Have you sensed a 'back to school' attitude among your employees recently? It's that feeling of renewed optimism and motivation that follows the summer break. Well, it's unlikely to last. Just as children begin to lose their enthusiasm after a couple of weeks in class, so too do the vast majority of the adult workforce as the post-summer blues set in.
Your employees were probably able to relax a little during the summer slowdown and they most likely took some annual leave to spend time with their families, travel and recharge their batteries. But now the summer holiday period is over and it's back to business for many organisations, and although staff may be productive at first, reality will soon set in.
Vacations in the sun start to become a distant memory and for many, the next meaningful break they will enjoy will be Christmas. And of course, that seems a long way away as the nights begin to get darker, the weather starts to turn cooler and everything starts to seem a little gloomy - much like the mood in the office.
But businesses cannot afford to suffer a drop in productivity at this crucial point in the year, so how can they boost staff morale and create an engaged, motivated and industrious labour force? Here we list five ways to beat the post-summer blues.
1) Ease back in slowly
If you read our feature on the summer slowdown, you may have gathered some ideas on how to keep things ticking over amid a lull in activity. Now, business is probably picking up again, but don't throw your staff straight in at the deep end. Instead, give them time to adjust to the faster pace.
Think back to your school days, when you returned to the classroom after the summer break and had to familiarise yourself with the routine once again. It can be the same in the office, and it can take staff a little while to get back up to speed. Avoid bombarding them too early on, and you'll probably find that they work more productively in the long run.
2) Break down projects into smaller tasks
If you have some major projects or business goals for the next three months, don't present them to your employees as a whole. Instead, break them down into smaller tasks so that the end is always in sight. Once a task has been completed or a target has been reached, move onto the next one.
Working this way means staff have something to focus on, and their motivation levels are likely to be higher if they feel they are making headway and getting things done. Indeed, smaller projects are much more achievable than long-term assignments, and it is this feeling of accomplishment that keeps people engaged rather than feeling that they are constantly working towards something unreachable.
3) Reward your staff
There is nothing worse than feeling like your hard work has gone unnoticed, so be sure to recognise the positive contribution your employees are making and reward good work as much as possible. Failing to recognise the achievements of your employees at time when they could be feeling apathetic could have a devastating impact on productivity.
Recognition can come in many forms, from promotions and pay rises to simple rewards such as vouchers, extra time off or even a bottle of wine. Often, just a 'well done' from a manager can make a big difference to staff morale, so be sure to let your people know that you value their efforts.
4) Organise staff events
The three months to December can seem to really drag on as the winter creeps in and both the mornings and the evenings grow darker. So why not break up the monotony of everyday life in the office by hosting a few staff events and giving your employees something to look forward to?
Quiz evenings, staff parties or even an awards ceremony where you can hand out genuine prizes as well as spoof trophies for the funniest, loudest or most fashionable employees can really lift people's spirits. You can also organise teambuilding exercises that allow staff to socialise in a non-work environment and help one another reach common goals.
5) Spruce up the workplace
You'd be surprised what a lick of paint and some carefully chosen artwork can do to lift the mood, so if your office is looking a little drab there couldn't be a better time to give it a makeover. Staff will enjoy coming into a comfortable, clean and well-presented workplace, especially since many of them spend more time there than they do in their own homes.
Consider the ergonomics of the working environment and make health and safety a priority, particularly when it comes to seating. You could also think about establishing a quiet space where employees can enjoy a moment or two alone to regroup. These little touches can help you create an environment that fosters hard work and commitment, even when people's minds are back on the beach.