Doing Business by Seasons

We live in an agricultural community. I think we all have a pretty decent understanding of what “seasonal work” means. You’re either maxed out (a.k.a. – “in season”) and working 75 hour weeks or you’re going on vacation/hunting & fishing/watching football playoffs (a.k.a. – “winter”) around here. But many businesses operate out of a “seasonal” mentality that aren’t actually connected to the physical seasons at all. They are the ebbs and flows of any business. And it’s important to recognize when your team performs best and leaning into their strengths.

Here are some things we’ve noticed with the way people work in each season…

  • In classic summer tradition, life gets a little bit slower… Business Insider revealed a Captivate Network study of 600 white collar North American workers in 14 major metro areas and showed that workplace productivity drops 20 percent during the summer months. The study also found that attendance decreases by 19 percent, projects take 13 percent more time to complete and workers are 45 percent more distracted. And Gallup agrees that “Americans who took routine vacations said they were happier than those who don't take time away…” When your staff feels the heat of summer, smells an unparalleled BBQ down the block, and can cannonball into the deep end of the swimming pool with their kids, it’s better to let them go at 4pm and enjoy the fruit of the season.
  • As for fall, a Harvard Business School study shows that it’s an amazing time for workplaces to put their head down, pound out the tasks, and get creative. The change in weather (more rain, even snow for some places) means excellent productivity. Workers have just enjoyed a break/vacation of some sort in the previous season, the weather is getting cooler, and kids go back to school. However, this is also a time where more day-to-day life interruptions occur as well – weather-related difficulty in getting to work or the flu season moves in…
  • Winter is predictably unstable. How do you like that oxymoron? We all know some of the feelings associated with winter – post-holiday letdown, seasonal depression, illness or cabin fever; however, interestingly enough Fast Company provided a study overview from the Journal of Applied Psychology that shows of 198 adults, 82% said fair weather would increase productivity and 83% said bad weather would decrease it. But the researchers ended up finding the opposite. Upon showing 136 participants pictures of a favorite outdoor activity and then asking them to complete a data-entry task, they were far less productive and made more errors in doing their task than those who were singularly focused on their task alone. They started to realize the poor outside weather made for improved performance as it provided less distraction to the worker. It probably isn’t the best time to dig into heavy innovation/creative work, but science shows it’s great for completing the mundane, daily maintenance tasks.
  • Spring is the ultimate transition between finally hurdling the cold fall and winter months and not yet embarking upon the heat and vacations of summer. This is a great season to allow your team to make the transition along with their workload. This could mean going on group outings and finally enjoying the better weather, completing a “spring clean” of the office space where everyone contributes, or launching a company-wide health initiative to begin getting active again after the sluggish winter months. Their productivity does dip slightly after winter’s powerhouse task mastering due to external distractions.

Whatever the trends of your office and culture may be, one of the best things you can do for your team is learn the patterns and play into your group’s strengths, recognize the weaknesses and move slow to improve them – it allow the company to make positive changes together. Trust us – disciplined change will last a lot longer than going cold turkey. It applies to New Year’s Resolutions. It applies to business.

About the Author

Carissa Shirk is a consultant with Morrison, which provides business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, strategic planning), feasibility studies, interim executive CFO services, competitive grant writing, recruitment, and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Carissa directly at cshirk@morrisonco.net or via telephone at 530-893-4764 ext. 210.

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