9 ways to keep employees motivated during the dog days of summer

Human resource experts and business managers share their top tips for keeping office workers engaged during the summer months, when productivity is prone to dip.

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Summertime, and the living is easy … if you are on vacation. For those workers, however, who have to toil through the long, hot summer months, the season can be a drag. So how do you keep productivity from dragging between July 4th and Labor Day? Here are some tips from HR experts on how to keep workers engaged and motivated over the summer.

1. Conduct meetings outdoors. “It's a well-known fact that vitamin D has numerous health benefits when enjoyed safely and in moderation,” says Dominique Jones, vice president of human resources, Halogen Software, the makers of employee performance management software. “So, rather than holding your meetings inside, wishing you were out enjoying some sun, [go] outside [to get] work done. The great thing about technology is that it supports working outside. Your devices – laptop, tablet and smartphone – can connect to Wi-Fi and keep everyone plugged in if need be.”

“Unless you need a projector, it's easy to take meetings outdoors,” says Neal McNamara, communication manager, TINY Pulse, which specializes in employee engagement. “Everyone here has one-on-one meetings each week with their supervisor, and we take walks during those rather than sit in a conference room.”

2. Sponsor fun tournaments and team-building activities. “Re-energize your team by sponsoring tournaments during the workday, be it ping-pong or soccer [or something else],” says Deb LaMere, vice president, HR strategy & employee engagement, Ceridian, a global human capital management technology company. “Another option to mix things up during the workday is to host theme days. For instance, a ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ day can include having a batting cage set up, foods you would find at the ballpark, like hot dogs and popcorn, lemonade and root beer, and employees wearing shirts with their favorite team’s logo.”

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“During the summer, eVestment hosts fitness challenges, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, golf matches, and softball and soccer teams,” says Mitchell Johnson, CTO, eVestment, a big data and analytics company serving the global institutional investment industry. “We even have a flower and vegetable garden behind our office that employees maintain. These activities generally occur during work hours, so they help break up the day,” he explains.

The bottom line: “Giving employees structured events so they can get outside, enjoy the nice weather and get a break makes them more focused and happy when they are back inside at work.”

3. Plan fun department or company outings. “Company-planned summer outings, like mini golf, pool parties or bowling, are a great way to keep employees motivated, getting [them] out of the office and forming [or strengthening] personal relationships [with coworkers],” says Michelle Dinsmore, vice president, Overit, a creative agency. These types of outings invigorate and refresh workers and often lead to great new ideas.

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4. Sponsor picnics. The way to your employees’ hearts may, in fact, be through their stomachs. “One day have an ice cream truck or a lunch truck appear [and] provide a time for employees to leave their desks and enjoy a little food and fellowship outside,” says Ashley White, director of Human Resources for APQC, a proponent of business benchmarking, best practices and knowledge management research.

“We have a number of picnics planned throughout the summer, either brown-bag style lunches or where the company pays for food/refreshments,” adds McNamara, which are always good for morale.

And at 911 Restoration, a nationwide company that repairs property after disasters, during the summer, lunch “turns into a buffet of food laid out nicely set up in the warehouse where everyone gets two hours to eat, speak and more,” says Scott Kennard, a PR specialist at the company.

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