Ahhh… summer. The feel-good season of the year. We get to enjoy the benefits of longer days, opportunities to soak up Vitamin D, and often a much-needed vacation. With relaxation being front and center, it may seem counterintuitive to consider that for many workers summer brings about more stress than other seasons. This year that is even more true.
As COVID fears relent, most of us are looking forward to long-postponed vacations and visits with friends and family. However, those joyful expectations have been tempered by the heightened expense of travel, the possibility of new COVID-related cancellations or changes, and the very real challenge (due to our experience in working remotely) of being able to effectively remove ourselves from work during our vacation.
Even without a vacation, summer creates challenges for those working from home. As we’ve experienced over the past two summers, parents experience a surge in stress if they have children in the home. Keeping kids occupied in the home is a challenge, but sending them to camp is a precarious option. Restrictions (and testing requirements) due to COVID concerns leave parents in perpetual limbo. How do you plan for a meeting or phone call, set aside “quiet time” for a project, or plan your “focus time” when you have a summer-time level of chaos and uncertainty in your home cum workplace?
Vacation and parenting issues, as we know, stretch beyond those directly involved. The fall-out impacts anyone who teams with them or relies on them in the course of work.
Whether it be the intensified workload, the bottlenecks of waiting, or other stressors, the summer schedule creates a slump affecting mood and productivity as much as it does morale. With employers already contending with a tight labor market and a growing propensity for “job shifting” connected with the Great Resignation, it is essential that company leaders act now to retain talent, build morale, and support productivity.
Here are five tips for keeping your team calm, cool, and collected even when temperatures (and possibly tempers) are rising in the course of work.
- Create pods or partnership teams to allow each person to have ample coverage during vacation (or other out-of-office time). Each group will focus on where they need support, identify who will give it, and create their own best plan for ensuring clients, customers, or in-office staff are supported. Encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking and require each pod to write up their action plan and share it with a manager or HR leader. This builds accountability and allows for an outside/objective person to support the changes.
- Summer Hours – Consider allowing half-day Fridays or late-start Mondays to enable your team to take a little extra personal time this summer. Whether you do this weekly, monthly, or as it suits your business demands, it’s certain to be appreciated by your team.
- Unexpected Treats & Token of Appreciation – One of the best things about taking a vacation is that unexpected adventures and experiences await you. Recreate this for your workers. Surprise your team with lunch delivery (even to their home!), Starbucks gift cards, or other surprises they don’t expect. These small but significant efforts go a long way in staving off summertime work slumps and are great for building morale.
- Summer Shhhhh! Hours –Those team members who are taking vacation get to enjoy time away from ringing phones, office chatter, or email notifications. In other words, vacationing folks get to unplug. Try bringing the same to those who aren’t taking a summer vacation, by having scheduled “quiet time.” Plan times when the phones and emails can be turned off, so that team members can experience a mini “in-office vacation.” Encourage team members to use this time to enjoy a quiet activity such as going for a brief stroll, reading a book, listening to music, or engaging in other non-work quiet activities (puzzles, word games, etc.).
- Celebrate the Season with a Party – Even if your team is hybrid or remote, take advantage of the season and hold an off-site gathering. A BBQ or themed potluck can help re-establish relationships and build camaraderie. Engage your people with activities that build relationships (think party games like Two Truths and a Lie) and help to form connection beyond the world of work they share.
These tips all have one common objective— they aim to reduce stress, boost morale, and bring enjoyment to the office (and beyond). Remember, you don’t have to break the bank to show appreciation or to keep your team happy, relaxed, and productive. By implementing just a few of these ideas, your team is sure to feel rewarded, and, even if they don’t get to take leave from work this summer, to feel the fun and spontaneity of a vacation of their own.