By John Rampton, founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.
It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Even if it isn’t easy at work, employees have an almost intrinsic mindset that it should be. Work continues, but the world just seems to move at a slower pace right now.
As a team leader, you may rue the anticipated productivity slowdown. After all, the office isn’t school, where everyone gets the summer off. Deadlines are deadlines, no matter the time of year.
Smart leaders, though, should take the seasonal difference in stride. It offers a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on an inherently more relaxed work environment. It’s your chance to develop your team’s mental and emotional connection to the company.
Maybe it can’t be casual Friday every day. But you can help sustain that feeling among your employees. Here are three ways leaders can promote more team engagement this summer.
1. Let everyone get a breath of fresh air.
You probably know what it’s like to be driving and feel your eyelids begin to droop. The radio, caffeine or snacking isn’t enough to shake the drowsiness. But rolling down the windows and getting a little fresh air always seems to revive you.
It’s no wonder your team may be asleep at the wheel when working inside every day. That’s why a recent OnePoll survey showed that two out of three workers prefer working outside, weather permitting. They opt to work at cafés, on rooftops or on patios over the comforts of the office and are far more productive.
So find a good spot to take the indoors out this summer when the weather is nice. You learned how to accommodate a team working remotely during a global pandemic. Creating a flexible workspace outside should be a piece of cake.
In fact, take advantage of lessons learned about the technology that made remote work possible. The same hardware, software and a good internet connection that served your team’s living rooms can serve your office outdoor space.
Employees who truly enjoy their surroundings while they work can be more engaged in that work and with each other. The less formal environment is conducive to the collaboration necessary for a well-oiled team. Few things are better than fresh air, sunshine and a cool drink to keep everyone alert and active.
2. Host some outdoor events.
Speaking of the great outdoors, there’s nothing like an employee picnic. It gets everyone outside, relaxed, fed and social. And unlike the office holiday party, your team can bring their family and friends along.
Supporting your team’s overall well-being means knowing who they are outside the office. Engage with them personally and professionally if you want them to be more engaged with their work. Communication, trust, loyalty and commitment are all likely to grow if you make the effort.
Scheduling work and social activities outside the confines of the office is natural for summer. It breaks down the barriers created by office doors and remote work arrangements. Outdoor activities offer a great way to get sufficiently personal with your team without crossing any boundaries.
Think outside the office box. Work in an al fresco component any time you can and every time the weather is great. And don’t forget to ask your team for suggestions for events and opportunities as well. Happy hours on the patio, team lunch meetings in the park and company softball games are all great bonding opportunities they won’t want to miss.
3. Be flexible and supportive.
It’s likely that summer allows you more leeway to be flexible than any other time of the year. Use it to your advantage to cut your team some slack from time to time. You’ll keep them refreshed and encourage them to engage when they’re back in the office.
Counterintuitive though it may seem, shortened workweeks during the summer can be productivity boosters. You may find a four-day work week or half-day Fridays don’t compromise deadlines at all. If you can’t allow them every week, at least try shortened days occasionally throughout the summer.
In addition, be as accommodating as possible of vacation days and requests for time off to take care of kids out of school. Plus, an extra day during a holiday weekend is always appreciated. It’s tough to enjoy watching fireworks on the 4th if you have to be in the office bright and early on the 5th.
Be extra supportive when a team member asks for time off to do volunteer work in the community. Join the employee and encourage other team members to do so as well. Serving lunch at a summer food service program will ensure hungry kids get a nutritious meal and be a great bonding experience for your team.
The key is to be open and agile when it comes to managing your team and their work during the summer months. Use scheduling software for your team and ensure adequate coverage will be a summer breeze. If you discover team members are happy to cover for those who need some time off, your plan is working.
Engage in summer.
Summer always has a more leisurely rhythm that permeates personal and professional lives. Rather than fighting the slowdown, look to capitalize on it. Team members who feel more relaxed and valued are better and more loyal employees.
Remember, too, that your team made major adjustments during the pandemic. They became accustomed to working more on their own schedules and without constant supervision. For many, that was a bright spot in an otherwise dark period. Scaling back that autonomy may feel like punishment, so don’t do it.
As a leader of your team, you’re responsible for ensuring that high-quality work gets done on time and on budget. However, you also may have the power to push those deadlines back a bit into the fall. That gives you and your team all summer to change up the pace while remaining productive and boosting engagement.