As the summer months draw to a close and the last quarter of 2023 is upon us, returning to work after a relaxed summer holiday can be just what someone needs to enhance their productivity in the workplace. In fact, a recent study found employees who take their annual leave are 40% more productive and less irritable, depressed, forgetful and easily fatigued.
But what if you have been unable to go away this summer? Or your summer holiday plans were disrupted by the weather, industrial action or a family emergency? Perhaps you were the one that was left covering for someone else in the office or you’re returning to a job you’re not sure is right for you anymore? There are likely to be many who do not have a renewed sense of motivation.
Managers have a key role to play in acknowledging what an employer can do to avoid the post-summer holiday slump. It is not entirely up to the employee to ensure that they are always motivated. If there is a post-summer motivation issue, managers should be looking introspectively at what it is about their leadership style or company culture that could be causing this.
Below are 5 ways managers can avoid the post-summer slump by supporting, developing and engaging their team to improve their productivity.
Proactive career discussions
One of the most important ways to avoid the post-summer holiday slump is having proactive career discussions. One-on-one conversations ensure that each team member is clear about their current roles and responsibilities and they understand their personal career trajectory. When people understand exactly where they are aiming for, motivation increases.
As an employer, awareness of when employees might want a role or career change is also important. Creating a culture where individuals feel comfortable seeking support from leaders when they need guidance is essential. This will prevent any discomfort or resentment from building if someone might feel like their role no longer works for them. Rather than taking it personally, the focus for managers should be supporting this individual to find the role best suited for them.
Give the team something to look forward to
Whether you manage a small or large team, rewarding them is simple and doesn’t require a lot of money. It is essential to create an uplifting culture for everyone that motivates the team to work harder, which in turn might mean more business.
Planning events outside of the office, such as team days out, group lunch breaks or after work activities are a great way to build relationships away from the laptops. Connecting with the team in a casual environment will also encourage teams to relax and break down existing walls.
As well as out of office socials, there are ways in which an employer can incorporate rewards specifically in the workplace. Simple gestures such as congratulating a team member when they’ve hit a goal or thanking them for doing a good job are easy alternatives. Making the employees feel visible will improve their performance rate and avoid any motivation lulls.
Accessible support services
Whether you’re supporting employees or fellow managers, it is important to make sure a helping hand is there. If employees are showing signs of a post-summer slump, this could be a sign of a wider wellbeing issue, such as burnout which can manifest as irritability or disengaging from work or the team. If these symptoms are coming to light, it is essential that accessible support services are available to help.
Creating space for employees to process events away from the desk with time to talk through challenging situations or how they are currently feeling is vital, alongside any practical adjustments such as flexible working. One-on-one support through their manager, another trusted figure or an external wellbeing professional, can provide a safe space to uncover what might be causing these issues.
Tailored training and development opportunities
Another way to avoid the post-summer slump is to increase your use, or promotion, of training and development opportunities. The most proactive leaders keep on top of tailored training, to nurture those skills that might be missing, and ensure that individuals feel like their employer cares about their personal and professional development.
Learning opportunities for the team should be tailored and focused on progressing both the business and the individual. This helps employees to feel valued and more engaged. This is particularly true of Generation Z, who typically appreciate personalised development in their roles. These development opportunities could include formal courses, external speakers, mentoring opportunities, webinars or team download sessions, to name a few.
Identifying skills gaps will give better development outcomes for individuals and boost the team’s overall productivity.
Reflect on your own behaviours
The decisions you make as a manager shape the organisation’s culture, which has knock-on effects on productivity and motivation for others. Without this awareness, managers could end up being the root of the motivation problem.
Whether conscious or not, causing a toxic environment that makes an employee feel demotivated or uncomfortable, when returning from a holiday, could result in negatively impacting employee wellbeing and the company’s bottom line.
To be an authentic, effective and transparent leader, it is important to reflect regularly on your own behaviour. By reflecting on whether motivation issues are being caused by the organisation’s actions or an individual employee, you can spot any wider cultural trends that might negatively impact others in the future. With this knowledge you can stamp out any unhealthy management behaviours.
At the heart of all of these tips is personalisation. It’s unfortunately still common to see managers who are inflexible in their leadership style. These managers have often chosen a style that they like, and then try to apply it to everyone and every situation they come across. But this rigidity does not reflect the unique differences everyone brings to the workplace. Instead, to avoid a post-summer motivating slump, prioritise focusing on and developing each team member individually.
Judith Germain, Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, MBA PgDip, is the Leading Authority on Maverick Leadership and has been defining Mavericks as wilfully independent people since 2005. She is regularly approached to speak, mentor and write on how to be a more impactful and influential leader.