The summer brings plenty of welcome distractions from your work, but it may be a challenge to find ways to engage and motivate your teams with the sunny weather just outside the window. When trying to motivate your team, creating a seasonally dynamic work environment is essential. Studies show that looking forward to a change in your daily routine helps with concentration, patience, and the ability to delay gratification. This insight directly translates into the workplace. Here are some low-cost, high-reward changes to the summer routine that you can do with your team.
Alternative work schedule
Creating an alternative summer schedule for your team is one of the frequently used changes you can make to increase productivity and engagement. A dynamic schedule that evolves with the seasons allows employees to differentiate parts of the year in a schedule that might otherwise seem monotonous.
Studies show that reducing hours can be done without decreasing productivity. In fact, a well-rested employee who has had enough time away from the office during the sunny months has been shown to have less stress and better concentration overall. This schedule can take many forms: Half-day Fridays, having every other Friday off, or letting employees choose the 40 hours a week that are most effective for their circadian rhythm are some examples.
Hosting a team-building retreat
Leaders commonly write retreats off as cliché or unnecessary, but studies have shown that team building improves a team’s performance as well as subjective supervisory ratings. During the summer months, opportunities to get your team out of the office and challenge them in new ways is essential to keeping performance high. This can be done many ways – a mission-driven activity like performing community service can bring your team together around a common cause while making a difference for your community. Other outdoor activities that require high levels of communication and collaboration are excellent ways to increase engagement. A ropes course is a common example and is often available for low prices.
Food Truck Friday
We implemented “Food Truck Friday” at my organization during the summer months back in 2016 and have never looked back! The logistics are relatively simple – food trucks typically need confirmation that 40 or more people are interested in buying lunch before they can commit spending a lunch time in a location, so a member of your team will need to visit some local businesses and ask for their interest and ask for their email addresses. Once you have enough interest, you can email the truck companies directly and start scheduling a different truck during a lunch hour every week. Use the email list of nearby businesses to send reminders and updates on what kind of truck is coming each week, and watch the fun unfold. Not only does this activity give your office a chance to eat and recharge together once a week, but you will positively interact with the local community while providing an awesome service.
Provide an outdoor workspace
Though this practice will not work for every office, creating a space for employees to work outdoors is a creative way to combat those “wasting my summer” blues while keeping productivity high. Arrange outdoor seating, umbrellas and even a power source in a place that has Wi-fi access. Keep the location close to the office and implement a communication system or a schedule so employees can take turns getting some summer rays while editing documents, answering emails or even hosting project meetings. You will be surprised how much a space like this will positively affect culture, morale, productivity and motivation in your teams. Plus, you might even get some sun yourself!
Host an annual charrette
A powerful way to break up the annual schedule while boosting creativity is hosting a charrette. The word charrette is French for “cart” or “chariot,” referring to a common practice in 19th century French architectural firms in which student architects would work right up until a deadline, at which a charrette would be wheeled among them to collect their scale models for final review. The word charrette has now taken on a larger meaning: companies all over the world use it to describe an innovative period in which a company ends all normal activities and the staff takes on one project, in teams or individually, during an established period. Every year at my company we shut down the firm’s client delivery for a week and give each employee an opportunity to develop a project for the firm from start to finish. While being an incredibly productive way to advance projects and initiatives, we have found that this practice also boosts creativity, engagement, productivity and connection to the mission of the firm.
Working during the summer is not something you and your team need to suffer through, and any effort you take to break up the daily, weekly or annual routine will resonate with your staff. Despite the ‘summer mode’ many of us are in these next few months, small changes and additions to regular workplace routines and processes can ensure the warm months will be both enjoyable and productive. Implement some creative practices and you will find that your team can become less distracted and more engaged while increasing productivity overall, making these sunny months the most effective and memorable ever.
Anthony Panos specializes in executive and team coaching and training. He teaches, consults, and facilitates group meetings to improve organizational culture and streamline operations.
Robert Roche serves as OPG’s Marketing and Innovation Manager. He is responsible for developing and executing the strategic marketing plan for OPG.