For many of us, summer carries pleasant associations. When we think of the “dog days,” we conjure up images of barbecues, swimming pools, and just generally enjoying nature’s splendor. But the dog days also have bite. You may know this if you’ve ever lived in a fourth-floor walk-up or summarily fallen asleep on the beach before applying sunscreen. (Guilty of both counts, I’m afraid!)
Innocuous though these examples seem, sociologists and journlists also tell us of direr summertime scourges, such as elevated rates of violent crime and domestic upheaval. Perhaps less injurious, but equally concerning for your work team, is the spread of the “summertime grumps,” a formal clinical term I’ve coined to describe the state of mind that pervades office buildings across the nation when air conditioning systems falter and the view from one’s cubical pales beside the vivid blues and greens outside the office windows.
Luckily, experts say the summertime grumps can be kept at bay. The following are three proven tips for maintaining a congenial, fun, and productive office environment through the hot summer months.
Keep Your Cool
Even in the newest office buildings, central air conditioning systems are often challenged during the hot summer months, especially at the beginning of the season, when quick changes in temperature are especially difficult to predict and climate control, having gone untested for up to a year, is particularly unreliable. When employees begin asking “Is it hot in here?” look to policies that will allow your staff to stay cool. Letting employees work virtually through the summer months or wear cooler clothing like shorts and flip flops can prevent the grumps from taking hold in what could otherwise become a hot, cranky environment.
Turn Lemons into Lemonade
Your engaging office culture notwithstanding, there will be gorgeous days this summer when slogging to work on the crowded train or sitting in traffic is not what your employees really want to do with their morning. This is human and to be expected, and it doesn’t mean the office can’t remain a productive, fun place to spend the day. In fact, summer is the perfect time to take lemons and turn them into lemonade. Sweeten the office environment by offering employees low-cost, healthy summertime pick-me-ups like fresh lemonade or frozen bars made with real fruit. For your more caffeinated coworkers, brew a pot of coffee at the end of the day and leave it to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Sure, the traffic may be thick as molasses, the heat sweltering, but now your employees have a refreshing glass of iced coffee to look forward to enjoying as they browse their morning emails.
In order for employees to stay engaged in their work, they need regular opportunities to socialize with their supervisors and coworkers. What better way, then, to ameliorate the dog days’ bite than to socialize with colleagues in a relaxed, air conditioned environment? Even if your organization doesn’t have a companywide summer barbecue or picnic planned, management can encourage socialization by spearheading informal, voluntary weekly lunch outings. Each week, send around a signup sheet inviting the team to join their coworkers at a local restaurant. Let employees vote on a location for the lunch and suggest the team walk there together, if the weather and distance permit. Informal lunches afford workers an opportunity to enjoy the weather during the workday, socialize, and learn more about their coworkers from other departments, who they might not normally have the chance to interact with.
Supporting employee engagement is a perennial endeavor requiring insight, creativity, and the flexibility to adapt to the changing conditions and needs of your workers. The tips provided above are inspired by and intended for summertime, but with a little tweaking they can spark initiatives for your employees to enjoy year round. For more best practices for engaging your employees, visit http://www.hrsolutionsinc.com/best_practices/.