James River Capital knows that summer is normally a time for vacations, family dinners, and relaxation. However, 2020 brought a global pandemic to America’s doorstep, casting a dark shadow over the joy normally associated with summer.
Today, your employees are likely working from home. The kids are out of school and cooped up in the house. Families are fearful and on edge as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb.
While you can’t take on all of your employees’ challenges, you, as a leader, are uniquely equipped to support employees during these trying times. Effective remote leadership and flexibility are the most important, but you can also treat summer as an opportunity for much-needed relaxation. After all, your employees are probably juggling a lot right now. While still working their full-time jobs, they’re juggling childcare, health concerns, economic stresses, and more. Give your employees some breathing room with perks that help them feel appreciated.
This isn’t just about goodwill, either. Flexible summer perks, like summer Fridays, are proven to improve employee morale. In some businesses, these perks even boost productivity and retention. If you support your people with a few easy summer perks, they’ll support you.
Not sure what summer perks will work for your business? Learn from other leaders and offer perks that your employees actually want. In this article, we share 4 summer perks from Paul Saunders, CEO of James River Capital, and how they can boost morale during a pandemic.
About Paul Saunders & James River Capital
Paul Saunders and his business partner acquired the company James River Capital in 1995, where Paul currently serves as Chairman and CEO. Through James River Capital, Paul uses his 30 years of finance experience to improve investment returns for investors.
James River Capital helps investors put their money toward alternative investments, like commodity trading, out of its Richmond, Virginia headquarters. These alternative investments give investors more options and freedom with their portfolio, adjusting for the market, and for risk.
4 effective summer perks for employees
Paul’s been a manager at James River Capital for over 25 years. While he hasn’t led his team through a pandemic before, he knows how to boost employee morale in trying times. Try his 4 perks to raise your team’s spirits during the summer of 2020.
Summer Fridays were a popular summer perk pre-COVID. And with good reason: 52% of employees consider flexible hours the best summer perk.
Summer Fridays can take several forms, including:
- Paying your employees for the full week but taking Fridays off.
- Working 10-hour days Monday through Thursday and taking Friday off.
- Working 8.5-hour days and taking every other Friday off.
- Just working half-days on Friday.
The more generous you can be, the better. But it’s scary for managers to reduce workable hours. There is the concern that productivity will suffer if you switch to a four-day workweek. This isn’t necessarily true, though. Studies suggest that your employees will remain just as productive with four workdays instead of five.
That sounds counterintuitive, but it’s not actually that surprising. The principle of Parkinson’s Law says that humans adjust tasks to fit a window of time. In other words, whether you give an employee two hours or four hours to finish a task, they’ll use all of that allotted time for the task. If employees know they don’t have Friday for work, they’ll work faster and more efficiently with their time.
You don’t have to worry about decreased productivity with limited summer hours. If you can swing it, James River Capital suggests offering 32-hour workweeks during the summer (with 40-hour pay, of course). In its experience, Summer Fridays make employees feel more valued. It’s also a much-needed breather for busy parents juggling work and childcare during these unprecedented times.
Unlimited paid time off sounds expensive, but when executed correctly, it provides much-needed flexibility for your employees without breaking the bank.
Since your employees aren’t able to travel this summer, they might not be using their PTO. But because of the pandemic, childcare worries, and general stress, they really should use their vacation time.
In fact, James River Capital recommends that employees take full advantage of their PTO in the summers. Unlimited PTO sounds irresponsible at first—what do you do if all of your people are out of the office, but when monitored and respected appropriately, it breeds accountability and trust between managers and employees.
Some unlimited PTO boundaries include:
- Selecting backups when an employee is out of the office.
- Allowing a set number of employees out on PTO at once.
- Requesting PTO schedules at least a week in advance, if possible.
And if you’re worried about people taking advantage of the system, don’t worry. Research shows workers with unlimited PTO actually end up taking fewer days off.
Trust your employees to be adults. Instead of gating their PTO, manage your team well by leaning on their output and KPIs. If the work gets done and everyone is performing, there is truly nothing to worry about.
Online schools are booming right now. Some employees might want to go back to school for a certification, continuing education, or degree. If it makes sense for your employees, offer to sponsor a number of educational credits.
It’s no secret that school is expensive. That’s why offering this awesome perk removes a layer of stress from your team. Plus, if their course of study relates to your industry, it can make them more valuable to the company for the long haul.
If you’re not able to finance someone’s college education, you could also offer an educational stipend. Give every employee $100 a month to use on:
- Online courses
… or any educational resource that improves their skills. This is a modest investment, but experience suggests it can reap dividends in talent development and retention.
It’s hard to engineer fun right now, and your employees are likely feeling the cabin fever. Try boosting their spirits with other fun, unusual perks. Depending on your culture, consider:
- Delivering margaritas to employees’ doors every Friday afternoon. You can also deliver non-alcoholic teas, smoothies, or slushies.
- Ordering lunch, delivering it to your employee’s homes, and eating together via Zoom. It’s not the same as a “normal” team lunch, but the bonding and camaraderie are nice.
- Paying for a Hulu or Netflix subscription. Your employees can’t go anywhere this summer, so entertain them for a modest fee with a streaming subscription.
- Scheduling an ice cream truck party. These trucks can deliver ice cream (and music!) directly to your employees’ driveways in a safe, socially-distanced way.
Depending on your area, it might be safe to visit a park or lake as a team. If it’s appropriate, consider scheduling small, outdoors get-togethers that allow for social distancing. That could be hiking, kayaking, or a picnic in the park. Follow your local regulations and employee comfort level here—make sure all outings are 100% optional, too.
The bottom line
2020 has been difficult for everyone. While you can’t take away the challenges of living through a pandemic, you can certainly lighten your employees’ emotional load. Offer amazing bonuses for the summer like Summer Fridays, unlimited PTO, education credits, and fun perks to keep up the team’s spirits. We don’t know what the future holds, but leaders can certainly offer levity and flexibility during these hard times.