Summer! Such a simple, evocative word—yet it can be anything but simple. Consider:

  • Gearing up (and packing and purchasing) for an out-of-state vacation
  • Dealing with childcare and pet sitting
  • Handling the summer camp schedule
  • Making (and changing) plans for playgroups and daytrips

And that’s just at home. For those of us who work over the summer, there are countless other responsibilities and chores, regardless of the gorgeous weather. That’s why it is vitally important to take a good look at summer workplace engagement.

Summer Slump Syndrome

Ever hear of the summer slump? From both the employee and organizational perspectives it’s defined as a ‘seasonal condition’ revealed by changes in mood. Summer can take away the routine from all your routines! (The same is true for the December holidays, by the way.) This is called “Summer Slump Syndrome” (SSS), and it can create headaches for organizations and employees alike.

Summer can take away the routine from all your routines! This is called “Summer Slump Syndrome” (SSS), and it can create headaches for organizations and employees alike. @celiathewriter #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart

Symptoms of SSS include:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Loss of motivation
  • The need to get outside in the fresh air
  • A desire to be more active
  • Homesickness for family
  • A moping attitude
  • Daydreaming (often about resting on the beach)

A Twitter poll of summer slump busters

In a recent Twitter Poll we asked HR managers and employees how they feel they can best avoid the summer slump. Here are some of the results.

When we asked HR managers how they help their employees avoid the Summer Slump, 71% of respondents said they offer flexible working hours.

Here are the other responses:

  • Offer volunteer opportunities, 11%
  • Offer a summer wellness challenge, 18%

When we asked employees how they beat the summer slump at work, 67% of respondents said they adopt summer working hours.

Here are the other responses:

  • Taking breaks outside, 22%
  • Creating ‘fun work’ playlists, 11% 

As you can see, one thing that overlaps in both polls is the flexible summer working hours component. That tells us that we need to find a way in the summer months to focus less on working inside a building and more on building company-wide engagement and motivation. Everyone needs something to look forward to, particularly in the summer. Sometimes a little fun is the best medicine.

#HR - We need to find a way in the summer months to focus less on working inside a building and more on building company-wide engagement and motivation. @celiathewriter #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart

Here are a few tips to help keep yourself and your employees out of the summer slump:

#1. New summer policies for work/life balance

For HR:

Summer dress code: Most employees love the opportunity to ‘dress down’ in the summer. The weather often demands it! But what is appropriate? It depends on what employees do, who they meet, where they are, and other variables. So come up with an appropriate policy and put the plan to work! Flip Flop Friday, perhaps? Business-attire only for staff and client meetings, but casual/neat the rest of the time? Sounds good!

A no-email-after-hours policy: Sometimes this isn’t always possible, but when it is it has shown to promote a much better work/life balance. (FYI, work/life balance is one of the highest ranked topics on all employee polls.) Create a culture in which personal time is just that—personal. It’s also worth noting that employees become much more productive the next day after completely unplugging overnight. 

Flexible hours: In the summer you just can’t avoid having that ‘weekend mode’ feeling—so don’t even try. And since it’s often the season for vacations and PTO anyway, that’s a feeling that will always stick around. Having a reasonable, employee-friendly policy that includes summer hours (half-day Fridays, for instance), partial days off, a few three-day weekends, and other flex-time options are perks that will build greater work-life balance.

Music. That’s right! Music releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that can boost engagement and raise the contentment level in the workplace. While working in silence can sometimes be productive, there are times when music just puts a happier spin on things. Whether it’s piped in for all to hear or personally delivered via headphones, music in the summer workplace can be a calming and nourishing influence.

For Employees:

Share your brainstorms. Do you have a great idea that could make your summer more fun at work? An earlier start to make room for an earlier close? An ice cream truck in the parking lot one afternoon each week? Don’t be shy: mention it to HR. If they’re serious about employee engagement, they’ll seriously engage with your ideas!

#2. Double your efforts to build & improve dialogue

For HR:

Talk to your employees.  Hiring managers and recruiters are less pressed for time between June and August. Use it to your advantage. Talking with your employees can have a huge impact on their engagement and morale. Discuss career development, personal goals, work/life balance, improvement processes, training programs, innovation ideas and more.

Listen. Make sure you really hear what they’re saying instead of just letting them talk. Build a true rapport. Ensure you have an executive presence that is entirely complementary to your goal of being helpful, understanding and goal-oriented.

For Employees:

Prepare. Before you meet with HR, make sure you know precisely what you’d like to cover. Think about your one-year and five-year plans. Do you have the skills you need for tomorrow’s job market? What do you want HR to know about you? What are your aspirations? Identify your needs and let HR know who you are and how you’d like to grow, personally and professionally.

