Ahh, summertime. The weather is beautiful (unless you live in San Francisco...), vacation is calling your name. Outside of the office, it's some of the best times of the year. Inside the office is a different story.
If you're stuck at your desk, looking out the window at the sun shining, it can be hard to feel productive. Maybe you're daydreaming about your beachside vacation, or busy scrolling through Instagram getting jealous of friends' time spent OOO.
As a leader, how do you ensure that business doesn't take a nosedive from June to September? And as an employee, how do you take ownership for yourself and ensure that you're productive inside the office so you can enjoy your summer PTO guilt-free? Here are 9 tips — 4 for leaders, and 5 for employees, to beat the summer slump.
1. Use summer as a trial run for more flexible telecommuting policies
Employees are increasingly looking for work environments that encourage (or at least tolerate) telecommuting. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 79% would like work-from-home options, and 36% of employees would choose a work-from-home option over a pay raise. In fact, National Geographic found that telecommuting created the same boost in happiness as a $40k pay raise! If you haven't already implemented a telecommuting policy, summer is a great time to start testing with your team. They will appreciate the opportunity to work from outside and get some fresh summertime air, and you can get a sense if telecommuting is something that should be implemented more widely throughout the year.
2. Communicate and set expectations
When employees have vacation on the brain, it's important to clearly communicate the expectations. What are the projects that must get done? What are the deadlines? What is lower on the totem pole? With a clear sense of direction, your employees are prepared to move forward to tackle what's most important to the team and to leadership, and you don't have to worry about those items slipping.
3. Respect the OOO message
Taking a vacation can have immensely positive outcomes for your employees (and you!). Taking an opportunity to step away from work and reconnect with friends and family not only leads to a lower chance of burning out, but also increased mental power, and the ability to approach work problems or questions with a new outlook. Employees often return to their desks more productive than ever. But a surefire way to eliminate all those amazing benefits (and piss off your employees in the process!) is to continue to ignore their OOO message and continue to send emails. Sure, there may be urgent, unavoidable questions, but if it can wait, hold off. If you have an employee that's continuing to send emails without your prompting, give them a gentle nudge to get off their email and enjoy vacation. They will thank you in the long run.
4. Give back
If you're finding that the office is slower than usual, take the opportunity to volunteer as a team. Bonus points if the activity involves some sunshine - such as a beach clean up. Employees - especially millennials, are looking to work for companies that clearly communicate their values - and back them up with actions. Summer is the perfect time to start embedding a culture of giving back within your team and company.
1. Put down the phone
You already realize that you're less productive when you're texting or skimming Twitter. But your phone can be a bigger productivity suck than you might think. According to a study from the NCBI, more time spent on mobile devices correlated with “a relatively weaker tendency to delay gratification, and a greater inclination toward impulsive behavior.” Rather than rewarding yourself with some phone time after 30 solid minutes of heads-down work, consider instead taking a walk around the block.
2. Work in 90-minute increments
Technology has impacted quite a bit in regards to humanity, but certain things haven't changed — we still need about eight hours of sleep each night, physical activity, sunlight — you know, the basics. Another constant, per our biology, is that humans can only work for 90-120 minutes before we need a break. This applies to all sorts of tasks - even top violinists. According to a study cited by HBR: “The best of the violinists practiced in sessions no longer than 90 minutes, and took a break in between each one.” So try as best as possible to schedule your day in 90 minute increments - with breaks such as meetings, lunch, gym, or conversations with coworkers in between.
3. Turn up the tunes
If you work in a workplace with an open office plan, it can be hard to put your head down and crank out some work when you're listening to your coworker's conference calls. That's when it's time to plug in some headphones and turn on the tunes. According to one study fro the University of Birmingham, England, music helped workers perform repetitive work more efficiently.
Find that you're getting distracted wanting to sing along to the beats? Try music without lyrics, such as nature sounds, classical, or electronic music. Find the right volume so that the sounds drown out the office hubbub without making it too loud and difficult to concentrate.
When working in 90-minute increments, try taking one of those breaks to get some physical activity — even some simple stretches that relieve the stress of awkward typing positions and poor sitting posture. If you want to get your blood pumping a little more to offset a sedentary, desk-ridden day, try one or more of these deskercise ideas from the Washington Post.
5. Set deadlines
For most people, a to-do list without deadlines is a recipe for procrastination, especially when summertime activities are calling your name instead. Sure, self-imposed deadlines are better than nothing, but if you really want to make sure you get that project done before you go on vacation, tell your teammates and your boss about the deadline to hold you accountable. That's when the real productivity magic happens, according to an MIT study.
Have other ideas for how to make the summertime slump a little more productive? Tweet us @Salesforce. Also check out the interactive, 10 Scientifically Proven Tactics to Stay Productive, for more top tips.