Employee engagement can be a challenge at any time of the year. According to Gallup, only one in three employees is engaged at work. Their enthusiasm and proactivity can easily be eroded by the 16 percent of employees that are actively disengaged.1During vacation and holiday periods, it can be even harder to stay connected when teammates are out of the office, standing meetings are disrupted, and project continuity often lags. In a Harvard Business School study, researchers identified a direct correlation between worker productivity and weather2, proving that the distractions of warm, sunny days impact us all.
Here are just a few of the proactive measures that employers can take to increase both productivity and engagement when the team is dispersed:
Plan Early –Employees should always be encouraged to take time off when they have earned it. Not only does time away from work increase focus and motivation, but it also improves overall performance. Planning for heavy vacation periods can be tricky, but when employees are encouraged to provide advance notice and remain flexible, most requests can be accommodated. You might try posting a vacation schedule on your intranet or a white board calendar in a common area so that everyone can view the planned absences of their teammates.
Establish Communication Norms– Leaders often need to establish some ground rules around communication during employee absences. For example, is there an expectation that the employee will be accessible by colleagues or will they disconnect entirely from work? If interruptions are allowed, what is the preferred communication method (email, text, phone, etc.)? What about the timing and frequency of these touchpoints?
Reassign Tasksand Roles– Leaders may need to make temporary assignments to project teams to ensure continuity. Teammates could stand in for vacationing colleagues at meetings or events, if their schedule will allow it. When setting up out-of-office messages, employees should give careful thought to the appropriate back-up person for their role and then ask for permission to list their name and contact information. It works best when these discussions occur in advance and with the full buy-in from the team.
Promote Collaboration –Most employees will agree that it is more fun to be on vacation than holding down the fort back at the office. However, if everyone is given the opportunity to take some time off, there is a shared sense of purpose in keeping up productivity while supporting the team. One way to help ease the transition between work and vacation is through note-taking. Employees getting ready to go on leave can make a list of pending items for others to check during their absence. Those returning to the office after some time off will appreciate having any written updates or meeting minutes to fill in the gaps of what they missed.
Inject Some Fun – Since employees often spend more time with their work family than their real family, it only makes sense to plan some fun activities – such as Office Olympics, fitness challenges, book clubs, and company picnics – to promote collaboration and celebrate successes. Consider holding staff appreciation events to boost morale and express gratitude.
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