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Heat waves, mid-week July 4 to cause summer productivity slump

July 02, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • A jogger is silhouetted against a water fountain backdrop at Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles. Summer productivity, already low, will take another hit this holiday week.
A jogger is silhouetted against a water fountain backdrop at Echo Park Lake… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

Between Independence Day landing on a Wednesday, the record temperatures scorching the country and the generally languid pace of office-bound summer workers, businesses shouldn’t expect to accomplish much this season, experts said.

Productivity will likely take a hit as “key decision makers, associates and customers” take off the days straddling the holiday, said John A. Challenger, chief executive of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Workplace productivity typically tumbles 20% in the summer, according to a study of 600 white-collar North American workers by digital media company Captivate Network. Attendance falls 19%, projects take 13% more time to complete and employees are 45% more distracted.

As the weather gets warmer, employees socialize more with co-workers, take extended lunch breaks and leave the office earlier, according to the study. Productivity slides even at organizations that offer summer schedules with telecommuting options and four-day weeks.

Workers won’t recover from their lack of focus until the fall, according to a study of more than 1,000 businesses last year from time sheet software company Replicon.

Employees are 31% more likely to use vacation time in June through August than at any other time, the report found. The most popular sick days of the year are the Tuesdays after Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Soaring thermostat levels will slow things down even more. Heat waves are searing their way through the East Coast and Midwest, bringing temperatures above 100 degrees.

Above 77 degrees Fahrenheit, productivity decreases by 2% per degree, according to a 2003 study co-conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“People just move slower in the heat,” Challenger said. “Add to that the impact of power outages and workers staying home to deal with heat-related issues, such as broken air conditioning units, and it becomes a significant drain on productivity.” 


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