Oh summer! It’s easy for employers to develop a love-hate feeling towards the beautiful blue skies and heat of the summer months. The love part is easy to understand. Who doesn’t love the warm days of walking to lunch in the sun, anticipation of a weekend spent outdoors, wearing short sleeves and casual Fridays?…
…But there is a flip side. With summer comes planning around multiple vacations, an increased demand on the A/C power bill and perhaps the worst is employees who would rather stare out the window dreaming about summer activities than stay focused on their jobs.
There is a way to use the love of summer to keep employees motivated and focused. In fact there are plenty of ways! We’ve noted our top five here:
1. Get outside and enjoy it together.
There is nothing better than impromptu “hanging out” for team building. There’s no need for one of those big planned events like a barbecue, horse-back riding or river rafting adventures – although those types of things can be great for team summer fun as well. The difference is, it’s the spontaneous “let’s go do something it’s nice out” attitude from a manager that will help inspire a team.
I knew of one manager who kept a basketball under her desk and on a sunny day, she would gather up her team, take them outside and they’d use the basketball to inspire new thinking. By bounce-passing it to each other while standing in a large circle, the recipient of the ball had to say something good about the day, what the team had accomplished, something they did, something they were looking forward to or a new idea they could incorporate. It was always a spur of the moment activity, lasted for maybe 20 minutes and broke up the day.
A quick walk around the building is good too and should be encouraged to not only keep the creativity happening, but also to keep the body moving. Summer is a wonderful time to have people increase their focus because they are more likely to move their bodies and then be able to settle into their desks when they are back. Try to make outdoor visits a group effort as much as possible.
2. Gaming for snacks and other small rewards.
Know someone who did something great? Have small gifts like snacks, scratch-and-win tickets or fun toys in your desk to reward someone. This could be a formal Friday event where everyone waits to see who gets a goofy button or a chocolate bar for something they did, or it could be impromptu moments of recognition.
Be transparent about what the person did (whether taking initiative on something, helping the entire office with a goal or just doing a stellar job on a hard assignment) and share that wonderful news. Small treats that are a little silly and fun keep people motivated and inspired.
Another way to make the rewards motivational is to “game them”. Think about video games where players get rewards for each new level they achieve. Is there a way to game a process or task in your office? If someone has to make 15 calls a day, they could achieve new rewards at 150, 400 and 750 calls. A new product roll-out has milestones and tasks, set “level-up” reward markers at various stages and hand out fun rewards when those levels are reached.
3. Create a cool hangout place for work, play and just taking a break.
Not every office has spare space kicking around, but a change of scenery can do wonders for motivation. If there is an open space at the top of the stairs or a bit of sidewalk out front, can you take a few patio chairs and a tiny table out to create your own little hangout? Indoors or out, you can add a plant or two and even a Mexican blanket for a mat and you’ve got everything you need except music! Heck, take that along too if it makes sense.
The point is, we tend to lose focus in the summer because we feel like we’re missing out – missing out on the warmth of the sun, the activity, the opportunities to relax outside. If you can create a space that inspires summer and doesn’t look like a cubicle farm you can use it for a range of reasons – casual chats, a quick break, a place to brainstorm and more.
4. Talk about plans and set goals together.
Generally plans for the following year are made in the fall when it’s dreary. What if you took the summer sun and used that to inspire future plans? Summer is the ideal time to make use of outdoor spaces to create plans for upcoming projects and tasks. These can be company goals, team goals and individual goals – whatever works for you. The idea is to make use of what already feels good (enjoying the summer) and allow it to create even more good – future plans.
5. Praise great jobs and celebrate the victories.
It’s a known fact that we simply don’t celebrate our successes nearly enough. We work, work, work and at the end of each project we go on to the next without taking time to recognize the last job well done. Managers can use the summer months to create informal programs to celebrate individual accomplishments and targets as well as team successes. It’s important to take the time to celebrate the great things in order to provide motivation for the next activity and by doing so during inspiring summer months the habit can continue throughout the year.
Everyone loves thinking about an upcoming vacation or the sunny weekend in the backyard and while occasional daydreaming isn’t going to adversely impact job performance, ongoing mental wandering and loss of focus might. Harness that universal love of summer with a few simple activities to create more focus, greater appreciation and motivation that can progress throughout the year.