The summer months, when most people take vacations, can be trying times for managers. A number of problems seem to get worse during the summer—, tardiness, inattention, horseplay.
How do smart managers avoid these summertime blues? Primarily by planning. Here are some approaches to try:
Lead with summer conditions in mind. Your scheduling, for example, should take into account the effect of employee absences on everyone’s workload. Who can cover for whom? What can be put off for a while? What needs doing ahead of schedule so you can coast later on? Be prepared for your employees to be confused about temporary work assignments, worried about leaving their work in others’ hands, and concerned about being seriously behind when they get back.
Hold periodic status meetings. Because things can fall apart rapidly during vacation season, it’s important to keep everyone well-informed about what’s expected and what’s actually happening. Regular meetings can help keep your group on target; they can also help returning employees find out what’s happened while they were away and what they need to do now that they’re back.
Tune up your cross-training. Vacation season is a good time to find out what your people really know about each other’s jobs. Besides the obvious opportunities, look for ways to have people fill in for each other. Try to schedule a dry run for key fill-ins before vacations start.
Keep the rewards coming. To help keep motivation high, pay extra attention to individual and team achievements. Be generous with your praise. People who do a particularly good job during a short-staffed summer deserve some special recognition.
Try something new. People tend to be more laid-back during the summer, and they are often more open to doing things in a new way. If you think productivity would benefit from some changes, go ahead and experiment with different work partners, rearrange the work area, or introduce new procedures. Adding variety to the work may also keep your people from feeling so depressed about being inside when they’d rather be outside.