We've all been there. Cold, gray, snowy weather finally gives way to sparkling blue skies and splashes of sun. The temperature climbs and a worker's thoughts turn to anything but work.
With vacations to plan, barbecues to attend and those lazy, hazy days in full swing, summertime can test the focus of the most dedicated employee and contribute to a decline in productivity.
What's an office manager to do, besides throw up his hands and head for the hammock himself?
David Fagiano, chief operating officer of Dale Carnegie Training -- the company that has motivated millions with its programs -- has some ideas.
Summertime, he said, creates a perfect climate to switch things up, experiment, get out of the office or equip people to be better workers. One way to keep employees engaged is to give them an opportunity to lead a project team that's outside the scope of their normal responsibilities. That not only helps them acquire additional knowledge and skills, but it gives them "something fun, challenging and different" to work on, Mr. Fagiano said.
Summer is also a good time to engage in team-building activities. And what better way to do so than to embrace the season itself? Mr. Fagiano urges employers to have fun with it.
He said, for example, that he knows of one manager who took his entire work group out to play laser tag one day. "It was a team-building kind of thing and they had a fun time doing it," he said. "That kind of fun thing is another way to keep people engaged and energized."
Company picnics and other outdoor activities are also good ways to engage in team building, help employees get to know one another better and keep them focused. The season also creates a perfect excuse for employees to hit the road and meet clients. "That's a way to keep people engaged and active," Mr. Fagiano said. "Get them out of the office, visit some clients."
A slower summer pace also gives employers time to help employees grow and to provide mentoring, particularly for new workers or those who are considered possible leadership candidates.
Mr. Fagiano said an American Society for Training and Development study done in conjunction with Dale Carnegie Training found that there are three key factors in any successful engagement program. One is that the employee has to feel there is potential for growth within the company. The second is a sense that the worker is part of something bigger than himself and that he has an impact on the direction of the company. The third is the employee's relationship with his supervisor.
Such factors are "true at any time of the year, but they're especially important during a time when your mind can wander and you want to be somewhere else," Mr. Fagiano said.
And if none of those tips help curb the daydreaming or the dip in productivity?
"Blackout curtains," Mr. Fagiano offered. "Just cover those windows."