Connect. Write out some questions to ask HR—but remember to keep things light and positive. Regard it as a moment of connection rather than just a ‘meeting with HR.’ It has been shown that during summer slowdowns, many HR departments take employee ideas, initiatives, and professional development goals into serious consideration.

#3. Revamp your social media presence

For HR:

Is it working? Pew Research reports that 51% of employers have a social media policy. Summer is the perfect time to revisit the initiative. Identify how employees are using social media. Assess whether or not digital time is being used wisely. How do personal social media breaks measure up against customer interaction and company engagement?

Behind the times? Take a look at new media and upcoming trends. Update the company’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profiles. Add current news and information.

For Employees:

Summer showcasing. Use extra summer time to build a social media following. Showcase your achievements in your digital profiles. Don’t be afraid to leverage your passion for the industry—as well as for your company.

Work the network. Connect with people from your organization and network with them. Use your summer hours to maximize your social media visibility.

#4. Take advantage of the outdoors

For HR:

Get out! Create an environment of self-care! It might be worth investing in outdoor picnic tables for employees to use during lunch. Outdoor spaces with gardens and stonework have great emotional advantages, as does fresh air.  Here are some other benefits of outdoor work spaces:

  • They spark new conversations. Employees can socialize and get to know each other a little better. That, in turn, can be good for brainstorming as part of the company’s teamwork and continuous improvement processes.
  • They’re family friendly. Consider allowing family members (and even the dog) to join employees once a week for an outdoor lunch. Kids can run around (supervised, of course) and even shout if they’d like. (Within reason!)
  • They’re perfect for company celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, and other events. Company-owned outdoor spaces can also save a lot of money over renting off-site venues.
  • Resolve issues under the clouds. Nowhere is it written that board meetings have to be held in boardrooms. Having high-level meetings outdoors can be a way of taking decision-making more engaging.

For Employees:

Scratch the itch. We all know that itch to get outside, to dine al fresco, to take a breath of fresh air, to catch the sun’s natural rays (don’t forget the sunscreen). If your company has an outdoor space and a policy to take advantage of it during the workday—by all means, take advantage of it!

Give yourself a boost. Outdoor breaks can keep you focused and help you retain more information. Outdoor walks can enhance creativity and cognitive functions. Plus, it boosts self-esteem and helps with fitness, which can positively impact every aspect of your personal and professional life.

#5. Summer Roundtables

For HR:

A slice of good advice. Summer is a great time to think about how to get your employees re-engaged. One idea is to facilitate roundtable discussions to come up with new plans and solutions. Get new perspectives and learn of past experiences that are tied to specific corporate goals. Make your employees feel more valued and respected while you’re at it. And if you have a small budget to work with, consider bringing in a pizza lunch or at least coffee and donuts. 

Fine lines. Senior management should consider more than just employee engagement; they should put employee satisfaction into the mix! Although closely related, often they are two different things that require separate corporate initiatives.

For Employees:

Go! The aim of most HR professionals is to align the company toward a cohesive goal. That can only happen with satisfied and effective employees. That’s why they want to know what’s important to you. So if they invite you to a roundtable, accept!

Share! HR pros can put your goals into motion through developmental training and corporate/cultural collaborations. At roundtables you can share your opinions which, in turn, will help HR spearhead creative solutions and develop long-term strategies which will cultivate a better work environment for you and your peers. Ideas can be a simple as creating a suggestion box or as complex as building a new internal communications process.

More power to you. Being a part of a roundtable encourages harmony, which improves moods and gives you something to look forward to. You’ll feel empowered and might even be compelled to speak up more. Go for it.

#6. Employee performance

For HR:

Plan ahead. Mid-year is a good time to focus on progress and goals. Review performance metrics. Identify how much productivity actually dips in the summer. With a little more time on your hands you may be able to establish benchmarks and get a head start on the rest of the year—and the new year to come.

For Employees:

Look forward. While maintaining productivity in the summer months can sometimes be a challenge, knowing where your performance stands in the eyes of the company can be useful to your rest-of-the-year plans. When fall arrives, you will already be ahead of the game and poised to get the corporate recognition you deserve.

Final Thoughts

It’s tough when employees or even management feel too busy to participate in company events or to take some time off. That affects engagement, satisfaction, even effectiveness. Working together, employees, HR, and company management can avoid that from happening. Just be prepared with a couple of good ideas, have the courage of your convictions, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Celia Stangarone, CPRW, CEIP is a RiseSmart Certified Resume Writer and Transition Coach. With a background as a Recruiter for an MBE/SBE employment agency and an HR Associate at a marketing research organization, she understands every perspective of the job search, sourcing, and hiring arenas. Celia takes a holistic approach to her writing and coaching by understanding people through career progression and projection including cultural, behavioral, and digital observations to create engaging personal branding.

31 July 2018

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