Vacation Mode: How to Engage Employees with Summer Perks

With the current jobseeker-friendly market, an employer needs to make sure it is in the best position to attract and retain the workforce it wants and needs. Summer perks are a good way for employers to show how much they value their employees, and many of them can be inexpensive.

With summertime in full swing, it’s a great time for employers to take a look at the perks they currently offer to see how they compare to other organizations and determine if there is anything they might want to consider adding or changing. Several perks that are often popular with employees are listed below:

Vacation Time

Besides cash, paid time off is always one of the most coveted perks an employer can offer. Vacation is a key benefit in helping employees:

  • Achieve work-life balance;
  • Attend to personal needs;
  • Prevent burnout;
  • Decompress, de-stress and recharge their batteries; and
  • Maintain or improve morale and productivity.

A private employer is not required by federal or state law to provide paid or unpaid vacation time. However, most employers find that providing vacation not only keeps them competitive in attracting new talent but also with retaining their current talent.

Employers that provide vacation time should make sure that their vacation or paid time off policies are communicated to all employees and placed in an employee handbook. They should clearly establish:

  • The terms of vacation time, such as accrual rates (if applicable);
  • The extent to which vacation carries over from year to year; and
  • Whether vacation will be paid upon termination.

Additionally, any vacation policies should be applied in a uniform manner to prevent discrimination claims.

Since many workers aren’t taking enough vacation, employers also need to encourage employees to plan and take annual leave. This involves creating an organizational culture that values employee wellness and work-life balance. It also means having managers and supervisors lead by example and take their own vacation time.

Workplace Flexibility

In the last several years, workplace flexibility has emerged as an employee benefit of choice, and in recent surveys, many employees chose work-life balance as a key benefit. There are many different ways employers can offer workplace flexibility, including:

  • Flexible schedules;
  • Reduced schedules;
  • Telecommuting;
  • Flexible working locations;
  • Compressed workweeks;
  • Shift flexibility; and
  • Job sharing.

Interest in workplace flexibility may increase even more during the summer when employees want to spend more time with their families, participate in summer activities or otherwise improve work-life balance.

Summer Fridays (allowing employees to take all or half of Fridays off to boost morale) appear to have gained popularity in the last several years. They are generally used as a way to award employees for their work during the year. However, employers aren’t just limited to Fridays and could also:

  • Allow employees to take days off at various times during the summer;
  • Schedule days off or give spontaneous days off;
  • Let employees use flex time; or
  • Allow employees to leave early or arrive late on certain days.

Summer Dress Codes

A summer dress code policy is an inexpensive way to improve employee morale and make employees feel more comfortable when warmer weather hits. It’s an easy win for employers because it is something that most workers will appreciate.

When implementing a summer dress code, it is often best to specifically indicate what types of clothing will be appropriate (i.e., no flip flops or tank tops). The employer should make sure that employees receive notice of the policy and whether it is in effect every day or only on Fridays.

There are also some other issues an employer needs to address. Be sure any dress code policy imposes an equal burden on both men and women and provides for religious expression to prevent claims of sex or religious discrimination. It’s also important for employers to apply such policies consistently and follow up with warnings and disciplinary measures for repeated violations.

Employer-Sponsored Events

Summer is always a good time to improve employee engagement by planning employer-sponsored events for employees. Such events are often a great way to show employees appreciation, encourage camaraderie and bring teams closer together.

While employer-sponsored social events have traditionally included picnics, barbeques and sporting events, it’s OK to think outside the box. For example, some creative organizations have implemented:

  • Employee summer camps or employee getaways;
  • Ice cream socials;
  • Service days; and
  • Trips to a ropes course.

However, no matter what event an employer decides on, whether traditional or more creative, it’s important to takes steps to decrease employer liability. To avoid wage-and-hour claims, employers should ensure that such events are voluntary, held during business hours and that work-related matters are not discussed.

If serving alcohol, an employer should be extremely careful that it does not lead to sexual harassment or automobile accidents. Employers and supervisors should also carefully monitor employees who are drinking, while also making sure to serve plenty of food and nonalcoholic drinks and consider providing safe transportation home.

Finally, to reduce the risk of workers’ compensation claims, an employer should make sure the outing is in a safe environment.

Creative Summer Perks

If an organization wants to get really creative with the summer perks they offer their employees, there are plenty of options. The following are just some examples of creative perks various companies have used to help both worker retention and recruitment:

  • Reimbursement for vacations or vacation bonuses;
  • Unlimited paid time off;
  • Travel stipends;
  • Paid sabbaticals; and
  • Bonuses and gifts (e.g., Visa gift cards or family-oriented gifts).

Regardless of what kind of summer perks your organization offers, it is important to provide guidelines and outline expectations for your employees. Make sure you review applicable policies with your workforce so they know what is and isn’t allowed. Then watch their smiles as they head out into the summer sunshine.

What summer perks does your organization offer? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.



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