As I’m sitting here writing this article, I can’t help but stare out the window. It’s gorgeous outside. The sun is shining through a blue, cloudless sky. I hear birds chirping, and I notice how green and lush the trees are. The last thing I want to do is remain cooped up inside an office.
My mind begins to drift to the fun-filled activities of summer: family vacations, barbecues, baseball games, relaxing by any body of water. I’m obviously not the only person going through this. A study from Captivatefound that during the summer, workplace productivity goes down 20 percent. Additionally, attendance dips (by 19 percent), project turnaround times increase (by 13 percent), and people are more distracted, with 45 percent reporting they grapple with distractions. Needless to say, that’s not good for business.
The good news is that as a leader, there are ways to keep yourself — and your employees — at maximum productivity throughout the dog days of summer. Here are six ways to start.
1. Throw norms by the wayside.
Obviously, you don’t want to disrupt all of your systems and processes. But the summer is a perfect time to shake things up and experiment with various motivation techniques.
The most glaring place to start is with scheduling. Instead of forcing your team to come in five days a week, offer more flexible schedules. For example, on Mondays, they can work from home. Or you can give them Fridays off so they have a three-day weekend all summer. This is ideal when your team has to worry about childcare, commuting daily in abrasive heat, or using personal days for long weekends.
It’s actually been found that summer Fridays and flexible hours can boost productivity because people feel this contributes to a healthy work-life balance. To make sure you or your team don’t fall behind, ask if they would stay an hour later Monday through Thursday so they can have Fridays off.
Besides changing schedules around a bit, consider relaxing the dress code so your team is more comfortable. Other ideas would be offering unique incentives and rewards for exceeding goals or showing your gratitude.
2. Schedule summer-related activities.
Unless it’s brutal outside, most of us want to enjoy the outdoors during the summer. Why not make that happen for your employees?
For example, you could host outdoor or walking meetings so everyone gets out of that stuffy conference room. Doing so doesn’t just improve teammates’ moods; it’s also beneficial for their health and can spark creativity.
You could also plan for a number of summer-related activities to make the workplace more fun when everyone would rather be elsewhere. Examples include having a barbecue or ice cream social. Another option is to go on a group outing to a lake or park, participate in team-building activities, or volunteer in the community.
3. Shift priorities.
We’ve all experienced this before: You have a question or need permission from a colleague or manager before proceeding. Unfortunately, the person you need is out of town. Are you going to just sit there and twiddle your thumbs?
“This may be a time of fewer distractions because of people being out,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, told Forbes. “Capitalize on that by focusing on projects that require strategic thought and planning so you’ll be ready to precede with your fall proposals at a time when the pressure cooker environment returns. You’ll be glad you took advantage of any lulls.”
4. Make the most of the summer slowdown.
“The temptation during the summer doldrums is to let the time slip away,” Mike Schultz, president at RAIN Group and author of Insight Selling, explained at American Express.
“Don’t let busy work or no work seize the day,“ adds Schultz. „The summer is a great time to brainstorm, innovate and drive new initiatives. Inspire your employees to complete the proactive tasks they don’t have time for during busier times of the year.“
Additionally, the summer is a great time to allow your team to work on new projects or tackle responsibilities they’ve been itching to take on. For example, if an employee has expressed interest in contributing content to your company blog and social channels, let her go ahead and give it a spin — just make sure to review anything before it goes live.
Also, this is a great time to encourage your team to take advantage of learning or growth opportunities, like attending a workshop or seminar. While it may not sound the most exciting, summer is also perfect for cleaning up the office and laying the groundwork for upcoming projects.
5. Encourage everyone to use their time off.
Both you and your employees need time away from work. As Kayla Sloan, a financial productivity expert, explains at Calendar, this is because it will increase productivity, counterintuitive as that may sound. The reason? It prevents burnout, boosts creativity, and provides opportunities to learn more. It also motivates us to do more in less time.
Encourage your team to take real vacations this summer. The most effective way to do this is to lead by example and take one yourself. But don’t skimp on employee vacation time. To make sure everything runs smoothly, stagger vacations so there are always enough hands on deck.
6. Develop a work coverage plan.
Even though vacations should be encouraged, the sad truth is that employees aren’t using their vacation days. Mainly this is because they are afraid they’ll return to a mountain of work and believe there’s no one else capable of doing their job.
The best way to address this is by having a work coverage plan. This is simply a template that outlines the priorities for each employee. It should also cover the tasks that are time-sensitive, as well as relevant contact information for emergencies. The entire team can take turns picking up some of their co-workers’ responsibilities so they can relax on vacation.
Rather than fight the allure of summer, look for innovative ways to enjoy the season with your teammates. Most importantly, use the summer to lighten everyone’s workloads and catch up on some much-deserved vacation time. When everyone returns, they’ll be refreshed to keep forging ahead.