20 Ways to Keep Your Employees Engaged Through the Summer

Sitting in the office or sitting at the beach. Riding in their car to work or riding a roller coaster at an amusement park. Basking under the flickering glow of the fluorescent lights or basking under a warm sun.

Tough competition, when you’re the employer trying to keep your employees engaged at their jobs during the summer. They’re getting texts and Snapchats showing their friends having fun while they’re on the job. What’s an employer to do?

1. Make the schedule more flexible.

If you want to keep employees from calling in sick or using excuses to avoid work on beautiful days, make Fridays (or other days) more flexible.Have summer hours or shifts, if possible. You might do this by letting them work remotely, by having different rules for employees who want to swap schedules, or by simply closing a bit earlier in the summer to let employees go home.

2. Meet for drinks after work.

Find a restaurant that has a patio and summery beverages, and, if appropriate for your industry or for the age of your employees, invite everyone out for drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

3. Sponsor or create summer teams and competitions.

Set up sports teams or other types of activities where they need to engage and connect with their coworkers while having a good time. Your employees don’t have to be athletes for this to be fun. Team sponsorships can range from Corn Hole to Kickball to Softball. All skill levels welcome.

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4. Set up a garden project.

If your business or location allows for it, set up a small garden. Whether it’s food or flowers, in the ground or in pots, it’s a great way for employees to feel like they’re taking part in typical outdoor activities even while at work. On top of that, your employees can share the harvest and take home fresh veggies or flowers.

5. Plan a field trip or two.

Field trips aren’t just for school kids. Take your employees somewhere fun. Set up a tour at a local site. Make it a fun afternoon or day. Offer a few different trips so that other shifts or employees who had to work won’t miss out.

6. Encourage employee creativity.

Let your employees come up with creative ways to make work more fun. Perhaps they would like a casual Friday, Hawaiian shirt day once a month, or the chance to decorate their workspace as if it were a tropical paradise.

7. Let them pretend for their selfies.

Set up a backdrop with tropical or exotic imagery, with props, so employees can have fun taking a selfie and posting to social media about their “amazing vacation”. Switch it out during the summer, and let employees help you. It gives them a chance to “travel” even while at work. Consider catering a meal in once in awhile that fits with the faux travel vacation.

8. Get them outside when possible.

Have your meetings outside. Set up a break area outside. Give them a taste of the warm summer weather during their work day. If this isn’t practical, find ways to bring the outside in. Can you open windows? Do you have access to a deck? Could you find natural lighting sources that mimic the sun?

9. Offer rewards to counteract the inclination to skip.

Sometimes the lure of a great summer day is too much. Make it worth employees time by offering bonuses, gift cards, days off in the fall, or some other type of reward so that sitting inside while the sun and fun beckons outside is a little less painful.

10. Don’t expect the same amount of in-person time.

It’s a bit worrisome to suggest you relax your standards, but if you run a business in which you have a lot of meetings (group or one-on-one), you might want to lighten up a bit in the summer and not fret about it.

11. Have a company picnic.

Make a picnic an annual event. You might have a simple barbecue, or you might bring in fancy catering. Surprise your employees and make it special. Have games that are appropriate for all who attend. Encourage employees to bring their families. Have prizes, and hand out goofy awards for each employee for something they’ve achieved the past year.

12. Set summertime goals, with rewards at the end.

Instead of summer being a time to slack off and daydream, set some goals for your crew. Make the reward for hitting them worth their time. These goals might be anything: an increase in sales, a reduced number of absences, or an improvement in productivity. These goals could be on an individual basis, a team basis, or a shift basis.

13. Make sure employees take their vacations.

There are always a few employees who never want to take time off. Make sure they do during the summer. Everyone, even the most ardent workaholic, needs a break and a chance to refresh. The summer is the best time to do that, so be sure everyone gets some kind of break.

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14. Encourage employee fitness.

Whether you go as far as getting your employees a fitness tracker like a FitBit, or use a less automatic approach, encourage employee health by rewarding them for staying active. Incentivize employees who go outside and walk during their regular breaks. Offer a summer gym membership, or reward those who participate in a 5K or other competitive event. Align your business with active events in your area and make it easy for employees to take part.

15. Find a summer project of good works.

Give your employees something to work for that is for the greater good. Find a charity, an event, or some other project that they can all get behind and either promote or participate in. There might be walk-a-thons, local fundraising efforts, or a chance to volunteer at a children’s hospital. Make it easy for them by working with the organization and creating schedules that allow them to participate.

16. Have your performance reviews at the end of summer.

This sounds a little odd–most performance reviews happen at the end or beginning of the new year. But what better way to encourage employees to stay engaged than the realization that their review will come at the end of summer? Plus, summer is a less hectic and stressful time than the holidays when such reviews are usually held. Think of it as a way to lessen the stress at the end of the year.

17. Don’t start the Big Project during summer.

If possible, don’t start a huge project or big change to the business during the summer. These things are upsetting and if the temptation for employees is to disengage because they’d rather be anywhere else than at work, dumping an onerous task in their lap definitely won’t help.

18. Adjust your shifts and schedule around a four-day work week.

If possible, try to arrange your schedule from a five-day work week down to a four-day version. In other words, make the three-day weekend a built-in feature that employees don’t have to ask for. Every business has different needs, so you may only be able to offer a few of these three-day weekends during the whole summer, but by staggering them across your employees, you’ve given them something to look forward to that they didn’t even have to ask for.

19. Make fun competition part of the work.

Maybe setting up a summer employee team tournament won’t work, but you could at least make work a bit of fun with the same approach. Perhaps you could set up a sales tournament, with different sales teams competing against each other. Find ways to gamify regular work in a fun and non-stressful way.

20. Have some empathy.

Finally, just be honest. You’ve been there. You know what it’s like to wish you were anywhere but at work. Loosen up a bit and understand where your employees are coming from. Understand that it isn’t likely your employees have all gone soft and become anti-productive. Be reasonable and cut them some slack, particularly if you know them to be great employees.

Keep your employees engaged throughout the summer with these ideas, and build a stronger bond with them. Your establishment will be somewhere they are excited to be and know that they are appreciated.

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