Productivity slides in summertime, finds Korn Ferry

11 June 2019 2 min. read
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In a recent survey, human capital consultancy Korn Ferry found that work productivity takes a hit in the summer months. The online executive survey was drawn from over 1,000 responses in May 2019.

Among the key takeaways was that 25% of respondents admitted to “playing hooky” (skipping work) in order to enjoy the season, while 46% said their personal work productivity slumps in the summer.

The survey didn’t dive into the reasons for it, but in the parts of the US where there are more distinct seasons – the Northeast, Midwest, Mid Atlantic – the summer months can be nice and warm. People can partake in outdoor activities that they can’t do when there’s a polar vortex bearing down on them – jet-skiing, drinking on a patio, hiking and biking – take your pick. It’s harder to be indoors working on the next digital disruption when it’s really nice outside because the opportunity cost is a little higher. 

It would be interesting to know if the effect is muted in the Southwest, which obviously doesn’t get the same sort of devastating winters.

It’s also more difficult to work when it’s hot out. But since the survey was for professionals – who most likely have air conditioning in their corporate office blocks – it’s likely a lesser effect than on outdoor workers.

Productivity slides in summertime, finds Korn Ferry

Another reason might be that large portions of the office are away on vacation at various parts of the summer, detracting from the effectiveness of team projects.

While 46% of respondents said their personal productivity dipped in the summer months, 78% said their colleagues’ productivity took a dive – reflecting that consistent positive self-bias.

The Korn Ferry survey also found that 41% of people find it hard to get projects done in the summer – though 44% said they personally feel more productive when colleagues and bosses are gone for summer vacation.

“Taking time away from the office to recharge and get some distance from day-to-day work challenges is key for professionals to maintain a healthy work-life balance, which leads to greater productivity when they are back on the job,” Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solution leader for leadership development, said.

“However, the pace of business, growth, and profitability don’t take a summer vacation, so companies need to work with employees through more effective teaming, to make sure projects and tasks still progress.”

In any case, employees are probably a little more open to summer slacking due to seasonal workplace attitudes and practices. Thirty-one percent said their companies are more laid back in the summertime, while 29% said their companies have amended summer work hours (e.g. 3 pm closing time on Fridays, and, if you want to, you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans).

A further 39% said their companies offer team building events in the summer, such as a group camping excursion, paintball, or outdoor barbecues.