The summer can give a real boost to energy levels within the workplace. Getting out of bed in the warmth and sunlight doesn’t even seem so bad, and thanks to the various sporting events, music festivals, holidays it seems that everyone has something to look forward to. But, we’ve long since passed the era when everything used to wind down in August. Now there seems to be an increasing trend within workplaces of the looming dread to go away as there is so much work to catch-up on after the break. So how can we create a ‘Summer Glow’ in our work spaces when staff numbers are sometimes stretched?
All companies like the feel-good factor, it may not be something tangible, but we all know it when it’s there. I’m sure in offices the length and breadth of Germany the mood is good with the nation celebrating their recent World Cup win, and I’m sure we are all getting behind our talented athletes at the Commonwealth Games. So how can we tap into the ‘Summer Glow’?
Firstly it’s about understanding that staff need a break and having policies in place to cope with the summer period of leave. It’s a well-known scientific fact that if people take a break from work their stress levels reduce, their blood pressure drops and they are physically and mentally able to ‘re-charge’ their batteries. On their return they will also feel refreshed and able to do their work more freely, and are far less likely to take sick days during the cold winter months. But it’s more than a basic health issue, it’s also psychologically important to change your environment once in a while. When we escape from the places where we spend most of our time, our mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas we’d previously suppressed. We start thinking about obscure possibilities that never would have occurred to us if we had been in the office every day. Too often, we fail to consider the ways in which our surroundings constrain our creativity. When we are always ‘close’ to the problems of work, when we never turn-off our phones or constantly checking our email or Twitter feeds, we get trapped into certain mental habits. We assume that there is no other way to think about things, that this is how it must always be done. It’s not until we’re by the pool — when work seems a million miles away — that we suddenly find the answer.
So we know holidays are good for us – how do we manage the office?
Most offices will have policies in place to ensure not too many people have booked holidays at the same time, so with some efficient planning, sharing of duties and employment of temporary staff the holiday season shouldn’t become too much of a headache. Companies need to consider their staff’s wellbeing as the main priority; once they have returned to the office after a break they will feel regenerated in the workplace, and perhaps, work even harder. If an employee feels guilty or concerned about leaving their desk, only resentment, tiredness and lack or creativity will follow – resulting in lower working standards, decreased customer service and profitability. Sometimes this argument seems too ‘pie in the sky’ when you’re managing a team of data operatives for example, and the phones just never stop ringing and the pressure is on you to maintain service levels. But if staff do not get a good break, they’ll only be looking for somewhere else to go on their return, and then you’ve also got recruitment and the training of new staff to add to your list of things to do.
Create working practises to ensure stress levels are kept to a minimum. Make it a company rule that no-one can take their office mobile on holiday with them, and no-one is allowed to check emails whilst away. Set-up a holiday committee across the company to get feedback on how you manage annual leave, listen to their feedback and ideas and make changes.
Make the workplace a positive place to be. Ensure you’ve got the basics right: air-conditioning or at least access to a fan during heatwaves, and also make sure staff are within easy reach of cold water. Shake-up the workplace a little by adding deckchairs in the café, or a sandpit/’beach’ to the rooftop garden; if budget and space won’t allow for such ideas, treat your staff to an ice-cream on a very hot day- or think of other fun ideas to bring the outdoors indoors.
In companies where employee engagement is high team camaraderie will most likely be strong too. Encourage this throughout the summer months and create a spirit of ‘If you cover for me I’ll cover for you’ approach. This is a great way to deal with requests from staff looking to attend children’s sports days, graduation ceremonies, client garden parties, or even a hangover from a music festival.
Big corporates have long understood the correlation between a company’s financial and overall performance with strong employee engagement and staff wellbeing. Take a more strategic approach to summer and use it as a boost or a turning point to catapult your employee satisfaction and company performance. Once you’ve cracked how to keep the summer glow alive in your office; think how you can keep this fresh wave of enthusiasm and motivation going way into those cold winter months.
- On sunny days plan an office or departmental picnic or barbecue.
- Wish your team/employees a good holiday with their friends/family and thank them for their hard work.
- Make it a company rule that no-one takes their office mobile on holiday or checks emails.
- Provide as much cover for staff as possible whilst they are away.
- Encourage team camaraderie – if you cover for me, I’ll cover for you…
- Place a big screen in communal areas for staff to catch up on the Commonwealth Games or Tour de France etc.
Gary Cattermole is Director at leading staff survey and employee engagement provider, The Survey Initiative