Staying on-task in the off-season
Ice cream season, the temptation of the beer garden and the chance to soak up some sunshine means summer is peak time for distraction among employees. Staff will always need motivation throughout the year, but a lot of attention is focused on summer to keep productivity high and businesses on track.
Historically, there’s always talk about the summer slump where staff may slack off more, but is it true? Why, yes, it is, and there’s research to prove it! A study of 600 American workers found that 45% admit they are more distracted, attendance drops by 19%, and that productivity goes down by 20% during the warmer months.
However, as much as summer may be linked to distracted workers, it’s also a great opportunity to combat disruption with some great motivational tools. So, how can you avoid the summer void of productivity? We’ll look at the ways you can keep staff motivated, engaged and focused during June, July and August, with holiday time, managing workloads and seasonal events.
With summer approaching, it can tempt even the most hard-working employees to look forward to their holidays, and it’s important not to discourage that, but you do need to organise holiday time effectively.
Giving staff access to more holiday options is one way to motivate them, with schemes such as annual leave purchase where employees can buy extra days of holiday as part of a net pay deduction arrangement spread across the whole year. The advantage of this for businesses is a reduction in the wage bill while your team soak up the sun – everybody wins!
Changes in the political landscape can also influence holidays as the UK General Election has shown, as one in six people in the UK had planned to spend time abroad while it was going on, and 6% deliberately booked holidays out of the country to avoid the election campaign. With uncertainty still remaining after the election, be wary of staff who may be politically fed up!
You should also encourage staff to take time off so they avoid employee burnout, which dramatically affects motivation. Research from Glassdoor found the average UK employee only takes 77% of their annual leave allowance, and that 44% of workers do some work while on holiday, with some of their reasons down to fear of getting behind, never being able to disconnect, and fear of losing their job.
Higher management needs to allay fears of taking holiday time. A break is good for everyone, allow people to recharge their batteries so, when they do come back, they’re well rested, engaged, and motivated to do their job. Managing holiday requests fairly and making sure you have enough bodies to cover is not always an easy feat, but staff need to use their time so you will find a positive balance.
Flexible working can also be considered in the summer months, as with schools finishing it means parents often need childcare, which isn’t alwaysavailable. Allowing staff the option to work from home, where they can fit their schedules around their family commitments, can help reduce absences and help with motivation.
There are myths that working from home means a less productive workforce, but that’s not the case. An experiment by Stanford University professor Nicolas Bloom found that when splitting a sales team in two for nine months – where one half remained in the office and the other half worked from home – those who were in the comfort of their own home completed over 13% more calls than staff in the office did.
Summer is high time for daydreaming and avoiding work
Do summer distractions have a negative effect on output? Are staff more likely to let their minds wander and avoid taking on extra work, or are they more likely to get stressed when overworked in hotter temperatures? If employees are having to share the work of others who are absent or on holiday, and it’s not managed effectively, it can lead to employee burnout.
In the Harvard Business Review publication Time, Talent and Energy, research found that companies who had high burnout rates all had three similar traits – excessive collaboration, weak time management disciplines, and a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work.
With delegation, it’s natural for employers to pick their top performers as they can generally rely on them. But if they are given more work than they can handle, it’s potentially damaging to your relationship with them. After all, will they feel motivated to complete tasks if all they receive as thanks is another task to complete in their already busy schedule?
The stats don’t lie. Workplace stress is on the rise, and a survey from Accountemps found 60% of employees feel their work-related stress levels have increased in the last five years, with 33% reporting a heavy workload and looming deadline is the biggest reason.
For other employees, not having enough work can lead to demotivation as they have nothing to do. Sure, your top performers are unlikely to be in this situation, and some employees would likely ask for more work, but what can you do for those who sit there having completed everything?
One solution is to encourage them to help out with other departments – they can gain more experience and learn new skills as well as shaking up their usual routine. It’s a chance to support those under the cosh and you may even find an employee who’s better in that role than their current one.
Surprisingly, 89% of employees would consider a move in their own company to a position with the same or similar pay grade and title in a different department, yet only 32% say their employer encourages staff to work in different department. So if the opportunity is there for your team, it’s definitely worth a shot.
To avoid unbalanced workloads as a business, talk to your team and ask what their workload is looking like, it should be done openly and shown without fear of repercussion for them being honest.
Speaking to your staff and looking to solve the solution can give them confidence in you as a company that you are thinking of their best interests, and if delegated effectively will feel more motivated as a result as they have a realistic amount of work to do.
Seasonal events and team building
Everyone looks forward to the Christmas party, but your employees shouldn’t have to wait all year for an event! Summer is also a great time to have events in place, and the ability to venture outside in the warmth opens up a number of opportunities to put on a show for your employees.
Staff want to know that they’re valued by management, and holding events such as a garden party, BBQ or picnic is a great idea. Inviting employees’ families along too is the perfect chance to show off your caring nature as an employer, enhance your reputation, and positively show your company culture.
If cost isn’t an issue then go all out and bring a professional barbeque team, hire some games and an open bar, and maybe even make it fancy dress. Everyone will definitely remember the time the sales team won the hot dog eating contest while dressed as The Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper phase!
Big companies such as Vivint Solar, who make solar-energy systems, throws an extravagant summer party every year that includes massages, bonfires, face painting and horse drawn carriages. Does it translate into motivated and satisfied employees? It definitely looks like it does: Glassdoor ranked Vivint 27th in its 2016 edition of the best places to work in the US, based on reviews from staff, showing events can play a big part in an employee engagement strategy.
There are plenty of events that will do a fantastic job of motivating employees – parties, sport teams or team building retreats that involve more fun times than work themes are sure to be a hit with workers during the summer. Economists from the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, so keeping your teams happy is key to motivating them during summer.
If it sounds like hard work, it doesn’t have to be! If you are stuck for ideas, our team have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to help you motivate your staff this summer. Get in touch with us today to find out more.