Summer stress: How HR can help with financial, mental wellbeing

The lazy days of summer may be anything but for employees. Workers often find their stress levels rising during the summer as they cover for vacationing colleagues, work to patch together childcare gaps, entertain out-of-town guests or manage the summer heat—all while trying to maintain their normal work routine and workload, experts say.

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In fact, 57% of HR professionals notice colleagues suffering from burnout during the summer, and 41% say it impacts productivity, according to Westfield Health’s Wellbeing Index.

However, HR can take strategic steps to reduce the summer pressure on employees’ mental and financial wellbeing. While some of these approaches are specific to lessening employees’ summer stress, others can be leveraged throughout the year. This summer, experts say, is a prime time for employers to ramp up their support for employees, especially given the fact that 90% of Americans believe the country is in a mental health crisis, according to CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation research, and 38% more people are getting mental healthcare today than before the pandemic.

Cover childcare gaps

Working parents, in particular, may experience poorer mental health in the summer, as they face an extended period when they must fill their children’s time, despite having to work. Employers can step in to connect workers to childcare coverage—from summer camps to babysitters to daycare. Taking the burden of finding those services off the shoulders of employees, experts say, can go a long way to supporting their wellbeing.

Without such support, the stress these parents are facing can bleed into the workplace and may affect their productivity, says Jackie Ishibashi, global wellbeing consultant at Sequoia, a benefits and compensation consultant.

Jackie Ishibashi
Jackie Ishibashi, Sequoia

“Parents may be preoccupied due to changes in pick-up and drop-off times or if care falls through. During the summer, care will be more unpredictable than during the regular school season,” Ishibashi says.

HR can urge leadership to go a step further, such as by offering discounts for local summer camps and transportation from the office to childcare services, says Kaleana Quibell, a wellbeing consultant and former wellbeing director at Sequoia.

Kaleana Quibell
Kaleana Quibell

Some employers with on-site daycare are bringing in activities during the summer to give their facilities more of a camp-like feel, Quibell says, such as a weekly soccer program. On- and near-site daycare, in general, is gaining interest among employers as a means to attract employees back to the office, she says. Those plans could be accelerated to capture employees’ needs during the summer months.

HR can also research and disseminate information on local summer activities for families. “Take the legwork of finding activities off of parents,” Quibell advises.

Communication is key to establishing HR as a trusted resource. For instance, experts say, HR can hold information sessions or messaging campaigns this spring to outline the childcare benefits, services and resources the organization offers and how they can be supportive throughout the summer.

Financial support

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According to the Westfield Health Report, one in three working parents surveyed worry about not having enough disposable income to keep their children entertained in the summer. That’s on top of steep childcare costs: For instance, reports the average U.S. summer camp costs $87 per day, per child.

Promoting and sharing childcare discounts, such as through an employer perk website, is one way to help reduce the financial strain. Another is employer-sponsored memberships to websites like and UrbanSitter, which assist parents in finding care and negotiating discounts with care centers, camps and other activities, Ishibashi says. Financial assistance with childcare is something employers may wish to consider year-round as well, she says.

Ishibashi adds employers can also explore subsidizing regular summer care or back-up care through vendors, or offering a separate childcare financial stipend, Ishibashi adds, noting some employers may also be eligible for a tax credit to help them cover some of the costs of childcare.

Given that childcare support can be a financial investment for employers, it’s important their strategy is connected to employee needs.

“There are so many ways to help, but the employer needs to understand how they want to take care of their employees,” she says, recommending employers conduct an employee survey or host focus groups with parents to understand their biggest challenges.

Create optimum summer flexibility

Rob Sadow; Tips to alleviate employee stress during the summer
Rob Sadow, Scoop

With friends and family visiting in the summer, vacations and disruptions to school routines and childcare, the season calls for greater flexibility in work schedules, says Rob Sadow, co-founder and CEO of Scoop, a hybrid work planning tools provider.

For example, 28% of employees under age 34 cite balancing friendships, relationships and work as the biggest cause of summer stress, according to the Westfield Health report.

“It’s important to recognize that schedules look different in the summer,” he says, noting scheduling flexibility—more so than flexibility in where employees work—can greatly minimize employees’ summer stress. For instance, with a flexible schedule, workers can spend some time with family or friends during the day and work during the early morning hours or in the evening.

In addition to growing trends like Summer Fridays and condensed workdays in the summer, employers can also adjust meeting times to accommodate parents, as well as non-parents, in the summer and throughout the year, experts say.

“Have a later start time for meetings or no midday meetings; that’s generally the pickup and transfer time for children,” Quibell suggests. “You’re not spending any additional money and you’re still accommodating the needs of your people, recognizing that you want them to be able to come to work and to be there for their families.”

Employers that turn to more flexible schedules this summer should ensure HR provides robust training for people leaders, Sadow says.

“HR should be giving managers coaching and training around flexible hours. That’s the  tactical thing to do,” he advises.

Drive culture and wellbeing with summer strategies

Experts say that implementing summer benefits and policies like these to reduce employee stress can ultimately foster wellbeing and drive culture. This momentum can also be moved forward through employee summer gatherings.

“These events help to create a relaxed environment where employees can unwind and recharge, which is essential for maintaining mental health and preventing burnout,” says Kelly Spain, vice president of fun at event planning company TeamBuilding ROI.

Kelly Spain; Tips to alleviate employee stress during the summer
Kelly Spain, TeamBuilding ROI

Summer gatherings are not just fun breaks from routine, he adds, noting they are strategic tools that foster happier, more connected and more productive teams.

“Teams that play together tend to stay together—and excel together,” Spain says.

He pointed to one international client that held a summer BBQ and beach Olympics in Santa Monica, Calif. The event was not only designed to draw employees from across the globe for volleyball tournaments, frisbee matches and a sandcastle building contest, but it also served as a strategic initiative to combine diverse cultures and foster unity in a relaxing setting, Spain says.

“The casual atmosphere allowed employees to share stories and insights from different markets, leading to spontaneous brainstorming sessions and exchange of innovative ideas,” recalls Spain.

Following the event, the company saw a spike in cross-departmental collaboration, with several new projects being credited to ideas that initially began at the summer beach party, Spain says.

“Investing in a summer event can yield significant benefits in terms of team spirit and overall company culture.”

Dawn Kawamoto, Human Resource Executive
Dawn Kawamoto
Dawn Kawamoto is HR Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist who has covered technology business news for such publications as CNET and has covered the HR and careers industry for such organizations as Dice and Built In prior to joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected] and below on social media.