The 6 Worst Office Problems Employers Will Face this Summer and How to Solve Them
For many employees, summertime is the best time of the year. For others, summer summons feelings of dread, since they know they’ll spend most of those long, hot, beach-worthy days hunkered down at their desks.
Alternatively, working through those summer days can be as easy as the season’s gentle breezes. Follow these guidelines to solve summer's typical workplace problems, for smooth sailing through the hot months:
1. Auto commutes on hot days
Hot weather has been scientifically proven to increase levels of aggression -- hence the terms "hothead" and "heated" and their relevant connotations.
Given the uptick in summertime temperatures, commuters can expect to both display more bouts of road rage and to be on the receiving end of these tantrums more frequently come summertime.
This is no small problem. AAA reports that eight out of every 10 drivers has expressed "significant" road rage, including but not limited to, deliberate tailgating, purpposeful blocking of other vehicles and intentional thumping of other cars’ bumpers.
And that’s just the beginning: Between commutes to and from the office, there are eight or more hours of workplace labor subject to the residual effects of road rage, threatening to escalate tensions among coworkers.
Solutions? Meditating during your lunch break can prevent a bout of road rage on your return commute, which is likely to be more stressful than its morning counterpart. Step outside, sit down on the grass and focus on breathing deeply for 10 t-15 minutes. This will lower your heart rate and give you a good dose of sunshine before your return to work for the afternoon.
2. Thermostat wars
Contrary to popular opinion, thermostat wars aren’t just a problem in households -- they also cause disagreements in the workplace. And although many employees remain silent on the issue, everyone has a very different idea of what constitutes an ideal temperature at the office.
The differences tend to be split between the genders, as well, with men preferring cooler temperatures while women prefer warmer ones -- further fueling the age old battle of the sexes.
If you work better on the cooler side of the thermostat and others don’t want to turn down the temperature, you’ll have to implement a solution to not be that guy (or gal) who applies deodorant at his or her desk.
This will involve exerting as little energy as possible. Although research suggests that sitting too much at work can be harmful, summertime demands we preserve our energy for staying active outside the office and fully enjoying all the season offers.
Solutions? Try to use the fax machine, printers, scanners and any other device that requires you to move around the office as little as possible. Another strategy is to move closer to these items in the office, provided space is available near them.
However, one study suggests that centralized printers and work devices can lower productivity, rivaling the water cooler as the location of choice for office banter.
Solutions? A case can be made to HR directors that workers should have access to a greater number of printers, scanners and fax machines. This will not only reduce the likelihood of distracting conversation and the number of steps employees must take each day to complete tasks, but also help employees not work up a sweat while jaunting to and from centralized printers, fax machines and scanners.
3. The summertime office party
Research suggests that nearly half of American workers dislike their coworkers. You may not belong to that camp, but some of your coworkers may.
Getting through the inevitable summer party can sometimes be a drag, but it’s best to attend regardless of any ill will you harbor toward your coworkers.
For instance, your absence might suggest you don’t care to interact with them, leaving them thinking that you either dislike them or think you’re too good for them; and regardless of whether these assumptions are true, these misperceptions won’t serve you.
For instance, even after the party is over and all have returned to the daily grind and its normal work hours, these feelings of resentment may come back to harm you in work-related contexts.
Solutions? Make the most of these semi-awkward endeavors. If you’re comfortable doing so, try flying solo to the party. This will give you more room to learn about and take interest in your coworkers at the gathering. As the adage goes, “interested is interesting.”
However, if you’re a man in an office full of women or a woman in an office full of men: Bringing a significant other or spouse to the gathering can help your coworkers warm up to the idea of getting to know you better, as romantic relationships can serve as social proof of competency in relating to others, concomitantly boosting your status as a worker with good social skills.
4. The countdown to leaving the office to enjoy the weather
If you’re watching the clock at 4:50 p.m. in the wintertime and counting down the seconds until you can leave, imagine how intense the urge to leave will become when the summer sunlight pours through the pellucid clouds and beams through the window pane by your desk.
If work circumstances allow it, put on those headphones and listen to a wintertime playlist while crunching numbers or drafting up that report. This will keep you focused on what’s in front of you at your desk, not the sunshine you’re missing outside.
Additionally, reserve your paid time off for summer. It may be tempting to schedule time off as soon in the year as possible, but you’ll thank yourself later if you save it for summertime.
Solutions? Try closing the blinds while at work. This can prevent you from being enticed by the beautiful distraction of sunlight, and suffering the potential sunburn that comes with it, given how windows allow the passage of light (see next entry).
Additionally, make an extra effort to simplify your workspace to streamline workflow; this can mitigate the need to stay late to wrap up projects. Changing the way documentation is handled in the office is another good place to simplify your workspace.
Poor workflow can lead to increased time spent on administrative work, forcing employees to work longer hours. Keeping files organized and in a secure digital format can significantly improve this. It saves employees from having to sift through endless stacks to find files, as well as losing files or having to reproduce the information from the lost documents, only to find they’ve just been misplaced. The more efficiently employees work, the more likely they are to leave the office on time to enjoy those beautiful summer evenings.
5. That inevitable and embarrassing sunburn
At least one person in every office forgets to apply sunscreen the first time he or she spends a sunny weekday outside in the summertime. Let’s face it, it's happened to the best of us, although it can make even the most sun-savvy people feel that they belong to the “worst of us” category.
The problem with a sunburn is that it’s so open to interpretation. Depending on how your skin burns, its appearance can be seen as you blushing or as your reaction to a "heated" conversation -- either of which could be taken out of context in a professional environment.
Furthermore, depending on the way your skin burns, it can also end up peeling, which is unsightly and never worth sporting at the office. In fact, one study suggested that sunburns negatively impact the entire economy, resulting in millions of Americans missing work each year.
Although sunscreen may seem the obvious answer, putting it in a place where you'll remember it without its being a distraction is key. Put it on the dash of your car in the morning, to remember to apply it when you leave the office. This way, you won’t have to use a “sick” day to spare yourself the embarrassment of a sunburn.
6. The shunning of sandals and flip flops
Office dress codes become tricky during the summer. Many employers strive to make work environments comfortable, but there are blurred lines in assessing which kinds of attire are acceptable in the workplace; and, unfortunately, footwear belongs on this list.
Assuming flip flops and sandals don’t violate any safety standards in your workplace, employees can make three arguments to the HR department to make these shoe categories acceptable or ban them outright:
1.Pro flip flops and sandals: People's feet will stay dry and therefore less smelly.
2. Anti flip flops and sandals: That annoying sound some sandals and all flip flops make will be eliminated.
3. Anti flip flops but pro sandals: Opponents will be ruining it for those who care enough to sport the quieter, leather-based sandals or Birkenstocks.
So, if you’re going make a case for this footwear, concentrate on keeping your feet dry. After all, nobody likes the smell of exposed feet that have been making trips back and forth to the printer, fax machine and filing cabinets. Try not to print or fax unnecessary items, and be sure to shower in the morning before work.
Additionally, any case employees can make for remote work or partial in-office hours will provide greater leeway to not just wear sandals and flip flops while working, but overall to wear whatever they want while working in their own living spaces.