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Give In To Summer Fun: How To Keep Your Tech Team Productive

Give In To Summer FunFrom weddings, to family vacations, to daycare needs, the summer months demand more time of your tech employees than any other season. Not only can these busy schedules pose a threat to your team’s engagement, but conflicting vacation schedules and availabilities can also lead to lost productivity and delayed project timelines. However, the opportunities presented by this season far outweigh its challenges. Tech employers who strategically leverage the summer months by offering additional workplace perks and tactically navigating schedules create an open environment conducive to employee happiness – a key factor to increasing retention and engagement throughout the year. Rather than panicking over the obstacles that lie ahead, consider the following strategies and perks that you can use to boost productivity and keep things running smoothly.
Summer Strategies That Save
No matter what perks you can offer to boost your IT pros’ happiness, your team is still likely to encounter productivity road-blocks. Not all vacations will line up, and the dog days of summer can make employees feel lethargic and cooped-up. Luckily, you can help your team to overcome these challenges with some simple strategic planning. Hint: get ready to mix things up!
1. Re-Prioritize, Re-Arrange, Re-Organize
Prime vacation season doesn’t have to be the most unproductive time of the year. You might need to cancel a meeting where only 3 of the usual 15 people are present in order to be respectful of everyone’s time, or encourage a re-organization or re-prioritization of projects. Think of it and promote it as an opportunity for your employees to be productive in new ways like using the quiet to focus on more strategic or creative projects, explore/learn new technologies, or develop career-advancing practices such as coming up with innovative ways to compile code faster. Your IT pros will enjoy the change of pace from their “usual” schedules, and might be able to wrap-up important projects that have been sizzling on their back-burners due to time constraints.
2. “Plan” Vacations
Studies have shown that tech pros are more productive when they are well rested emotionally and physically. “The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound,” said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist who specializes in stress and relationship management. “Most people… are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.”
However, encouraging vacations doesn’t mean allowing your IT pros to go off without a plan. Before he or she leaves, talk to your employee about what needs to get done, and how involved they will be when they are away—will they check their email occasionally or be without cell coverage?—so you can plan accordingly and keep things running efficiently. To keep morale up and resentment low, create clear back-up plans so employees still in the office know what tasks they are and are not responsible for covering while their teammates are away.
3. Find Time For Vitamin D
Eat lunch with your team outside, find a park nearby where you could hold a more-casual meeting, or simply take a walk around the blog with your team to relax and reset. The vitamin D will do everyone good, and after you all get over the initial sunshine or full-stomach haze, you’ll have a more productive afternoon. As with most things, people need to find a balance for work-life in the summer: the trick is to not over-deny or over-indulge. Employees are likely to spend as much time being unproductive thinking about, craving, and hoping to be out of the office as they would be by taking a little time away. Rather than continuing to feel cranky or resentful, these small ‘give-ins’ are likely to boost their attitudes, and your team’s productivity, through the “real” end of summer in late September.
Summer Perks That Pay-Off:
As a tech employer, you already know that incentives are hugely important when trying to attract and retain the best IT talent. The summer months are a great opportunity to put a few additional company perks into place – giving you the chance to truly showcase a flexible and fun workplace environment without breaking your budget. Whether you are a business owner who is able to implement all five or an IT manager who could organize just one or two, by investing in the following perks and promoting your team’s happiness, you can expect an output of quality and efficiency.
1. Don’t Just Allow Vacations – Encourage Them
If offering unlimited vacation isn’t the right choice for you, consider helping your employees to fund their vacations. Moz’s $3000 vacation reimbursement program for staff members who take advantage of their allotted 21 days of vacation per year is a unique perk that garners a lot of attention for the company.  While such a large amount isn’t realistic for everyone, you might consider using travel funds as a reward for employees who hit important milestones (i.e. 1 year, 5 years, 10 years) working with your company, or offering bonuses to contract employees in the form of airfare or hotel bookings that could be paid for with company frequent flier miles.
2. Invest In Team-Bonding
One survey revealed that “company retreats” are among the top 7 perks valued by tech pros – including those who work at big-name companies such as Airbnb. Taking time out of the office reduces your team’s stress and increases their workplace satisfaction by throwing hierarchy’s out the window, fostering friendships, and giving team members the opportunity to interact with others (perhaps remote employees or IT contractors) who they don’t get as much face-time with during a normal day. Such outings are especially popular among tech startups, who see these events as a “rest and recovery” from the hard work that goes into launching a new company.
Whether or not you are working in the booming Twin Cities startup industry, rest and recovery is always important for your IT pros’ well-beings – and physical fitness is a great way to promote increased brain functioning. Consider taking your team to do something active, such as kayaking/canoeing, laser tag, or jumping at a trampoline park. It doesn’t’ matter if your plans are extravagant or simple; the most important thing is to get out and have fun together.
3. Keep it Flexible
While some IT employees and contract workers may always work remotely, consider allowing others the flexibility to take increased remote working days during the summer. If your IT pros are seeking regular remote time (i.e. one or more days a week) work out a schedule with them to establish which days must be worked in-office, and which can be remote. If possible, try to coordinate your out-of-office days as a team, so that time spent in-office can be used most effectively.
Some companies also allow IT employees and contractors to use flexible scheduling, letting them work weekends or nights as needed to reach 40 hours instead of a typical 5-day work week. This work-life-integration model is an especially important option for tech contractors, who might otherwise avoid vacations for fear of losing out on their hourly rate.
4. Hail Happy Hour
Whether in-office or out-of-office, hosted or not, happy hours are a great way to have some fun. Though these do fall under the umbrella of “team bonding”, happy hours can be an easy and affordable opportunity to get together for more than just one big activity during the summer. As a manager: consider taking your team out a little earlier than usual and buying the first round. Or, coordinate a company-wide happy hour in your lunchroom or at a local pub. These can be as often or sporadic as you like.
5. Close the Doors and Don’t Look Back…For a Bit, Anyway
As with mandated holiday closures in December and January, summer closures can be a good way for business owners to save money on their overhead, and encourage the team to all take vacations at once – thereby reducing the amount of lost productivity due to differing summer vacation schedules. Adobe closes its office for 1 week during both the summer and winter, and tries to align these closures with the holidays. Most companies offer this time in addition to any vacation hours allotted.
Is a week-long closure just not possible for your company? Other options include offering an extra day or two off surrounding holidays (for example, the weekdays before or after the 4th of July), instating an “early office closure” policy on Fridays or closing the office one Friday a month.
 
All work and no play does not make for a successful tech team! The summer months are a time for fun – and that should include time spent in the office. At the same time, you don’t want to host so many activities that the office becomes a distraction. By employing strategic planning and special perks to maintain a healthy balance of work and “fun” over the next 3 months, you can lead your tech team to success. Who knows – with their creative juices flowing, maybe your team will create the next big app, or experience a breakthrough in your data analytics strategies. Give in to summer fun, and reap the rewards of a happy, productive, and creative IT team.

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