PITTSFIELD — Summer has finally arrived.
Remember that sense of freedom on the last day of school before beginning summer vacation? It was finally time to ride bikes, go swimming, eat watermelon and stay out until the streetlights came on. This sense of fun that comes with summertime never leaves a person, so it is no surprise that it can be difficult to keep your employees motivated during the summer months.
A recent study from Captivate Network found that when the temperatures are warm and the sun is shining, 45 percent of people have a hard time staying focused. The study also found that workplace productivity drops 20 percent during the summer; projects take 13 percent longer to complete; and workers are 45 percent more distracted.
But don't worry. Use these tips to help your team strike a healthy balance between work and play this season and to help keep your employees' spirits and their production levels up this summer.
• Encourage people to get outside: A little fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for motivation, so urge your employees to spend time outside at lunchtime. Purchase a few picnic tables where people can sit and enjoy their breaks. When possible, switch things up by taking meetings outside, as the change of scenery is sure to brighten the mood and give people an energy boost.
• Be creative: Create fun and healthy competitions which can be work related (who lands the most new clients in a week), fun (an office treasure hunt), or just a random drawing. Prizes can range from something big like an ipad, to something small like a gift card, or simply bragging rights.
• Try something new: Enroll in a training program. Take a new class. Bring flowers into the office. Have a pot luck lunch. Schedule a yoga class or treat the team to a bowling night. Redecorate the office. Change can evoke excitement, boost moral, and breakup the monotony of the workday.
• Initiate summer hours: In the winter, people spend much of their time bundled up and hibernating inside, so let your employees live summer to the fullest. Allow your team to leave a couple of hours early each Friday to enjoy the weather, if all of their work is done. Prepare to be amazed at the impact this incentive has on productivity levels.
• Host a company picnic: It's always nice to gather your team together to enjoy some quality bonding time outside the confines of the office. Hold a weekend barbecue and allow people to bring their spouses and children for a fun, relaxing event. This is something exciting that everyone will look forward to and it's sure to raise morale.
• Encourage vacations: When employees feel overworked and underappreciated, their work suffers. Employees need to clear their minds, relieve stress and regain energy. Everyone wants to take time off for a summer vacation, so it can be tempting to limit the number of requests, but you can utilize temporary workers to help fill the gaps. Staffing firms take care of all hiring and training, so your team members can have the vacation of a lifetime without the slightest drop in output.
This summer instead of making employees choose between having fun or working, help them do both. They'll work harder if they are free to go bike riding with their kids and eat some watermelon every once in a while. Take a slice as well!
It is a myth that people do not get hired over the summer. Yes, people are on vacation, so scheduling interviews may slow the process down a little, but people do get hired.
It is also a myth that there aren't any jobs out there. Jobs do exist. As of last week, there were 1,976 job opportunities in Berkshire County with eager companies ready to fill vacant positions.
The Berkshire unemployment rate is currently 4.4 percent, the lowest it has been since December 2007. There are lots of jobs available ranging from highly skilled engineering positions to entry level sales/production jobs.
Conducting a job search during the summer can be tricky due to vacations, but be patient and persistent and you might just find that perfect employment opportunity. Here are some ways to tailor your job search activity for the summer:
• Unexpected networking opportunities: Summer is a social season, so take advantage of festivals, barbecues, golfing and neighborhood get-togethers. Stay active in community events and make sure to always have a few business cards with you no matter where you are.
• Attend Job Clubs and/or workshops: Visit BerkshireWorks.org often for a list of workshops and job clubs to help maximize your job search efforts and to network.
• Refine your resume and research companies: Use the summer to revisit your resume, update your cover letter, and to do some soul searching to identify the types of positions you really want. Also research companies that you are interested in working for.
• Network online: Even if your summer may be jam-packed with fun activities, it's likely you have an hour each week to spare. Make time weekly to search on social media networks, update your LinkedIn account, or attend a virtual networking events. It's not a major time commitment, and the reward could be huge.
• Consider contract-to-hire positions: Many organizations will hire contract employees during the summer to fill long leaves of absence. These positions could turn into permanent employment if the timing is right.
• Take a vacation: Finding a new job is tough. It's stressful and confusing. It drains your energy. A vacation — no matter how small — is a great way to recharge your batteries and get a fresh perspective on things. Go for a walk, head out to dinner with a friend, rent a movie, or participate in one of your favorite hobbies. Taking a few hours to relax can help you re-focus your job search efforts and bring back your sanity.
While it's important to take some time for yourself and enjoy life outside the workplace, it's also important to stay on your game — you never know when that life-changing opportunity will present itself.
Heather Boulger is the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board in Pittsfield. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.