Boosting Employee Engagement in the Summer Months

'Tis the season for vacations. Motivating staffers can be a challenge. Here are five different ways to sustain productivity.

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By Zeynep Ilgaz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Remember that sense of freedom on the last day of school before summer vacation? It was finally time to ride bikes, go swimming, eat watermelon and stay out until the streetlights came on.

The sense of fun that comes with summertime never leaves a person. But for adults, the daily office schedule doesn't change and looking at a blue sky from inside a stuffy cubicle can be depressing.

That's perhaps one reason a Captivate Network study found that workplace productivity drops 20 percent during the summer months. Projects take 13 percent longer to complete and workers are 45 percent more distracted.

To avoid a drop in productivity, here are some ways to counteract the summertime blues and keep employees happy and engaged:

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1. Empathize with employees. The desire to play more in the summer months isn't the only reason productivity declines. People are ready for a break after the winter. The warm weather and long days enable people to be outdoors, get their minds off work and replenish themselves. Kids are also out of school. Parents want to use that time to connect as a family.

Managers should empathize with this desire so that employees will be more motivated at work. Listen to your employees' needs. How do they feel? Are they stressed or overworked? Find out their summer plans? Do you need to work with your human resources department to establish a special schedule for vacations? Ask employees for ways the company can create opportunities and plan family events.

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2. Encourage vacations. When employees feel overworked and underappreciated, their work suffers. It's important for leaders to encourage workers to take vacations. Employees need to clear their minds, relieve stress and regain energy. Team members who know they're taken care of will take care of you and your business in return.

Besides, vacations are great for overall productivity. More than 50 percent of employees feel more "rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life," and nearly 40 percent of workers "feel more productive and better about their job" after returning from vacation.

Additionally, consider implementing casual or half-day Fridays. Work contests or raffles that offer a vacation day or family trip that's paid for can also greatly motivate your team.

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3. Schedule team events. Bring the fun of summer into the workplace so people can enjoy it even when they're not on vacation. Summer barbecues are a must. Get employees and their families together to enjoy the beautiful weather. Include activities for kids and adults and provide food and games if possible. My company has brought the fun indoors by offering bowling or laser tag.

Plan for a photo-album contest at the end of the summer: Ask employees to share photos or posts of summer activities. The contest winner could receive a special prize, such as a paid vacation day or even airfare for a next vacation. Produce a summer photo album for team members to showcase their experiences.

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4. Use your resources. If the company has a tight budget, don't worry. There are several affordable ways to have fun with the team.

Potlucks are a great way to come together without spending a dime. Employees provide the food, and the meeting place can be the office.

Schedule a yoga class with an instructor and turn any extra space into a team yoga office for the summer. Summer is a great time to get the team together for a warehouse decorating party, with every wall is decorated by a different team. Use the newly decorated space to host the next family event or office party.

5. Talk with members of the team. Communication is key. If an employee event happens on a weekday and a manager is concerned that staffer will be less focused that day, share that concern. That's the backbone of building a team: trusting one another.

I want to enjoy my life, and I want my employees to enjoy theirs. This summer, instead of making employees choose between having fun or working, help them do both. They'll work harder when if they arecfree to go bike riding with their kids and eat some watermelon every once in a while. Take a slice as well!

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Zeynep Ilgaz

Entrepreneur, Co-Founder and President of Confirm Biosciences and TestCountry

Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband immigrated to the United States with two suitcases and the drive to dive into entrepreneurship. They co-founded Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry in San Diego. Ilgaz serves as president of both. Confirm BioSciences offers service-oriented drug-testing technologies.

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