Summer can be one of the most challenging times to keep employees engaged. There are days — predominantly Friday afternoons — when people’s minds wander to other things, like going out for an extended lunch or leaving work early. Their minds may even wander to other job prospects.
Maintaining employee engagement during summer can be especially challenging, but it’s not impossible. Leaning in to connect with employees and try something new during the summer months could be what your organization needs to help your employees remain productive during the dog days of summer.
Amy Leschke-Kahle, vice president of performance acceleration at the Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP company, reminds leaders how engagement really works: “The most powerful thing that can happen is that team leaders pay attention to their team members, and do that frequently. Team leaders, who pay frequent attention to their team members, at least weekly, and do that intentionally by asking three simple questions: What are your priorities this week? How can I help? And how are you feeling? … Those team members are more than twice as likely to be fully engaged or all-in at work.”
Encouraging leaders to lean in and connect with employees individually doesn’t have to be specific to summer engagement either. It’s a practice that can help boost engagement all year. Here are some additional tips for keeping engagement up during the summer.
Give people time to go outside
Once an organization acknowledges people’s desire to be outside, it is a logical next step to offer to let employees leave early and blow off some steam occasionally. Some organizations let employees leave the office early every other Friday during the summer to participate in company-sponsored activities like yoga, hiking and volleyball. The program promotes employee wellness and allows employees to engage in team-building activities outside the office.
Encourage vacations and long weekends
There is a tendency among US workers to feel like they can’t take time off, and organizations are doing little to encourage people to take a break. According to the U.S. Travel Association, over 768 million vacation days went unused by Americans in a single year.
Summer is the perfect time for organizations to remind employees to rest and vacation. Suppose management proactively and authentically pushes people to use their vacation time and has firm practices for offloading their work. In that case, employees will not only be more likely to take their vacation but also will likely feel more loyalty toward the organization and come back refreshed and ready to be productive.
Walk it out
The afternoon slump is a well-known and natural state that many people experience at work, especially in the gorgeous summer months when people already feel the urge to leave the office. One way to combat the dip in employee engagement during the afternoon slump — but still get some work done — is to have walking meetings. Instead of reserving a conference room, take meetings outdoors and talk while you walk! This is great for one-on-one meetings, connecting with a peer in another department, or brainstorming an idea with a colleague. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and a chance of scenery while still being productive.
Rewards with a summer theme
Another way to encourage employee engagement during the summer months is to alter employee reward and recognition programs to include recognizing people for achieving goals during the summer. Tailor rewards around summer themes like outdoor concert tickets, extra paid time off or frequent-flier miles. These bonuses do double duty by recognizing performance and giving additional incentives to take time off.
Flexible summer schedules
Increasing your work-at-home allowance could also significantly boost your engagement efforts during the summer months. That practice can be especially effective in organizations that don’t have liberal work-at-home policies. Employees will benefit from reduced commute times and the ability to spend a little more time with family or on personal activities while at the same time feeling an improved connection with the organization in exchange for work flexibility.
Organizations would do well to acknowledge the distractions that naturally come with summer months and nicer weather, and instead of cracking down rules and regulations, lean into the opportunity to engage employees and shake up normal routines to help teams remain productive while still enjoying the seasonal change and nicer outdoor weather.
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