Employers Should Embrace the Allure of Summer, Not Fight It
Avoid Employee Burnout: Bring Summer Fun to the Office
While possibly more noticeable in four season cities, summer longings can defy geographical zones to the same extent that Congress generally seems to flout basic math.
Although the era of school holidays ended long before the student loan payments ever did, nostalgia reigns when the weather warms in early June. There’s a mental countdown to the long-gone summer breaks of our youth. And come August, the realization that Fall is but a few weekends away can heighten awareness of missed and fleeting opportunities to enjoy valuable outdoor time. Which means ss daylight hours shorten, so often does an employee’s tolerance for working long and late in a climate controlled office building.
So in this era of Casual Fridays and generous flex time options, what else can or should you do to engage your staff when summer beckons with a better menu and music mix? How do you compete for essential focus within a refrigerated office space that only accentuates the seasonal gap by requiring massive sweater usage?
Face it, summer is a tough competitor. In a baseball game, you wouldn't even get your last at-bat. The only real negatives are mosquito bites and sunburns, and most of your sales force would deem that an endurable sacrifice in exchange for an afternoon on the golf course.
So instead of fighting it, work with it. Summer, that is. Help your employees to get a bigger taste of it before the back-to-school sales hit the bargain bin, or alternately, try to bring a little summer into the office. Good will is a great motivator. By accommodating a very human need you may get super-human results in terms of productivity.
Here are a few ideas on how to work with Summer.
5K – Half Day: Encourage employee participation in weekend 5K races by covering the entry fee and then rewarding participation with a half-day off on the following Friday. Award t-shirts (or pain relieving ointments if appropriate) to top participants at summer’s end. Alternately, honor all participants, walkers and runners alike, with a "Summer Runner" T-shirt. Impact both mental and physical health with this morale booster.
Ballgame Break: Is it a home game? The Columbus Clippers---a minor League baseball team---promotes “Business Day Specials” at Huntington Park. So you can take your team to an afternoon game at your local ballpark while dining on the stadium’s finest processed meat and soaking in the sounds of summer. Consider the seventh inning stretch a team building exercise.
Inventive Incentives: Pre-purchase tickets to popular summer events and destinations: concerts, amusements parks, zoos, fairs, sporting events, water parks. Display the entertainment options in a common area such as a break room and then hand out the tickets as an extra “good performance” perk. You might want to poll for preferences ahead of time to avoid holding a handful of tractor pull tickets come September.
Lottery Lunch: Have weekly drawings for gourmet lunch gift certificates (restaurant meals should not include toy prizes). Winners get a free half-day to redeem and enjoy off premises.
Free Fridays: Allow employees seven "Free Friday" afternoons of their choosing to get a head start on their weekend. The reenergizing effect of a leaving early on a Friday can mean a more focused and productive Monday that will more than make up for the late Friday hours that were more likely focused on Saturday anyway.
Chill at the Grill: Hold monthly extended outdoor lunches that include summer picnic fare and lawn games such as corn hole, croquet and bocce ball. Liven it up with music and a few bad jokes.
The Gift of Time: Make concierge services available so that after work hours aren’t consumed with the mundane. Dry cleaning pickups and oil changes can be skipped but still achieved, leaving more time for perfecting the putting game or working up a good case of tennis elbow.
Take a Bike: Make a few bicycles available for general daytime use. Cycling can be a summer alternative to driving or an energizing afternoon break. Cruisers are not necessarily recommended for making the office coffee run, however.
Field Day: Frisbee golf, kickball or a round of golf. The event itself isn’t as important as where it will be staged: outdoors. Relaxed get-togethers can be conducive to creativity and help erode interpersonal barriers. Splashing a golf ball into the pond is guaranteed to humanize the head of legal.
Ice Cream Break: Cater in a little summer with an afternoon ice cream cart. Bonus points if you can come up with some slightly warped repetitive ice cream truck music to accompany the drumstick delivery.
Don’t fight Summer. It comes but once a year and is the perfect party guest, fostering a sense of camaraderie but lingering far too briefly for most people. Instead, funnel the workplace focus toward greater efficiency with the goal of enhancing everyone’s summer experience. Utilize natural light and outdoor venues when practical. If possible, rotate prime window spots by desk swapping in the office. Help your staff get out of the office more and they will be more motivated when they return.
And if you can keep that more efficient get-it-done-so-we-can-get-out focus alive in October, you will find that working with Summer may extend your office momentum in ways that will benefit your fourth quarter goals as well.