By: Sylvia Ann Hewlett
Extreme jobs have become the norm. Every company now faces enormous hurdles, whether it’s on Wall Street, in the media or in small businesses. Regardless the sector, employees face elements of extremity with unpredictable workloads, large amounts of travel, fast-paced work with tight deadlines and an inordinate scope of responsibility that amounts to more than one job.
The summer months require special attention so that employees can take critical time to rest and renew. The slower pace of summer is one of the best times for your top employees to recover from burnout and brown out (mentally “checking out” while continuing to put in hours) and re-engage at work.
Giving employees the chance to have a break, to totally disconnect from the office, to really have a true vacation without phone calls, is a crucial part to maintaining the high level of performance companies expect from their employees.
Summer Fridays 2.0
The traditional summertime work model has everyone working for the three or two and a half day weekend that is provided by Summer Fridays. Yet few businesses can afford to shut down on Friday afternoons. But warm weather and memories of school summer vacation have even the most extreme worker tuning out come Thursday.
As an alternative, consider Summer Fridays 2.0: team members rotate their half or full day off to any day of the week. After all, not everyone in the office needs to check out on the same day. Any day can give an employee the time he or she needs to regenerate. Perhaps Monday would be a better day for some employees, while another really needs to swap a Friday for a Thursday. With a little planning and forethought it can happen.
One possible positive side effect: employees are tremendously empowered by choosing their own day and owning their schedule. Creative flexibility will build loyalty and productivity. Particularly now as family vacations are underway, managers can work on a system to help employees coordinate their vacation times effectively to ensure full coverage at the office.
The 2.0 model can also serve as a pilot for a broader flexible work schedule. Those teams that are not taking advantage of flex work policies should be encouraged to use it as a test run for remote working and for building a team’s competency in covering for one another.
Cultivating Camaraderie and Loyalty
When it comes to employee engagement, managers have a huge impact on worker satisfaction. Employees report a much greater sense of loyalty to their individual managers and colleagues than they do to their companies or firms. Manager interventions can both build bonds and foster camaraderie.
Managers can set a positive tone in the office that generates productivity, camaraderie and loyalty, most often through their own behavior. Here are a few suggestions that can be initiated during the slower summer months:
- Schedule gym breaks. Find time for this by coordinating among team members so that clients and projects are always covered. Set up a workout in the park.
- Take your team out: Invite them to lunch (even if everyone brown bags), to a gathering in your home, or to a drink after work. Interactions outside the office help employees step outside the pressures and stresses they are facing and leads to much more honest conversation.
- Keep communication regular and frequent. Walk around the office more and informally check-in; schedule regular team debriefs.
- Work with your staff so that they -- and you -- can make the most of the summer season. Giving employees the flexibility they need to recharge will only take a few hours out of the workweek, and will reap the rewards of healthier employees and better-functioning workplaces. You can start by leading by example.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP), a non-profit think tank.