8 Things to Expect – and Suffer Through – When Stuck at Work This Summer

This season brings new workplace aggravations to the fore.

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Alison Green
With temperatures heating up across the country, offices are filling up with aggravations specific to summer – from battles over the thermostat to the challenges of looking professional in the heat.

Here are eight of the biggest aggravations that you'll find in nearly every workplace this summer.

1. Air conditioning wars. The thermostat is often ground zero for office tensions. On one side of the battle are the people who freeze in overly air-conditioned offices and end up wearing cardigans to stay warm, despite sweltering temperatures outside. And on the other side are the sweating, nearly broiling workers who can't understand why the thermostat can't be turned down even lower. The result? A constant raising and lowering of the temperature as each side battles for domination.

2. Colleagues who are showing too much skin. Some people's idea of professional dress falls apart completely in the summer, and suddenly that VP who dressed so nattily in other seasons is showing up at the office in strapless sundresses, tank tops and other outfits better suited for the beach than the conference room. (Tip: Visible armpits don't belong in the office.) That said…

3. Trying to look professional in the heat. It's tough to look polished and professional when soaring temperatures have you battling sweat and frizzy hair. It's even harder if your office dress code requires suit jackets or pantyhose.

4. Flip flops. Gone are the days when a flip flop would never darken an office's doorway. These days, it's not uncommon to spot – or hear – flip flops in otherwise professional workplaces. And the accompanying noise (that distinctive thwap-thwap) and toe exposure drives plenty of office workers batty. For them, flip flops signal that the wearers have one foot in the office and the other on the beach. Unsurprisingly, some workplaces have moved to ban them.

5. Covering for co-workers who are out on vacation. In many offices, summer means an exodus of workers for vacation time – leaving the staffers left behind facing an increased workload as they try to cover for these absent colleagues. Of course, this isn't so bad if you know that your turn is coming soon – but it can be frustrating if you don't have any accrued vacation time to take yourself. On the opposite end of this …

6. Work slows down, but your hours don't. In some offices, the flow of work slows down in the summer when clients are away. Some employers respond by letting employees leave early on Fridays or encouraging people to take time off, but plenty of workplaces won't give employees any flexibility during this period, leaving them with slow, boring days stuck in the office.

7. Not being able to move work forward when decision-makers are out. You've worked all month to perfect that project and you're ready to finalize it and send it out – but your boss is out for two weeks and you can't move forward without her approval. Or you uncover a major problem on an account and don't have the authority to fix it until your boss is back – but he takes off all of August each year. Of course, good managers will ensure that you have the authority to move work forward in their absence (or that you can consult with someone who does), but plenty of managers leave for vacation without putting those measures in place.

8. Being at work when you could be at the pool or at the beach. The sun is shining, the skies are blue, you can see people in shorts and bikini tops outside your window – and you're stuck inside watching a PowerPoint presentation. It can be tough to focus on work when the weather is calling – even if all you want to do is flop on your porch with a cold drink and a fan.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.