Avoid summer haze by boosting engagement

Finally, those lazy, hazy days of summer have arrived. University students have found their summer jobs and elementary and high school students are getting increasingly excited as they begin the countdown to summer vacation. Summer season also affects our workplaces in at least two ways. First, employees quickly line up with their vacation requests, causing scheduling challenges for management. Second, people typically find it hard to concentrate in the summer, so employee productivity often lags behind.

In fact, studies show workplaces can experience a 20 per cent drop in employee productivity as well as increased absenteeism. In addition, these studies also show that with vacation on their minds, many employees are easily distracted, often take extended lunch breaks and socialize more than normal.

Let’s face it: just prior to vacation, employees are excited and often find themselves daydreaming about their time away from work.

Then, when the vacation is over and they return, it’ll take up to two weeks before the employee fully gets back into the regular routine. Some may even suffer from the so called "vacation blues" for a longer period of time.

While employee motivation is the focus of a manager’s attention at any time of the year, the summer season can be particularly challenging when weather is thrown into the mix.

At the same time, summer provides us with an opportunity to apply some creative tactics to help sustain employee engagement and productivity. The following ideas for the summer season will help you to retain employee energy:

Summer flex hours

If possible, consider rejigging your work schedule so that employees can accumulate time during the winter and then go home early on a Friday throughout the summer. Summer hours and/or early closing just before the weekend is a big morale booster and a valuable incentive for productivity. In fact, studies show that summer-hour schedules create improvements in work-life balance and help to increase productivity.

Workload schedules

With some employees away on vacation, it is easy to simply load up remaining employees with their work. Be careful, as this may cause work overload, which can be very demotivating. Divide the work fairly and assign to the right people. Determine what tasks can be put aside until the employee returns.

Lunch-hour events

Almost everywhere you look during the summer, there’s some sort of neighbourhood activity occurring during lunch hour. Search them out and gather up a group of employees to attend. If you are close to downtown, plan to attend the free musicals and/or mini festivals in the local park.

Daily walks

Set up a noon-hour walk team. Simply walk around the block and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll see. Travel a different route every day. Don’t rush: take time to admire the architecture, pay attention to the street names and think about their history. Enjoy the sunshine.

Lunch hour picnic

Invite your staff to bring a summer lunch to work and then create a large employee picnic outside. Bring a portable barbecue and cook some hotdogs. Don’t forget the ice cream to top off the event.

Potluck lunch

Rain or shine, there is no excuse for not arranging a staff potluck lunch. Ask employees to bring their favourite dish and/or a cultural dish of their choice. Then have each person describe why they chose their food and if there is any cultural significance to it.

Summer staff evening

Plan a summer evening event with all the staff. This could range from the horse races, a concert, a baseball or football game to a full-out round of golf. Set up a committee of staff members so that they can learn more about leadership and event planning.

Create a photo wall

Invite returning vacationers to bring their photos and post them in your lunchroom. Invite employees to present their photos and talk about the highlights of their vacation.

Open house

Consider inviting your customers, clients and families to join you for an open house as an opportunity to meet people that they communicate with on a daily basis.

Create a game day

Creating a sense of fun also helps with productivity. Plan to have a game day by bringing several different board games and setting them up in different work stations.

Relax the dress code

Either relax the dress code for the summer and/or consider arranging one day to have fun with your dress code. For instance, ask everyone to wear a certain colour on a certain day.

Celebrate success

Success often comes in little bundles, so having a monthly celebrate-success event on a workday afternoon does much to boost morale and enhance employee engagement. Find any excuse to celebrate, whether it be employee birthdays, finalizing a project and/or welcoming a new employee.

While employee productivity, motivation and engagement can be more challenging during the summer season, focusing on this important work element year-round has many benefits. Study after study shows that high levels of employee engagement results in lower levels of absenteeism, lower turnover, higher quality of work, lower accident rates and, for corporations, higher profitability.

As well, engaged employees are known to be more attentive and focused all year round. They are more sensitive to the needs of their colleagues, they recognize the importance of their work to their organization and they feel connected.

The lazy, hazy days of summer have arrived. You should use this time to be creative and build upon the energy in your organization.

Source: Are Flexible Schedules the Secret to Beating Summer’s Productivity? Worksmart, 06.24.15, Some Shocking Facts about how much lazier workers get during the summer, Career Insider, Shlomo Sprung, Jun. 29, 2012.

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