Three ways to reinvigorate your workforce when everyone is running out of puff.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. This time of year can suck. Even your most loyal employees can start to feel as if they have an (almost) entire year of work resting on their shoulders. If you look backwards, you’ll see months of deadlines, long meetings and frustrating phone calls. Looking forward, you’ll see a few weeks of coconut sipping, beach going, book reading bliss. Yet here we are, too close to the former and too far from the latter.
What can you do to get your staff through these final gruelling weeks of the year? One of these three approaches may just help.
Encourage them to have a laugh
A good way to ease the pressure value and reinvigorate a bored brain is to let out a big, hearty guffaw. That’s not just the opinion of someone who loves a workplace chuckle (me), it’s backed by science.
We know by now that the right kind of humour is good for business. It’s a great way to boost employee engagement and reduce stress levels, and it can also boost creativity and collaboration, says Alison Beard in an article for the Harvard Business Review.
But what’s actually happening to our brains while we’re rolling around on the floor laughing?
- Stimulating your organs by increasing your oxygen intake which, in turn, allows your brain to release more of those sweet, sweet endorphins.
- Stimulating circulation which helps muscles to relax (it’s physically taking the stress out of your body).
- Increasing and then decreasing your heart rate which leads to a relaxing feeling.
The article also suggests that in the long term “negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.”
But how do you get people to actually laugh, instead of just forcing air out of their mouths so that you’ll stop making bad puns? How can you possibly plan to make your workplace funnier?
It’s easy. Let me share my favourite joke of all time.
Why did the scarecrow win a Nobel prize? Because he was outstanding in his field. But hay, it’s in his jeans.
*Crickets* Umm yeah, so……
Having an official workplace humour policy might not be the best approach, but what you can do is encourage a culture where people can be themselves, and tell jokes if that’s part of that.
Trial a summer schedule
During the summer, some organisations will slightly tweak their hours to give staff extra time to… well, do whatever they like! Employers pick one day – usually a Friday for the extra benefit of slightly extending the weekend – and encourage all staff to knock off a few hours early.
You might be hesitant to do something like this. You’re paying staff for a full day’s work after all. You don’t want to be subsidising their afternoon beer, but it’s actually working in your favour too.
Just because your staff are sat at their desks typing away, that doesn’t mean they’re actually producing value-adding work. Research from Ohio University suggests that the average worker is only productive for just under three hours of an eight-hour work day.
Source: Ohio University infographic, The Six-Hour Workday.
Minds wander, especially at this time of year. If you do decide to shorten one of the work days slightly you have to communicate to staff that every moment counts, as they are still expected to get all their tasks done.
Done right, you’re getting the same level of output from staff as well as the added benefit of increased engagement/loyalty that staff experience when they feel their employer is giving them some kind of workplace perk. Hey, it can even be a trial period for a more permanent change.
In an article for Inc., small business advisor Marla Tabaka, suggests a few ways a summer schedule could look in your workplace:
- Everyone leaves early on a Friday afternoon (if your business can manage this), otherwise…
- Create alternating rosters for early Friday hours so half your workforce can be off early each Friday.
- Allow staff to choose which afternoon of the week they’d like to take off.
- If your business can’t survive on any less than 40 hours per week, try to condense that into four days of work. Staff may be happy to work longer hours Monday throughThursday if it means they can have Fridays off. You’d have to strictly enforce this though, otherwise you’ll end up with staff working longer hours each day and on Fridays. That will only lead to further burnout.
- Allow staff to work from home one day a week during the summer. Normalise this by having senior staff lead by example.
Tabaka says if you really can’t afford to slash hours, think of an alternative way to make Fridays special for staff. She suggests, “a free lunch, themed days, bring in a masseuse or offer a long lunch break.” In our office, every Friday someone brings their dog to work. It’s my favourite day of the week.
Any of these approaches are a nice alternative for employers who aren’t able to offer financial bonuses/raises and will make all the difference to your employees.
Communicate your 2020 goals
You don’t want to bombard staff with too many new projects or processes towards the end of the year. They’re more likely to balk at any large scale changes when they’re running on empty, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate your plans for the following year. In fact, you could be better off if you do.
A survey from the Society for Human Resources in America found that 77 per cent of staff surveyed in an annual satisfaction and engagement survey felt that having a clear understanding of their employer’s future vision and missions was important to their job satisfaction.
It makes sense staff would want this. If work is a strong part of our identity, we want to ensure we’re aligned with where the company is heading.
In an article for Forbes, Elena Bajic, CEO of Ivy Exec, says that when team members have a clear idea of how their individual work contributes to the bigger picture, in her experience, they’re more likely to work harmoniously to achieve those goals.
“I sometimes envision running my company like a conductor leads an orchestra. If I can write a score for each section and show them how to effectively play their part while blending with the others, then truly beautiful music can be made,” she says.
To share these visions effectively, Bajic offers the following advice:
- Hone your story and explain it clearly. Relay your vision to your staff in the same way you would explain it to your children. But don’t be patronising, just be clear and keep it simple.
- Seek external advice. If you’re a leader, draw on the expertise of your HR lead. If you’re working in HR, it might be helpful to seek the head of finance’s input.
- Bring everyone together. This is especially important if you have more than one office space. All staff should feel part of any changes that you implement.
There you have it – three simple ways to stave off November-itis (yes, that’s a made up word. Just go with it). Best of luck making it through the next few weeks. And take comfort in the fact that Christmas is just around the corner.