Our Operations Director, Karen Ovenden, recently shared her thoughts on how to support staff during the summer holidays in a piece originally published on LinkedIn.

We all know the drill. The children have six weeks off from school and suddenly the childcare landscape looks fraught with issues. Will my parents take them? Will your parents take them? Should we take it in turns to take the time off to look after them? Could I leave them with my sister during the week? Can I arrange a playdate swap with a friend?

As a small business owner, and as a parent, it is an area of constant concern for me to get the balance right while maintaining a ‘business as usual’ functioning workplace. Striking this balance will mean working parents can manage both sets of responsibilities without uncertainty and the remaining staff don’t feel hard done by. But how do we tread this fine line between the two?

Flexible working:
By offering reduced working hours, remote working or flexi time, we can enable all employees – but especially parents – to work in a way that suits their needs and the needs of the business. After all, technology today enables so much more flexibility in how we work that it seems a shame not to utilize it! Giving this leeway at a time when parents need it most, businesses reap the rewards in retaining loyal staff and maintaining an office culture of trust and flexibility.

I strive for a ‘give and take’ working arrangement. What you give as an employer over the summer can pay dividends when you need a little more from your staff during busier periods. They know you understand their challenges and are always supportive of their needs.

Business as usual:
It’s not only parents who may need increased flexibility during the summer. It’s also a time when many employees choose to use their annual leave. The combination of the two can leave the office feeling like it’s running on skeleton staffing, but for us it’s important not to make team members feel they are leaving the rest of us in the lurch while they take some time out.

So, how do we practically manage this? Firstly, by forward planning. We can all see the summer on the horizon (it happens every year, after all!) and we can manage the expectations of clients and projects in line with our resource and capacity. As a small business, it’s also imperative that we have visibility across handovers as the teams are relatively small. Remote workers are still very much part of the team – we’re all in a continual dialogue across Slack. It’s so easy for staff to feel like they can never switch off.

For us, making these plans not only keeps us effective as a business but it instils confidence in employees that they can leave the office and we’ve got them covered. I don’t expect staff to be checking their emails when they aren’t in the office. I think it’s vital for everyone across the business to get a proper break.

Office ambience:
At times when we do have a significantly reduced staffing level, it’s important that we support those staff who are holding the fort. Morale can feel like it takes a downturn during this time, so we think it’s important to boost the mood – whether that’s a game of office table tennis or a visit from Mabel, the Head of Staff Morale. A little break from computer screens never did anyone any harm.

Over the summer, people from different teams may take the opportunity to work on projects with other teams – or simply have more opportunity to take lunch with colleagues in different departments. Both are a huge part of our office culture and something we wholeheartedly encourage.

So, if you’re considering what more you can do to help your team over the summer, start simple. It doesn’t take a lot to embed those changes that will make the lives of your staff that much easier. There really is no need for the school holidays to be something to dread for both parents and businesses!

Thanks to Karen for this insightful piece, which we hope has given some inspiration to employers and employees alike!

Discover more

Meet the Hireserve team
Find out about Karen and the Hireserve story
Read our piece on how flexible working can make a difference

About the author

Tristan Potter

From recruitment into central government, to financial services and the charitable sector, Leah has worked across many industries in her wide ranging career! Now working as Hireserve's Senior Marketing Executive, Leah covers all things marketing - from maintaining our social media channels to managing logistics for events across the country.