Natasha Ashton – How to make getting back to business after summer vacation easier

There may still be sand in their cars from summertime beach trips. Once Labor Day has passed, however, it is time for your employees to stop practicing their paddle boarding and dive back into their duties at work.

Unfortunately, getting employees to snap out of vacation mode and renew their dedication to work can take some doing — especially after three months of being pulled in a million directions by activities and obligations (kids’ commitments, family reunions, picnics, weddings, summer camp, graduations and vacations, to name a few).

Workdays get longer while the hours of daylight get shorter. Your staff will need focus and diligence to catch up on some of the things they may have set aside. But the time off may have been more useful for you and your people than you might think.

You know how great ideas sometimes surface in the shower? Well, June, July and August are like a three-month long rinse. The combination of increased dopamine in the brain, the opportunity to relax and the many distractions during summertime months is a trifecta that science has shown to be a breeding ground for creativity and innovation.

Your employees may just find that once they return to projects they’ve stepped away from, there may be some new insight waiting to surprise them.

Here are a few suggestions to get the neurons and synapses firing in the right direction again:

Rank and file

Nothing is worse than walking into an office littered with leftovers from everything you’ve been working on over the past few years. Getting back into the game is much easier when you start with a clean slate — and an organized workspace!

Purge what you don’t need, prioritize what you do, and file the rest for safekeeping. Figuring out what to tackle first, and what can wait a few days or weeks, will help everyone take those first few steps toward actually getting some work done.

If you build it, they will come

One of the best things you can do is to build structure into the workday. Plan time to follow up on loose ends that need resolution, and schedule meetings to put deadlines to deliverables to help employees stay on-task and avoid distractions.

Meet with middle managers that have the most impact on employee engagement and come up with some creative compensation strategies for employees who bring their “A” game to the table right out of the gate. Encouraging a little friendly competition can help get everyone fired up for success.

Connect the dots

Your workers are struggling to refocus their energies as much as you are after summer vacation, give workers a boost by getting them together for an informal jam session about your business.

Ask for their insights and hear their ideas — you never know where inspiration for the next innovation will come from. With our energies more focused on friends and family during the summer, giving everyone the opportunity to reconnect and get excited about doing business together can do wonders for egging on enthusiasm and putting attention back on productivity.

No matter how passionate or motivated your employees, it is impossible to avoid the occasional slump or burnout, and summer vacation can sometimes only add fuel to the fire. Put a smart plan into place for getting everyone back on track and your well-oiled machine will be chugging to the top again in no time.

Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. She holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at [email protected].