Summer means fun in the sun for employees and their families, and more and more employers are providing additional flex time and summer scheduling to allow workers to enjoy the warm weather and spend their work hours recharged and refreshed. 

From flex time to company softball leagues to early dismissals for good surf days, employers are rewarding employees with summer benefits and perks that fit their company culture. 

According to the SHRM Employee Benefits Survey, 17% of employers offer seasonal scheduling. Employers may offer Fridays off or close early on those days, which not only gives employees a reward, it saves money on air conditioning and electricity. 

Further, employers now offer employees an annual company outing, such as a picnic, up from 55% in 2012 to 64% in 2016.

Social gatherings give employees the opportunity to get to know one another outside of the job, which can lead to better working relationships. According to the SHRM report, almost one-third (30%) of employers offered discount ticket services, and 23% offered company purchased tickets to events such as cultural proceedings, sporting events or theme parks.

Another traditional example is allowing seasonal casual dress, offered by 27% of employers.  

See also: Does casual workplace attire help retain workers?

These are all solid, fun ideas for summer rewards, but EBN also spoke with an employer who goes far beyond these traditional summer perks. Patagonia offers company bikes, volleyball courts and on-site yoga for workers at their Ventura campus. Their reception desk posts daily surf reports and they even make companywide announcements on especially days when waves are prime for surfers.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

“Whether it’s playing volleyball or going down to the beach, we encourage people to take a moment of time to reconnect and enjoy summer,” says Shannon Ellis, Patagonia’s HR director. 

See also: 20 crazy benefits offered by employers

The company is known for its athletic lifestyle and environmentally-friendly products, which carries into their company culture.

“In terms of traditional stuff [like office picnics], I’d say we’re very untraditional in that regard in that we try to capitalize on events that deliver more connection back to the community and tie in with the company mission,” explains Ellis. 

And that mission — “to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” — clearly extends to its employee benefits.

For example, teams participate in volunteer efforts at local grassroots and environmental groups. Ellis says a group in the Ventura office recently volunteered at a marine mammal rescue center. These group initiatives are “a great way to connect with the local community and also for team building,” she says. 

What’s more, employees can take two months off work to volunteer at an environmental non-profit and still receive their full salary. All employees are eligible to apply for and participate in these environmental internships and many do, especially in the summertime when, according to anecdotal data from Ellis, utilization is at its highest.

Ellis says they rarely have staffing shortages. “In the summertime it’s very easy to adapt and schedule accordingly with things like vacation,” she says.

This year, Patagonia plans to send approximately 170 of its employees into the field through its Environmental Internship Program. Since its inception in 1993, Patagonia has supported nearly 2,000 employees with fully paid protected leave while they work for environmental organizations around the world. 

For longer leave (such as maternity, paternity or adoption), Patagonia often has employees from different segments of the organization sub in so they gain new experiences and a deeper understanding of the full company’s interworking, as well as their own career goals. 

Rewards on a dime

No matter what the organization’s size or budget, HR managers can find ways to engage and reward employees in the summertime.  

“There are lots of unique perks in the high tech companies and financial services. But I think any organizations regardless of size or revenue can come up with something,” says Lenny Sanicola, benefits practice leader for WorldatWork.

This could mean hosting an ice cream social in the office or bringing a snow cone truck to the parking lot. “Look for ways to keep people motivated and productive,” he says.

Flexibility is a great example. The time issue is critical for working parents during the summer when their kids are out of school. The spring and summer is a great time to encourage employees to reach out to the EAP for camp or childcare referrals.
 
“Even if company doesn’t [offer flexible or compressed work schedules] during the year, it can be an attractive benefit for summer,” says Sanicola. “Or if they do, make it go further in the summer.”

Sanicola also suggests offering “Bring Your Kid to Work” days in the summer. This could be a single day or employers could offer it once a month, depending on the size of the workforce.

Patagonia offers on-site childcare for their Ventura campus employees. But their benefits philosophy extends to all their employees, no matter their location, be it at Ventura corporate headquarters, their distribution center in Nevada or any of their retail stores across the country. So while they can’t offer on-site care to store employees, they have a reimbursement program in place. 

And just because the summer ends, doesn't mean company perks have to cool off. 

“We see larger utilization [in child care benefits and environmental internships] during the summer, but our philosophy spans the entire year,” says Patagonia’s Ellis. “We really try to replicate summer to year round.”

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