Schools are closing, the Sun is shining, and everyone’s packing up their suitcases with beach gear. Meanwhile, you and your team are in the office, daydreaming about how to take advantage of the warmer weather. Unfortunately, staying focused and productive at work can be extremely difficult during the summer, especially when the office is half-empty.
If you’re one of the few people holding the fort while your work colleagues are away, don’t fret. Here are six ways to keep yourself and your team productive and inspired during the dog days of summer.
1. Encourage Strategic Time-off
Let’s be honest: given the option of taking time off over the summer or staying in the office, almost everyone would relax outdoors rather than type away in their cubicles. But just because people choose to work doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still find at least a day or two to get out and enjoy the heat.
If your coworkers are full-time employees, remind them of their benefits and personal days – particularly if they have amassed a significant number of days off and work is slower over the summer months. If they haven’t taken their personal days yet, encourage them to do it now. About 57 percent of American workers do not use their vacation for fear of returning to a mountain of work, and few cite not wanting to spend money as the primary reason. However, encouraging people to take time off is essential to good time management. Be sure to communicate that it’s fine for them to take some days off, even if they’re relatively new.
Plus, provide them with steps and tools to ensure that their workload doesn’t become unbearable upon their return. A day out of the office can be refreshing and make all the difference between turning “stuck in the office during the summer” and “being productive at the office during the summer.”
2. Stay Busy in Career-boosting Initiatives
Having nothing to do is a major demotivation, especially when the office is dead quiet in the summer. On the other hand, having too much to do can cause stress and lead to demotivation, resentment and low morale, especially if your coworkers are sending you selfies from their Airbnb rentals in the Bahamas.
Summertime presents the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your delegation tactics and create an optimal blend of busyness and career development opportunities for your direct reportees. Make sure they not only have enough to do but also do things that are engaging and important to their job profile, as opposed to just busy work. Help them prioritize their time and tasks, and if appropriate, give them a chance to take on new responsibilities or wear new hats. Millennials, for example, want to invest time in acquiring skills and knowledge rather than just earning a paycheck – summer would be a great time for them to use this opportunity.
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique
Sitting around in an empty office naturally breeds procrastination and laziness, but there are many time-tested techniques to boost productivity. One example, invented in the late 1980s by the developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo, is the Pomodoro Technique, which is based on the idea that frequent breaks improve mental agility and productivity. The method involves using a timer to break work hours into 25-minute intervals, separated by short breaks.
What’s nice about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s very simple and inexpensive to deploy: you simply break your ultimate goal into well-defined, 25-minute tasks, set the timer, work until the timer rings, mark the task as complete, take a short break, and start on the next task. Before you know it, the workday will be over, and you’ll be free to go.
4. Take Meetings Outside and Encourage Walks
Most offices are located in areas that are surrounded by easily walkable terrain – such as parks, pathways, and lakes. This provides ample opportunities to conduct the daily stand-up or weekly update outside the conference room and in the open.
Getting outside for meetings provides fresh air – but also offers fresh context. A change in the scenery can spark creativity and open doors to new ideas and new ways of looking at problems or challenges. A study by a prominent United States university found that people who spent time outside were better able to improve their mental health and/or well-being. In this sense, taking meetings outdoors can really solve two issues at once: relieving your team’s summertime office blues, while giving them an outlet for insight and problem-solving.
You can also encourage getting outside, not just for business but for pleasure. For example, organize a daily half-hour team walk in the mornings or during the mid-day, or create a longer weekly event. If the sun’s out – why not enjoy it? You and your team will feel better about getting out and will return to the office refreshed and focused.
5. Do Half-day Fridays
“Summer Fridays” are practically standard operating procedure among European companies, but a mere one-third of Americans receive additional time off in the summer. As evidenced by taking almost all of August off, our European counterparts understand the importance of long weekends and proper exposure to the Sun for mental health.
Institutionalizing summer Fridays, where people take off on Friday afternoon rather than working until 5 pm, will allow your employees to beat traffic and get to that campsite, beach house, or lake retreat that much earlier. Besides, it will squeeze their time a little, forcing them to be more productive and focused while in the office. That’s a win-win!
6. Use the Time to Give Back
The quieter summer months – if they are indeed quiet – are a great time to give people a chance to give back to the community. It could also be a great time to invest in learning, development, and training. Altruistic initiatives encourage people to step away from their desks and get into a more positive frame of mind.
Research has shown the benefits of volunteer work on both physical and mental well-being. Take a look at your local charity organizations and see which ones cater to corporate groups. Better yet, finding colleagues who can help identify and champion a volunteer program at work can help drive more employee engagement for the cause. This is not only a great excuse to get outside – it’s also something that everyone can do together to feel good—another win-win.
Staying productive and motivated during the summertime will always be challenging, but it’s not impossible. You and your team can easily beat the summer office doldrums with the proper tools and tactics. Ultimately, your employees’ happiness and well-being are the primary determinants of work quality and output. They’ll do good work if they’re happy, which translates into greater team morale and productivity in any office environment.
Take Off and Enjoy the Summer
Finally, make your time off count. Taking a break during the summer doesn’t necessarily mean packing and spending your time off on a beach or a mountain. By taking advantage of the summer months, you can make time for yourself, relax, get enough sleep and just work on things that you would really enjoy. Go for a walk in the park, meditate in your backyard, or just sit back and enjoy nature. This is a great way to know yourself and improve your well-being. At the end of the day, make sure you enjoy your summer vacation. Get relaxed, refreshed, and energized before you head off on your vacation. Being relaxed and refreshed can help you stay motivated and productive at work.>
With the holiday season upon us, now is the time to reevaluate how your company treats vacation days and encourage those who haven’t used their PTO. Click here to learn more about PTO and choose the best vacation policy for your company.