Out of Office… for the Summer?

With travel expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, firms will face a unique balancing act trying to keep staffing up. 

It’s summer. Do you know where your workers are?

Much like the parents whom that famous 1980s commercial implored to keep better track of their children, firms will be uniquely challenged this summer to figure out where and when their employees are working. Widespread estimates suggest that this summer will be the biggest travel season since before the pandemic, with nearly 220 million Americans expected to travel between Memorial Day and Labor Day—11 million more than last year and 46 million more than in 2021. The Transportation Security Administration expects air travel this summer to exceed pre-pandemic levels. “Memorial Day was a record for the travel industry, and we see this trend continuing throughout the summer,” says Radhika Papandreou, sector leader for the Travel, Hospitality, and Leisure practice at Korn Ferry. 

The uptick comes in the midst of companies’ struggles to get workers back to the office and manage hybrid schedules. With more people on vacation—as firms try to encourage workers to relax and avoid burnout—making those arrangements becomes tougher.

Middle managers are typically at the center of all this, say experts—attempting to make do in the face of staffing shortages from both layoffs and vacations. Traditionally, productivity drops in summer; over the last two years, as companies have accommodated extended workcations, staffers have holed up in oceanfront Airbnbs and mountainside retreats. But this year, with the economy in a prolonged slump and companies pursuing layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, experts fear that middle managers will be squeezed even more to meet their numbers. “Middle managers are in a tough spot because they have all the same pressures on their time as their direct reports do, plus the additional responsibility of ensuring the team’s work gets done,” says Korn Ferry senior client partner Maria Amato.

It’s no easy task, especially since more and more leaders are putting their foot down when it comes to returning to the office. Middle managers report feeling pressured to be in the office to “set an example,” for instance. One recent survey found that workers in middle management are the most exhausted employees at any level of an organization, with some 43% saying they’re burned out. Another survey found that about one-quarter of midlevel leaders “feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities,” and that a similar percentage “don’t feel mentally engaged at work.”

To tackle the onslaught of travel and get through the summer, experts say firms can offer more flexible schedules with longer shifts and more days off. More broadly, Amato says, managers need to focus more on outcomes than on traditional metrics.


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