Summertime can be a joy on a personal level, but it’s a real productivity pain in the workplace. One study showed that productivity dips by as much as 20% through these long leisurely days, and that’s no surprise since more than 50% of employees have to cover for a colleague several times a month. After all, people are coming and going for a weeks at a time as they scoot off to the beach with family or take to the camper with friends.
But, as the manager of a service organization, you’re still tasked with keeping the organization focused and maintaining satisfaction rates. So what options do you have to help keep productivity high during the summer months?
Here are 17 ways to help you do exactly that!
1. Document everything.
According to a recent survey of working professionals, the number one issue with task hand-off is “getting background information.” Whether you use a ticket system, email or paper files to track and record issues, make sure that documenting actions is an intrinsic part of your culture.
Active people are productive people.
2. Start a summer fitness challenge.
Active people are productive people. From sharper memories to lower stress, physical fitness has a myriad of benefits that improve employee performance.
3. Cut unnecessary meetings.
If most people who are covering for a colleague spend 1 – 2 hours a day of extra time to do so, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for meetings. Do everything you can to keep meetings quick and focused!
4. Share critical information digitally.
Besides sitting in a meeting, how else can your team communicate critical information? Start looking at digital alternatives: News widgets that are built in to your ticket system, internal websites, and archived newsletters can all help. (Not only does this aid those who are in the office, but it also helps those who have been away get back to business more quickly since they can catch up on what was missed.)
5. Clean house.
Quite literally. Pick a day (or a week if your office is in that much disarray) when everyone spends time getting rid of old files, cleaning out the fridge and tossing out dead plants. A clean space is a productive space. Plus, the act of doing it changes things up a bit and gets people moving.
6. Start “fun” projects.
Keep people engaged by assigning them to projects that will inspire and challenge them, but which don’t necessarily have critical short-term deadlines. Process improvement projects or research tasks can be good examples.
7. Minimize email.
In a recent survey*, 34% of respondents said that knowing the tasks’ status was the hardest thing about covering for a colleague. Email use is part of the problem because the person covering simply doesn’t have access to the communication that has already occurred. Use shared inboxes when handling requests – or even better, start looking into ticket systems so that both communication and resolution steps are all tracked in the same place.
8. Spread a little happiness.
Brainstorm ways to boost happiness for those who are still in the office: ice cream on Fridays, trivia Tuesdays, nerf guns or bubbles. Don’t force it, but try to shake things up a tiny bit to get people talking and laughing – break them out of their doldrums. Maybe you can even escape the office and try brainstorming sessions at a local park or beach.
Summertime is a great chance to offer growth opportunities.
9. Offer self-development opportunities.
If people aren’t growing, they will stagnate in their work. Summertime is a great chance to offer growth opportunities because it gives people a bit of independent inspiration during an otherwise energy-lagging time period.
10. Create an “out-of-office” process.
Don’t assume that everyone knows that they should set up an out-of-office message on their voicemail or delegate their tasks. Spend time writing out exactly what is expected of people who are heading out on vacation.
11. Aim for flexibility.
Not every workplace can accommodate flexible schedules, but if yours can, give it a try. Let people have the chance to get out in the gorgeous weather or sneak a half-day with their kids who are home for summer break. It will reenergize them and keep them more excited about their job overall.
12. Keep communication open.
Be frank when you talk about summertime with your team. Get excited about people using their vacation time, but also make sure that people feel comfortable coming to you if they are getting overwhelmed or overworked by coverage tasks.
13. Encourage “On Your Return” lists.
Ramping back up after being out can be a challenge for some. Get your team in the habit of creating a To Do list of things that need to be done right away when they get back. Whether it’s simply written on a sticky note of managed via pending reminders in your ticket system, knowing exactly what to do in those first few hours back to the office will help smooth out their return.
14. Ask about delegation.
Successfully handing off tasks means giving them to someone who has the skill and available time to accomplish them in your absence. So, don’t leave it up to your employees to know who this might be. Talk with those who are leaving on vacation, and work together to figure out who the right person(s) to provide coverage might be.
15. Foster appreciation.
Covering for a colleague takes time away from important things – whether that’s personal time or professional projects. So, make sure your team is saying a great bit “thank you” to those who have pitched in to take on additional responsibility during vacation season. Be sure to model this behavior yourself too.
More than ever, keep looking at ways to balance workload.
16. Monitor workload.
More than ever, keep looking at ways to balance workload. Whether through system reporting, 1-on-1s or simply walking around to check in with people, keep an eye on those who don’t take vacation to be sure that they don’t “burn out” from the added stress of “helping out.”
17. Embrace the idea of taking a break.
Encourage employees who are leaving to share their experiences. Maybe they could send postcards or contribute pictures to create a team calendar. Ask about travels and time off when you are all together so the people know that vacation time is important.
It goes without saying that all of these tips mean extra work for you too. So don’t forget to schedule your own out-of-office time, and make sure you enjoy a happy, productive summer too!
*Want to learn more about team productivity? Here are the detailed survey results.