By John Rampton, founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.
Those hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer invariably alter the normal rhythm at work. It’s not just about getting back into the right headspace following a vacation. Every team member seems to move at a different pace from Memorial Day to Labor Day, whether on the clock or not.
It’s likely we all became accustomed to this cycle at a young age. Carefree summers were always followed by back-to-school excitement, a break during the winter holidays and a spring spent looking forward to summer. Despite adulthood, we’re still mirroring the sequence.
I learned a long time ago to stop fighting the midyear seasonal productivity slump by focusing instead on what comes next. A few team strategies can turn those dog days into cash cows when things cool down. Here’s how you can optimize your team’s time this fall.
Get everyone back on the same page.
When team members return to work in the fall, it may be the first time they’ve all been together for months. Take advantage of the opportunity to get everyone back on the same page and ready to resume collaborating.
Recognize that because employees’ schedules have likely been sporadic, you should give them time to catch up. It’s kind of like a verbal “what I did last summer” assignment. If you jump right into new projects, you miss the chance to have your team reconnect on a personal level. And social capital is vital to team energy, cooperation, satisfaction and productivity.
Once you take a beat to let your team members fill each other in on their lives outside the office, it’s time to get down to business. I have found that the best way to get everyone up to speed is to go back to the basics. It’s like hitting refresh when your laptop is buffering. The information is still on the page, but you put it in front of everyone again.
Begin at the top with the overarching goals for the team. Next, focus on the major goals the team needs to achieve by the end of the quarter or calendar year. Remember, you’re going to lose some of their attention again as you approach the holidays. So homing in on key near-term goals can make achieving them seem much more manageable.
Once you’ve highlighted those, revisit the tasks and processes it will take to get there. Review which team members are covering which assignments. This reset will remind the team where they are and what they need to accomplish.
Reboot your collaboration tools.
If you aren’t using project management software that facilitates team communication, you should be. That’s especially true if team members are working remotely or in hybrid arrangements. These tools are particularly critical to getting your team back on track in the fall.
Employees don’t all share the same work style or habits. That’s OK—such diversity is usually a team strength rather than a weakness. But those style differences may be more apparent than ever after the summer months, especially when some individuals come back ready to roll and others need a little more time.
Project management tools are the one constant for a diverse team. