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Weathering the summer non-productivity storm

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Glastonbury, the general election, football and tennis have all combined to make this possibly the worst week of the year for productive work. Philip Fisher wonders if there is a solution to this ‘perfect storm’.

4th Jul 2024
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Many of us automatically assume that productivity will drop during the summer holiday season. In part, that is because there is little demand from clients but it also reflects the desire of anyone with school-age kids to take their long vacations in July or August.

However, just as the actual weather has become a little more benign, we are facing that media favourite – “a perfect storm”.

The school holidays may not have started yet (other than in Scotland) but trying to persuade staff to concentrate this week may be akin to sourcing blood from a stone.

For once, this is not a debate about working from home (which I know many accountants regard as taking time off) of which more below.

Whether colleagues are operating from your office premises or at long distance is unlikely to make much difference this week. Indeed, it could be argued that at least those working from home will not be disrupting fellows with inane chatter about issues that have little to do with auditing, taxation or even marketing.

Voting tactics

Every accountant will be well aware of the general election this week. I hope you encouraged every member of staff to exercise his or her democratic right by voting, without attempting to influence them regarding their choice of party.

You may have had to accept that there would be a reasonable amount of conversation before the vote regarding possible scenarios.

The real problem is likely to come afterwards when, whatever the outcome, the result will be the loss of many hours of productive output as everyone in the office conducts a post-mortem, possibly even ending in fisticuffs if the triumphant crowing gets too much for a supporter of one of the losing parties.

The only redeeming factor might be the fact that nobody seems to work on Fridays any more anyway.

Playing hard ball

As if political shenanigans were not bad enough, it feels as though almost every major sport has chosen this week to hold one of its biggest events.

From a business perspective, England’s victory on Sunday night (for the uninitiated this is men’s football) is a bit of a disaster. Again, there will have been much lost productivity on Monday as the team’s genius was rehashed by the hungover.

Interest in the tournament will now continue and cost more chargeable hours, hitting the bottom line in the fullness of time.

Coincidentally, this week also saw the start of Wimbledon, with wall-to-wall TV (and internet) coverage, although the first Lord’s Test of the summer doesn’t start until next week.

Once again, this is a bad recipe for those attempting to get work out of the door.

Festival fun

In theory, the giant arts festival should not have impacted on your staff this week, given that it ended on Sunday.

However, anyone who went there may take several days to return to earth, even if they did not accidentally get a bit too close to someone smoking wacky baccy or gratefully swallow a pill that turned out not to be paracetamol.

Several days spent in an open field with virtually no sleep, followed by a nightmare journey home is hardly ideal when it comes to concentrating on Monday morning.

What can we do?

Those of the old school will have seen all of their prejudices confirmed by a survey reported in The Times and elsewhere this week claiming that 80% of people working from home watch TV at some time in the day.

Strangely, those carrying out the exercise did not bother to discover how much work is being done, surely a much more relevant measure. If your staff are working from eight till eight but spending a couple of hours watching TV along the way, isn’t that more effective than operating from nine till five in the office?

In any event, the old school crew will be cracking the whip and demanding that all staff come into the office then monitoring them, perhaps cracking the whip again to optimise performance.

In the short term, this might improve matters a little but could realistically lead to staff departures by the end of the summer.

A more liberal approach might be to write this week off and accept anything that is achieved as a bit of a bonus. In return, staff should be encouraged to realise that you’re doing them a massive favour and expect to be compensated with some serious commitment when the going gets tough later in the year.

Replies (3)

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By Mr J Andrews
09th Jul 2024 09:26

Not to mention the Tour de France .
And when they think it's all over, there's the small matter of the Olympics starting shortly.

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Replying to Mr J Andrews:
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By leekris
09th Jul 2024 11:56

Yes as proprietor I am apparently allowed to watch those little figures cycling across the racecenter page with all the continually updated stats appealing to my accountant's brain. Thankfully I am managing to not be distracted (more or less) by relying on the daily highlights programme for my TdF fix.

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By mkowl
09th Jul 2024 10:07

Or it could be this mythical work / life balance we are constantly told to find

The crux is over a year the average accountant will do a full years work - like many that will come with peaks and a few quieter spells. And frankly no one can work flat out 100% of the time

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