NEW YORK (MainStreet)—The calendar tells us that summer is in its waning days, and August is considered the "Sunday" of summer.
Still, studies show that work productivity drops in the summer, and although school might be back in session in some parts of the country, employees might be scrambling to take remaining vacation and aren't likely to settle into real productivity until after Labor Day, or until the official first days of fall later in the month.
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So how do you keep your employees motivated these remaining days of summer?
Michael Crom, executive vice president of Dale Carnegie & Associates in Long Island, N.Y., says summer is tough on almost every organization. His organization's research that involved 4,500 people worldwide shows that the starting point in keep employee engagement high is an employee's immediate supervisor building a relationship with his employee.
"If an employer takes an interest in an employee's personal life, they will continue to want to contribute to the organization," says Crom.
Of course, you can start building those relationships with your employees now, by taking an interest in what's happening in their lives these last few weeks of summer.
Once that relationship starts to build, here are some things experts MainStreet consulted said could help boost productivity until everyone gets back to the office and back to business:
- 1. Relax the Dress Code: If your company doesn't have direct interaction with customers or clients and you haven't already, relax the dress code for these last few weeks of summer. You can even make it fun and have themed days. Parents will be busy getting their kids into their new routines and to sports practices. It might be helpful if dad doesn't have to show up right after work in a suit. As well, the heat is still on the rise outside. "Do you really want to be wearing a suit and tie when it is 90 degrees outside with a heat index of 105?" asks Michelle Benjamin, CEO and founder of Benjamin Enterprises. She suggests setting some boundaries, but loosen up.
- 2. Picnic in the Break Room: Benjamin also suggests that employees can build stronger relationships by informal lunches in the break room. These can be themed lunches such as a beach party or luau or ball park theme (maybe give away some ball tickets in drawings). "This will help break up the daily routine and give employees time together for building and strengthening their relationships," says Benjamin.
- 3. Work Remotely: The start of school is stressful for parents, and it may be hard for them to schedule medical appointments, school and activity enrollment, open houses, back-to-school shopping and all of their other personal commitments if they have a set schedule in the office. If your company has been toying with the idea of letting some employees work remotely part- or full-time, now is the best time to launch the experiment. "Letting people work from home as often as they want is a great way to change the routine a bit and keep people engaged," says Nicholas Holmes, a marketing expert for Precursive, a resource management company in London. "Plus, when employees return, they'll hopefully be more relaxed and raring to go."
- 4. Flex Schedules: If working remotely isn't possible, than allowing employees these last few weeks of summer with flex schedules could also help them get their work and personal lives in order. "Our employees know that if they take care of their responsibilities at work, they are free to do what they like," says Seth Young, C.O.O. for Star Fantasy Leagues, a company that offers flex schedules.
- 5. Offsite Lunch: Lunches in the break room are nice, but if you want to have an end of summer type celebration, do it off site. "It's important to reward the employees who are working hard through those hot days," says Chris Costello, principal founder of CBG Benefits. "An offsite team lunch will not only be provide a nice break, but it may also improve camaraderie and loyalty among workers."
- 6. Allow Employees to Bring Pets: Studies have shown that employees who are allowed to bring pets to work have lower stress levels, have higher productivity, are happier and work longer if they don't have to rush home or to doggy daycare to take care of their pets. If you were thinking of implementing a pet friendly workplace policy, the time of lowest productivity is the best time to try it out, says Natasha Ashton, co-founder and co-CEO of Petplan pet insurance.
- 7. Problem Solving: In the summer months, when things slow down, it can be a great time to call employees in for a brainstorming session on a meaty business problem. "Describe the problem, begin generating ideas together, then give everyone a research assignment related to some aspect of solving the problem," says Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better. "The research assignment should have a clear goal, a due date, and a description of the deliverable you expect."
- 8. Provide Incentives for Employees to Walk or Bike to Work: "Encouraging employees in this way will allow workers to reap the benefits of being outdoors before and after work while also encouraging them to exercise, thus potentially leading to more concentration and productivity," says Melissa Herrett, marketing content manager for Avatar Solutions. "As an added bonus, encouraging employees to bike or walk to work will reduce the carbon footprint."
- 9. Set Rest-of-the-Year Goals: Why wait until the end of the year to set goals? Get employees back into working by mid September by having the company and their goals laid out when they return to work, these goals could even take them through next May, says Bob Marsh CEO of LevelEleven.
- 10. Continue Relationship Building: "Knowing more about your people will help you find out what makes them tick, what their interests and motivators are, and how best to communicate with them - and this will make them feel more connected to you and to your company and make you feel more connected to them," says Todd Cherches, CEO and co-founder of BigBlueGumball LLC.
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It may also help you stave off the productivity lull next summer season.
--written by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
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