How to fight the summertime productivity blues

Even when school’s out for summer, the work week marches inexorably on. These five tactics will help stave off the usual summer trough in focus, creativity, and productivity.

Don’t rely on random field trips

Herding people out of the office and into some half-baked activity is just as likely to confuse and frustrate people who do want to work or manage their own social time. Whether it’s lunch, a bowling outing, or a scavenger hunt, you still need a good moderator or activities chair to think through the event and plan it for success.

“Too many companies have a knee-jerk reaction: ‘Morale is low, so let’s take 110 people out to a bar!’” says Erika Kauffman, GM and executive vice president of 5W Public Relations. “If you have no agenda and no icebreakers, you’re going to get a lot of awkwardness.”

Summer hours aren’t the end of accountability

Summer hours are a fine gesture, even though labor market competition may all but demand that your office adhere to some sort of early-release Friday. Whether or not such largesse is made up elsewhere in the week, there needs to be a clear understanding that the hours that are still in play remain productive ones.

“You have to draw the line between empowering your staff and being taken for a ride,” says Corrie Shanahan, CEO of The Beara Group. “If your staff is having trouble with focus on Tuesday at 10 AM, is it really because it’s July?”

Explore free-range work

Employees want to get out of the office. Leaders want them to work. Blending the two priorities is so crazy it just might work!

“Last summer we gave a team of four self-disciplined workhorses the freedom to decide where to work on an RFP that was ours to lose. They ended up renting a car and driving down to the Jersey shore,” Kauffman says. “And it worked. It stimulates creativity.”

If you’re not sure where to go and you have clients a brisk commuting distance from the office, go pay them a visit. “Use the summer to physically call on clients and build relationships,” Shanahan says. “There’s no excuse not to in good weather.”

The biz dev challenge

You think you have trouble staying motivated late in the week when the weather is beautiful outside? So do your prospects, who want nothing less than to stare at your clever ROI tool on a Friday afternoon. Sales and marketing professionals have a double challenge—finding their own focus, and finding the right moment with their valuable contacts.

“Decision-makers higher up on the totem pole will be shutting it down for the week by Thursday, so it can look desperate if you contact them late in the week to try to embark on something new,” Kauffman says.

Instead, she recommends using the back-end hours of a summer week auditing all live touches from the past 12 months. With those insights in hand, build a detailed, focused plan of attack for the Monday-Wednesday window of the upcoming week. “Then you’ll have your subject matter prepared for the early-week call, and you won’t look desperate.”

Look in the mirror

No, not to check out your tan. Spend the brightest months of the year putting yourself in the best light. If projects are slow and teammates reluctant to start fresh initiatives, take the opportunity to do your own self-evaluation at the time of year when it will be the least painful.

“No HR person or boss will tell you to use your summer this way, but it’s something I personally do,” Kauffman says. “Don’t make it an endless list. Spell out enough challenges to fit on a Post-It, and give yourself the summer to solve those issues.”

Best of all, spending summer on personal growth and professional development means you’ll have several months of tangible and recent improvements to talk about when you get your formal year-end review. January won’t seem quite as frosty.

Post by Jason Compton

Jason Compton is a writer with over 15 years of experience covering marketing, sales, and service. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets.