Vacations are over. School is starting and parents are scrambling to adjust work and personal schedules. Half day Fridays are about to end. Work is piling up and once-energized teams are suddenly lacking motivation.
So how can managers motivate teams and keep staff productive during the last lazy days of summer? Start by breaking up that old, stagnant routine.
“It’s easy to get stuck in old patterns of behavior that breed complacency and drain our energy,” says Sandy Asch, Principal of Alliance for Organizational Excellence LLC, and bestselling author of ROAR: How to Build a Resilient Organization the World Famous San Diego Zoo Way.
Dr. Susan Kuczmarski is an authority on building leadership, understanding culture and teams, and activating values and norms. The Friday before Labor Day at her firm,Kuczmarski Innovation, a global management consultancy, is called Family Day. Employees get the day off, making it a four day holiday weekend. Employees are “super enthused about it,” says Kuczmarski, author of Apples Are Square: Thinking Differently About Leadership. “The focus is on being with your family and having renewal time. Research says that with 10 additional hours of vacation a week, year-end performance ratings improve by 8 percent. While this renewal is significant for addressing burnout, the practice also allows the team to enjoy their family.”
Here are some ideas on how to change up that stagnant workplace routine, according to Asch:
- Shift the energy: Change up meeting protocol by holding a standing huddle or “walk and talk” meeting. “This will shift the energy and create a sense of excitement, not to mention, the added benefit of physical exercise,” says Asch. “We all know that sitting is considered the new smoking, so the more you get people up out of their chairs, the better.”
- Emphasize physical activity: Being physically active is the best thing you can do to boost employee energy and productivity. A great way to do this is to start every meeting with a few minutes of physical activity. Try “stand up roll call” for example. Call out agenda items to be discussed and ask people to stand when they hear a topic that relates to them. Or, how about a 3 p.m. dance party? Play some tunes and get everyone on their feet for 5-minutes.
- Encourage breaks: According to Tony Schwartz, CEO and Founder of the Energy Project, employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. “It might seem counter intuitive to encourage recovery and renewal at a time when you want to boost productivity, yet research shows that when we fuel physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy, we are happier and more productive,” says Asch
Taking the team to a group activity or event outside of work, can also be a success, says Kuczmarski. Each summer her staff joins together at a Chicago Cubs baseball game.
“The slowness of baseball, I must admit, restores, and renews team member’s outlook,” she says. “Noticeably, a sense of inclusiveness results from a fun get-together like this. Of course, hot dogs, beer, and peanuts add to the collaborative spirit that ensues from the shared experience.”
Other ideas include taking team members out to lunch, happy hour, or dinner. These all have an impact on productivity. But the agenda should be no business, just fun. And while getaways and group events are nice, doses of descriptive praise increases productivity and adds to the bottom line in the long run.
“The trick is to give the right kind of praise,” says Kuczmarski. “It should be enthusiastic, specific, spontaneous, public, positive, and timely. Critic the behavior, not the person. Nurture a sense of trust and sincerity. Focus on achievements—and keep it up.”