By Barnaby Lashbrooke
The annual end-of-summer slump is in full bloom. This mindset is no old wives’ tale either. According to data, 25 percent of office workers report feeling less productive in the summer and 68 percent admit to daydreaming during the workday. As the sun shines bright and employees fantasize of afternoons on the beach, along with already-planned vacations and the added distraction of the Pokémon Go phenomenon, productivity doesn’t seem to stand a chance. So, business owners and managers, how do you get your staff to stay on track when the universe is pulling them away from their cubicles towards long lunches and looking up seaside Airbnb rentals? In short: preempt this predictable seasonal behavior through implementing the following best practices.
1. Let it Go
For most entrepreneurs, their business is their baby, making it difficult for them to let go of control. However, business owners need time off to reboot (maybe more than anyone) and since work can’t fall to the wayside while they’re out, they have no choice but to trust. According to Aaron Skonnard, president and CEO of Pluralsight, the best leaders are those that provide experienced and reliable employees with autonomy, which also allows for greater growth potential. The key here is to “abandon the one-man band syndrome” and to work with people who are actually more skilled than the founder in certain areas.
If you’re a one-man show and finances are tight, consider adopting the new trend of hiring virtual assistants for the end-of-summer productivity in order to optimize operations and maintain momentum in your absence. Don’t be deterred by the notion that virtual assistants replace staff. Virtual assistants should be considered a supplement to the core team, not a substitute. Some entrepreneurs are finding that it makes more sense to have a central team and then entrust the rest to on-demand skilled workers in the areas where help is required, versus employing multiple people who are not individually efficient.
2. Help is NOT on the Way
Especially during the end-of-summer weeks, many employees don’t take accountability for their work because they’re itching to leave the office as soon as possible. Unfortunately for these individuals, that is not an acceptable mindset. According to a survey in the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 72% of respondents reported a higher rates of unplanned absences on Mondays, Fridays, before public holidays, or before sporting or national events during the summer. However, these repeated instances can take a heavy toll on the company’s bottom line. According to the study, “the average productivity loss for unplanned absences was 36.6% and the annual cost of all paid time off (vacation or sick days) ranged between 20.9% to 22.1% of overall payroll.” The key here, particularly for Millennials, is to make them realize that “help is not coming.” Not having someone else to lean on will ensure that employees take full responsibility of designated projects, which in turn naturally prevents them from succumbing to summertime laziness. This mentality allows business owners the peace of mind they need when they take their much-needed summer vacation.
3. Make Lemonade out of Lemons
While business owners might fret about the summer slowdown because it could negatively impact revenue, the good news is that it could serve as a period to invest time in important ideas/skills/tasks that got pushed to the wayside during busier seasons. According to research, as many as 93 percent of American workers reportedly spend 25 percent or less of their work day brainstorming creative ideas or working on new business leads, so use this downtime to push creativity to the top of the list. Taking the time to come up with new ideas can have a major impact on your business in the long run, demonstrating the value of making brainstorming a priority when time allows for it.
4. Embrace Change
It’s a known fact that a little change in environment goes a long way for productivity. Utilize the summer slowdown as a time to shake things up in the office. Consider implementing new procedures like walking meetings. In fact, researchers at Stanford University discovered that creativity increases an average of 60 percent when walking instead of sitting, so get the team’s creative juices flowing (and legs stretched) during the nice weather.
Combatting the summers slump can seem like an uphill battle, but don’t let be a deterrent from finding ways to get around it. By letting go of control, entrusting employees and virtual assistants, assigning accountability, using time wisely and embracing change, business owners and managers can take the restful summer vacation they need to rejuvenate, all the while ensuring that business runs successfully during a typically unproductive time of year.
Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Time etc, a virtual assistant service offering time-poor entrepreneurs and professionals the ability to access skilled assistants for their evolving needs. You can follow him on Twitter at @blashbrooke.