Midsize business

How to keep your employees happy during summer shutdowns

Every employee of Globe Manufacturing, located in Pittsfield, NH, used to go on vacation at the same time—for two weeks in July during the plant’s annual scheduled summer shutdown. This sort of shutdown is a decades-long manufacturing tradition, when plants shut down for maintenance and to preserve worker output (the assembly line would not have been effective if vacations were staggered, as they don’t work at full capacity with even one worker missing). However, that opportunity comes at a cost, as your employees are most affected by shutdowns.

Globe Manufacturing realized their workers value greater flexibility in their schedules. In response, they no longer shut down their plants. Today, employees at Globe Manufacturing now receive 22 days of paid time off and a choice to start work between 6-8 a.m.

HR manager Gayle Troy says the flexibility makes their workers happier and more empowered to make their own decisions.

According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, manufacturing had some of the lowest engagement rates with only a quarter of employees engaged with their jobs. A disengaged workforce will suffer from lower productivity levels, resulting in a 33% decline in operational income and an 11% dip in earnings growth.

If increased flexibility improves employee happiness and engagement as in the case of Globe Manufacturing, scheduling inflexible or intrusive summer shutdowns could actually hurt manufacturers. Rigid shutdowns may have served an assembly line that depended on every single worker to run, but with today’s technology supporting the workforce, summer shutdowns don’t have to be so rigid.

Here’s how you can plan a summer shutdown that improves employee morale and strengthens your company culture:

Start a zero-contact policy when workers are on vacation

A 2017 survey showed that 54% of workers check in on work at least once or twice during their vacation.

In fact, a study by dscout, a qualitative research platform, found that the average user touches their phone 2,617 times during the day, amounting to about 145 minutes. Chances are, at least one of those times will go toward checking work-related emails, chats, or files. If your employees are checking in during their time off, they’re not going to come back fully refreshed and engaged.

To combat this issue, some companies are now helping workers disconnect with no-email, no-call policies during holiday shutdowns. The German automotive company, Daimler, developed their “Mail on Holiday” policy after surveying employees about how to improve their work-life balance.

If you send an email to a Daimler employee on vacation, you’ll get an automatic response telling you that your message will be deleted because the other person is away. You will then see an option to forward your message to another colleague or send the email only when the employee is back at work.

Policies like this can improve an employee’s vacation by relieving them of all responsibilities and pressure that comes with work. The anxiety of an overwhelming workload can significantly reduce an employee’s enjoyment of their time off and even increase their dread as the final holiday date approaches.

If you want your scheduled summer shutdown to be a time to truly disconnect, set up an automated vacation responder system on Gmail, use a tool like Thrive Away , which automatically deletes emails received during vacation, or at least communicate the policy to your employees. Making sure everyone enjoys their vacation to the fullest can improve productivity, engagement, and work-life balance.

Offer flexibility leading up to and after shutdowns

Although a scheduled shutdown for the summer has been the norm, manufacturing plants now have a growing number of options for how to take time off with minimal disruption. Some of this is partly because of new technology that allows 24/7 maintenance and constant equipment monitoring as opposed to scheduled maintenance, reducing the need for a complete shutdown.

While it’s still true that summers are the de facto holiday season, with schools shutting down and many families going on vacation, manufacturers can offer time-off even without a complete shutdown.

According to a study by The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), flexibility has been linked to increased productivity, employee engagement, and retention. Staggered shifts and flexible vacation policies during the summer can help employees retain a healthy work-life balance and improve company culture.

Globe Manufacturing did this by offering four-day workweeks during 2008 after the recession, which helped them avoid layoffs. Chicago’s USG Corp. allows employees to buy or sell up to one-week of vacation time from the company, a benefit used by 40% of the workforce.

If you absolutely need to have a complete shutdown for a period of two weeks or even one month, make sure you offer flexible options leading up to and after the shutdown to accommodate different needs. For instance, some employees might have obligations during the summer that require time off outside of the scheduled shutdown. Some might want to pick up extra shifts to make up for the time off during the shutdown.

Here are a few examples of flexible policies for employees:

  • Allowing employees to choose the vacation day
  • Ability to swap shifts with colleagues
  • Rewarding hard work with an extra day off
  • Half-Fridays for employees who complete quotas for the week

Whether you implement these throughout the year or only during the summer to help make the transition into the shutdown easier for your employees, flexible policies can increase overall productivity and engagement.

Final Thoughts

As important as it is to think about practical steps for safety and equipment maintenance, summer shutdowns and vacations are just as crucial to company culture and employee morale. Using this time effectively to ensure everyone’s well-rested and encouraged to take the time off can enable your team to perform beyond the low average engagement rate in manufacturing.

To plan and time your shutdown for optimal effect on both sales and employee engagement, you can use advanced reporting and data analytics software to see which month or week usually has the lowest consumer demand or employee productivity. Using that past data can help you to schedule a shutdown when it’ll make the least impact on your sales, and restore your team’s performance.

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.