Getting back to business (after summer break)

Beach in Cuba
Man pointing to image to the right

"Coming back to work after summer vacation
is a cruel reminder
of why I went on vacation in the first place"


Getting back to business after the summer break

Does your business have reduced productivity during summer months?

If so, how do you get productivity back when the summer is over?

Here you are, all rested and relaxed after a couple of months of sun, maybe some sand and lots of play time. At least that's how you are supposed to feel.

Picture of Golf hole by ocean

And in reality, many of your employees will have had a couple of months of "distractions", while they looked after kids off from school, planned and took their summer vacations, played some golf (or whatever other pastime they enjoy in the summer) and did required maintenance on their homes and cottages.

Most businesses do have lower productivity during the summer and with all the above going on, it is easy to see why.

This is in addition to the normal, ongoing productivity impediments like employee engagement, stress, distractions (internet) as reported by a 2016 report from the US Bureau of Labor and summarized at .

But for this discussion, we will be focusing on the productivity impact of the summer break.

Don't think this applies to you or your business? Think again! Unless you are in a seasonal business like construction or landscaping, your business likely follows the same summer cycles as most others.

Woman slumped over laptop

Take a look at the study by Captive Network at which talks about the impact of summer on business and reports average productivity declines of 20%, attendance dips of 19%, increases in project turnaround times of 13%, and overall "distraction" of 45%.

At , summarizing a post from , there is even a (only partially satirical) article on the 5 Stages of Grief suffered by employees returning from vacation.

Blocks stacked to emulate growth chart

But now it is time to get ramped up, get everyone chasing the vision, and bring those numbers (sales, operational metrics, ...) back into the target zone.

How do you get business back to "normal"?

Business leaders all over face this challenge. There is advice for you if you look. Take a read from where the author outlines 5 tactics leaders can use (from an American perspective but mostly applicable here as well) to revitalize the business.

Or if you prefer a more personal level that you can use and maybe share with your employees, try .

Of course, life would have been a lot easier had you read the following BEFORE you left for vacation but there are some tips in this article that will still help you optimize your return - and suggest ways to have a better break next year.

When we discussed this at this month’s (September) CEO Peer-to-Peer discussion, there were a number of thoughts and ideas that came forward.

Noepad with "Change your mindset"

What is your attitude as a leader
about the summer productivity loss?

  • Is it a problem you try to minimize?
  • Is it an opportunity to reinforce your support of a balanced life
    for your employees (and yourself)?

The consensus was that people need a time to recharge.  Summer vacation (and other time off) provides that recharge for many.

If you try to deny the impact of people being away or try to maintain the same level of productivity at a time when employees (or you personally) are due for a break, you are denying reality and ignoring the many studies that prove overall productivity is higher when real breaks are inserted into a busy schedule.

Celebrate life with your employees. Schedule a business update meeting the first day back in September, but set it for an hour or two after business starts so employees first have a chance to reconnect and share their summer stories.

Graphic f Social Networ / Team Build

Many leaders hold some sort of team-building event in September – a family picnic, offsite, charity support event, … - to get the team feeling like a team again.

During the team-building event or at another scheduled event, update employees on how things have gone and what is coming. And of course, while you are at it, remember to reinforce the company Vision, Mission and Values. In fact, make this kind of meeting a quarterly event so the September event just fits into the rhythm of the company and does not stand out as “This is just the company trying to get me working harder after my vacation.”.

Do I really need to tell people to get back to work?

Some balk at this kind of constant reinforcement approach. Some are of the opinion that they told employees what was expected of them and employees should not need to be reminded of that. It reminds me of a conversation my wife and I had shortly after we were married. She told me I did not tell her often enough that I loved her. When I responded

“I told you when we got married that I loved you
and if I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”

Guess what? That did not go over too well and neither will your approach if you do not think regular reminders and encouragement are a good thing. (OK, so we did not actually have that conversation but it makes the point, doesn’t it? ?)

Angry Man Kicking (air)

In our meeting, one leader even suggested a ratio be used: try to have at least 4 attaboys for every butt-kicking you hand out. It takes that many attaboys to have people not just talk about the butt-kicking.

Many of us have been applauded and rewarded for our ability to solve problems. That is a good ability. Many of us grew up with our parents telling us “Don’t toot your own horn, let someone else do it.” so when we do something well, we wait for someone to tell us how good a job we have done and sadly, in many cases, it never happens. Change that at your company. Celebrate successes through individual feedback, company-wide emails, bells in sales departments, or whatever works best for your organization.

Can I do something in advance to make this better?

Some suggested a pre-summer meeting to plan the schedules and talk about ways employees can use the time they do spend in the office while others are away like training, dealing with projects that have been on the back burner for a while (organize filing, update records, …), connecting with clients, and mentoring or helping co-workers.

And make sure your budgeting factors in the lost productivity. It is going to happen; why deny it?

Will this get everyone up to 100%?

One insightful question was: What does getting “back up to speed” mean? Do you expect everyone to become equally productive equally quickly? Is your “speed” the same as mine? Be careful to recognize that you had employees at different productivity levels before summer and you will have employees at different productivity levels after summer.

Abstract Horse Galloping

Some employees are sprinters and some are long-distance runners. Or, using the analogy from an earlier posting in this series, do you have a Clydesdale or an Arabian horse? When I was riding horses, there was a Clydesdale that we sometimes rode. I can assure you, he gave you everything he had and would jump anything you asked him to – as long as it was under two feet. Anything over that and his best efforts resulted in the jump being knocked down. He was simply not built to do what was being asked of him. Well, people are the same. Some can do some things well and some can do other things well. You job as a leader is to recognize that, help people learn new skills where feasible and get the most you can from each employee – recognizing their skills and limitations.

If someone is not as productive as you want, there is one of three reasons

  • Ability
  • Motivation
  • Resources

Don’t confuse the three. There can be combinations of them, but if you expect that someone’s ability after summer is dramatically different than before summer, you may be creating a problem. The resources available to them over summer were likely less and the motivation at the end of summer may be temporarily less. Resources should return to normal after summer. You can deal with motivation using some of the suggestions above.

Now get back to work!


A parting thought from cartoonist Marc Anderson ...

How was your vacation? (cartoon image)

"How was your vacation?
While you were gone
we messed up some of your work,
ignored the rest and
left it all on a pile on your desk.
Welcome back!"

... Mark Anderson

Posted in General Leadership, Team Alignment.

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