children eagerly anticipate an extended time away from school, according to psychotherapist Dr. Steven Rosenberg.

“There’s a lot more social activity, people are out and about and the days are longer,” Rosenberg said.

“You [also] have more daylight left at the end of the day, more physical activity, more leisure time and things to do,” he said.

Some experts feel that warmer weather in itself has no negative effect on productivity.

“If someone stays out too late enjoying the weather or lounges by the pool for too long, then [he or] she may drag a bit the next day,” said Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert.

“The temperature isn’t as much to blame for lack of productivity as it is the ‘vacation mode’ that many turn on in the summer months,” she said.

Captivate Office Pulse found that shortened summer work hours can negatively impact the likelihood of workers slacking off.

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Of the 12 percent of employers offering longer hours Monday through Thursday for a three-day weekend, 52 percent of workers reported a drop in productivity, the survey found.

Eighty percent of employees said they were less productive if allowed to leave work early on Fridays; however, only 4 percent of surveyed companies offered this type of flexibility.

Stepping away from the laptop

In a 2017 Captivate Office Pulse survey, 55 percent of workers planned to take time off during July, while 47 percent said they’d vacation in August.

Employees seem to be shifting away from checking work emails or texts while away; 60 percent of people planned to unplug completely from job responsibilities.

Higher reported stress levels may explain the desire to disconnect during time off.

“If you are looking at working while you are away and you need to really do something, then it’s okay to do it,” said Rosenberg.

“But if you’re looking at making it a work vacation, you don’t really have time to enjoy yourself,” he said.

Hot or cold: Workplace thermostat wars raise tempers

The battle over an ideal office temperature is seemingly never-ending, with 80 percent of workers having complained about the thermostat setting.

Being too cold or too hot at work can put a strain on productivity, according to a 2014 survey. It found that uncomfortable office temperatures caused 29 percent of people to spend up to 30 minutes not working each day.

Most people prefer working in a warmer setting, a 2004 Cornell University study found.

Rosenberg said the workplace location also plays a role.

“If you work in a climate that has a high relative humidity, [you’re more likely to feel] bogged down than you would in a low humidity level,” Rosenberg said.

“That saturation point does make us feel sluggish,” he added.

“If you have a sleepy employee, they’re not going to be as productive,” Cohen said.

Tips to tackle productivity loss

Rosenberg suggested that employers stagger vacation time to prevent loss of productivity due to lack of workers.

Offering perks, like Friday afternoon catered lunches, can help motivate employees to come into work, he said.

Rosenberg recommended that self-employed people give themselves something to look forward to at the end of a week, like finishing early on Friday.

Workers who prepare mentally and physiologically for returning from vacation tend to fare better, he said.

“It takes three to five days to get acclimated back to your work situation and every day gets better,” Rosenberg said.

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