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What employers can do to make your summer less stressful

Offices can empty out in the summer months.
Offices can empty out in the summer months.   -  Copyright  Canva

By Kirstie McDermott

Europe does summer holidays a little differently from the rest of the world. Take, for example, the Netherlands’ Bouwvak, aka construction holidays. 


Known as builders’ holidays in other countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom, it's not uncommon for the entire construction industry––builders, carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers and others––to put down their tools and for projects to grind to a halt in August.

In the Netherlands though, Bouwvak is a mandatory holiday period that is held across the country, to ensure that there are no caps on construction schedules or worker availability during the summer, traditionally a popular time for building projects to happen thanks to more clement weather.

Dates differ each year and the Bouwend Nederland trade association creates advisory dates every year.

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It’s just one example of how Europe handles summer vacation time. In Sweden, for example, workers get to take advantage of holiday legislation which gives them, by law, the right to 25 days of holiday and four consecutive weeks off during June, July, and August. 


Swedish employees can also save a number of their holiday days each year for a maximum of five years, so it’s possible to take more time off.

In Norway, there’s Fellesfiere, a joint holiday, which sees as much as 50 per cent of the workforce take a three-week break in July.

During Les Vacances d'Été, the French log off their laptops and head in droves to the coasts for some rest and relaxation.

Traditional summer slow-downs in hotter climates such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, stretch from July to August, which tend to be the hottest months of the year. It’s typical for businesses to close in the middle of the day to allow employees to cope with heat, or for workers to simply take more time off during these periods.

Thanks to global warming, however, other European countries may soon follow suit. The continent has been warming at twice the global average since 1991, with figures showing that temperatures are now running 2.3C above pre-industrial levels.

Thanks to Europe’s cultural and climate diversity and its citizens’ holiday entitlements, it’s not uncommon to feel like the entire continent shuts down during the summer, and it can be hard to get things done, especially if you’re working across jurisdictions.

Summer stress

Rising heat is just one part of the problem. A recent study of HR professionals identified that  57 per cent of them notice colleagues suffering from burnout during the summer, with 41 per cent saying it impacts productivity. 

For working parents and those with caring responsibilities, in particular, the summer season can add to their workplace woes.

For those caring for older relatives, intense heat represents an even deadlier threat. Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), estimated that more than 61,000 people died in Europe’s 2022 heatwaves. 

They also found that those aged over 80 accounted for more than half of that summer’s heat-related deaths, with older women found to be especially vulnerable.


Parents also find themselves in a bind as schools in some countries can close for up to three months.

Parents juggle entertaining smaller kids with summer camp drop-offs and pickups for older ones––and try to find care for the times in between. This creates a jigsaw puzzle for caregivers as they strive to cover the time that is normally accommodated by schools or childminders.

It can add massive pressure on workers, leading to stress and preoccupation as they deal with the unpredictability.

So what can be done? Workplaces have a lot of power here. Recognising the stress the summer period can put on workers is a first step towards finding solutions. From summer bonuses to help pay for all the extra costs to allowing more flexibility around morning and evening drop-offs, small and not-so-small accommodations can help.

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Increasingly companies are offering soft, or “summer Fridays” where employees can clock off early and get a head start on their weekends. PwC, Asos and Kellogg’s are just three firms offering this benefit.

In PwC’s case, a 2021 pilot was so successful that 90 per cent of its staff said summer Fridays had a positive impact, and 73 per cent said it positively impacted their general wellbeing to a great extent. It is now a permanent fixture in its employee benefits package. 

There are other things that employers can do too. HR departments can offer advice around any applicable tax credits you may be eligible for, and larger corporations may find it possible to create employee programmes around discounts or vouchers for working parents to help with the summer costs.

Ultimately, understanding and flexibility are what stressed employees need in the summer months. With so much extra pressure on their time and resources, they can make a big difference.

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