Staying Cool When Things Heat Up!
It’s summer and if you are lucky, that means the mercury has been rising and the phones have been ringing off the hook. A steady flow of calls from customers who need service, repairs, and new ACs is great for business, but it can put a strain on your employees, both in the office and in the field. Add to it that many of the calls from customers in the summer are from people who are hot, agitated, and want someone to come to their home “NOW!”
Contractors can be in precarious situation that can quickly go from good to bad to worse in no time. The key to getting through the summer season, and any other high business season, is to have some processes and procedures in place to keep things running smoothly. These processes and procedures will also set up reasonable and clear expectations for your employees, so that they are prepared for the increased workload and pressure that they busy summer season presents.
Rhett Prosser, owner of Waccamaw Heating and Cooling, LLC, in Pawleys Island, SC, says that keeping things calm in the height of the summer can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. “It’s really important to pump our guys up before the real busy season starts,” he says. “We know it’s going to get hectic, but if we show them and remind that that we value their efforts, then we can get their buy-in, and it all works out.”
One way that many contractors make the busy season a little more bearable for their workers is to create flexible scheduling. Flexible comes in many different forms and each contractor will have to decide what works best for their company. It may even be a blend of schedules.
Some of the common forms of flexible scheduling are:
Staggered start times. By having different start times for team members, you will be able to cover more of the day. This also allows you to accommodate your employees habits and personal needs. For example if you have a team member who just isn’t a morning person and hates being at work at 6am, you can have them come in at say 10am, when they are better at functioning and work later into the evening. Or, if you have an employee who has a child who plays sports and has practices and games in the evenings, going into work and getting off earlier makes it possible for them to attend events.
Different Starts To The Work Week. Most people think that Monday is the beginning of the week and Saturday and Sunday are the weekend. Sure that is what the calendar says, but during your busiest season you need to have people working all seven days. The great news is, so people like working weekends and would happily have Monday and Tuesday off. So, work with your team to see who would be willing to shift their two days off and work on the weekends.
Four 10s & 3 Days Off. While not as common in our industry, working four days for 10 hours and then getting three days off may be appeal to some companies. Team members still get their 40 hours a week in, but they also get an extra day off than they would with a traditional schedule, which gives them the flexibility to take some short, nearby trips to get in some relaxation time. Again having different start times and different starts to the work week make this schedule work even better.
Of course traditional schedules still work, but in the summer you may want to sweeten the deal to get your team to be excited or happy with having to be on call in the evenings or weekends.
Prosser doesn’t give his techs who are on call on the weekends an extra day off during the week, instead he happily pays them overtime for the service calls they run. “We understand that having to stay in the area to take calls on the week is an inconvenience, so we make sure we compensate our employees well,” says Prosser. “They get ‘on-call’ pay and they earn overtime for every service call they go on. Since it’s only one weekend a month, it doesn’t cut into much of their personal time, and they have the opportunity to earn more money. Plus, if things get really chaotic, there is always another team member who is willing to help.”
Summer is the traditional time for many families to take vacations, but when you are extremely busy, you can’t afford to have half your staff out of the office. As much as some team members may groan, limiting vacation during certain months will help you make sure you’re not short-handed when things heat up.
Some contractors don’t approve any vacation during the busy season. While this does keep enough employees around to get the work done, it can cause friction. Try limiting when staff can’t take vacations. For example, if you know that there are weeks that are typically busy every year, block those weeks off as no vacation zones.
Prosser doesn’t refuse vacation to employees during the summer, but he does take the limited approval approach.
“We don’t forbid vacation, but it’s definitely limited,” he says. “We are really busy from Memorial Day until Labor Day, especial in the evenings and on weekends. If one of my team members needs time off for something special, they bring it to me and we discuss it. I’m not going to deny them time off for something special that is going on in their lives.
HR Direct offers these tips for making sure that you don’t have any vacation fiascos in the summer:
Have a clear vacation policy. Have this policy in writing, give it to all employees, and discuss it with your team.
Set a deadline for submitting vacation requests. You don’t want someone to submit a request to take off a week on the Friday before they want to be out. Setting a deadline helps you prepare for their absence and make sure you have things covered.
Offer an incentive for not taking vacation during the busy season. Give a small bonus for each employee who doesn’t miss a day of work during the busy season. You could even do a gift card to a nice restaurant or a voucher to a nice hotel that they can use to get away after things slow down.
Fun & Relaxation
All work and no play makes for disgruntle and tired employees. Having unhappy employees, especially when you are busy, leads to less work getting done and unhappy customers. So, having a little fun with your team and providing some relaxation time does a lot to show them that you care and value their hard work.
“This spring we moved our company meetings to the afternoon, to change the pace of things,” says Prosser. “We bring in lunch for them and buy pizza. It’s not something big, but it breaks up the monotony. We also have been bringing in small snacks a couple of days. We’ve done mini cinnamon rolls or mini cupcakes. Again, it’s not a huge thing, but they enjoy it and it’s a small treat for them.”
Another way to show your team that you appreciate their hard work during the busy season is to have a company get together. You can do a BBQ or picnic and make sure that you allow them to bring their significant others and kids. This is a great way to get to know your employees better and for everyone to relax and have a good time.
Prosser shares, “We are in the process of scheduling a company picnic for this summer. We’ll grill out and have a good time. It’s just another way we are showing our guys that we appreciate their hard work.”
Whatever You Do Keep It Cool
You know it’s going to get chaotic during the summer, so the most important thing to do is make sure you keep it cool. Your team looks to you to see how things are going. If you can’t handle it, they can’t either.
“It doesn’t take long for an employee to lose their enthusiasm when they have been in the heat all day working hard,” reminds Prosser. “We have a really good team and they work really hard together. So, we just continuously do anything we can to pump them up and keep them motivated, so they know we appreciate them. This also gets their buy-in to what we are doing and why we are doing it, and that is the most important thing we need when it’s busy.”
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