Thursday, July 11, 2013

Boost Morale by Busting the Summertime Blues

Summer is full of wonderful things that make us feel good - vacations, warm nights, and plenty of outdoor activities, right? But for many employees and business professionals summer instead becomes a time of added stress.

For those taking a vacation, there’s planning and budgeting, preparing for time away from the office and catching up with missed work. But even those who don’t take time off can experience the vacation blues. Some will lament the reasons they’re unable to travel, others may simply feel the added pressure at work when co-workers are gone and they’re left to pick up the slack.

Regardless of the reasons for the added stress, employer awareness can really pay off. Here are five cool ideas for keeping your employees happy and relaxed during the hot summer months.

1. Half-day Fridays (or late-start Mondays) – Help those in the office feel the thrill of a little bonus time during the hot summer months. Whether you do this weekly or just once or twice, your employees will really enjoy the added time off.

2. Theme party or pot-luck - This feel-good activity can score big with employees, especially if the executive staff also participate. Having the boss serve you up some of her homemade chili, or seeing a stuffy manager dress up for the Hawaiian luau theme can really help staff feel connected to one another, and to management. You can encourage participation with voting and prizes.

3. Quiet time – Many people enjoy the quiet of a vacation over activities and outings. Make that possible by creating quiet time moments or "in office vacations".  Have planned dates or times when phones and email will be turned off for an hour or two. Encourage staff to read, take a walk, listen to music, or engage in some other quiet (non-work) activity.

4. Games and Contests – Keep staff excited to come to work by hosting games that are NOT tied to work or productivity. One fun idea is to hold an Office Olympics. Have staff come up with the various “sporting event” ideas and vote on which ones will be included in the final Olympic event. Enjoyment from this game can last several weeks as unique ideas are developed. Prizes can be given for creativity, teamwork, and for winning a gold medal. For a few other game ideas click here

5. Surprise treats – Half the fun of being on vacation is that wonderful and unexpected things can happen. So bring that into the office. Have a surprise ice cream day. Bring in a professional masseuse (or two) to give everyone a 20 minute massage. Keep the element of surprise by not alerting your staff to the up-coming treat, and by not having them occur on a scheduled basis.

All these ideas have one real purpose – to boost morale and bring the enjoyment of a vacation into the office. Keep it fun by having the executive team plan the activities, or letting interested staff volunteer to help. Find ways to reward those helpers who go above and beyond in bringing the vacation spirit into the office. Remember, these low cost ideas will pay high dividends in terms of staff morale and loyalty, which in turn will lead to better productivity and decreased turnover. This summer vacation has a win-win for everyone.

As Cyndi Lauper sang, “Girls just wanna have fun.” But do we know how?

Ladies, let’s face it.  We are often frustrated by the things men “get away with” both in our personal and in our business lives.  We feel angry, disenfranchised, over-looked, or under-appreciated.  Especially if we compare our work to theirs, and feel that we are doing more.  But what is really happening?  Are men really “getting away with it”, or are we merely taking on huge, unnecessary, and possibly unwanted burdens in the name of getting things done?

The reality is that women like to get things done.  That isn’t to say that men don’t.  But we go about it in a very different way – we plan.  We make lists, organize and arrange our day to be sure that everything on our “to-do” list is completed.  When working or teaming with others (especially our spouse or other family members), we check-in to determine if things are going as planned – often ready to jump in (and take over) if they are not.  We plan everything we can - our time, our activities, and even our contingency plans for things that could go wrong.  But does any of this really bring us happiness?  Or does all of this thinking and planning just go hand in hand with stress, worrying, and feeling unfairly burdened? 

More importantly, why do so many women share in this experience and how did we get this way?  To understand it better, we need to look beyond our current situation and to our evolutionary beginnings in the hunter and gatherer societies.    

Men – as hunters – were programmed to focus on two particular tasks…hunting and procreation.  Their survival, and that of their gene pool, was largely based on their ability to find a mate, and to take care of and protect themselves.  Their relationship with other hunters was predominantly competitive as each was seeking the same limited resources.

Women were the gatherers in these prehistoric times.  Gatherers scavenged for easier to obtain foods like nuts and berries.  They had to maintain a broad focus and detailed memory of where to find these precious resources, season after season.  Gatherers also preserved a cooperative spirit with other gatherers as their survival and that of their progeny necessitated that they cared for each others offspring, shared food sources, and warned one another of animal predators. 

In this way, Gatherers had to multitask and socialize just to survive the day – just as Hunters had to maintain solitary focus and take care of themselves in order to do so.  Looking at it in modern times, things are much the same.  Women tend to jump in and help out – at times taking on the work of others.  We are quick to apologize as social relations are important.  And we enjoy a lot of communication.  Men on the other hand are highly competitive, not likely to worry about their social impact, and are content to simply take care of themselves – and procreate. 

So ladies, what can we do?

Since feeling over-burdened is, at least in part, something we bring on ourselves, than surely we can also make some changes.  Here are a few ideas:

1.      Decide when you’ve done enough.  Yes, even if things aren’t done, have a cut-off point, but recognize that this doesn’t mean anyone else will do the rest.  To determine your cut-off point, ask yourself in each situation, how important/valuable the outcome will be, and compare that to the value of taking care of yourself.
2.      Let others be responsible for themselves.  Don’t check in on the progress of others unless you genuinely need to know.  No more hovering over your children regarding homework, your spouse regarding household duties, or your co-workers concerning project updates.  Recognize that it is not your job to oversee the work of others.  Imagine what they might learn or achieve if you step back.
3.      Enjoy the moment.  Men are much better at this than women are. All our planning and scheduling leaves us living in the future.  Find ways to embrace the moment – even if everything on your to-do list is not done.  Reprioritize what matters most to you, and keep true to that list instead.
4.      Recognize your own core nature.  We evolved by taking care of others, so this isn’t something we’re likely to be able to release without experiencing some stress.  However, the above suggestions should help you to step back a bit more, letting others be in charge of their own destiny.  If you do, you just may reap the rewards of feeling a little happier, a bit more relaxed, and even experiencing a little bit of fun.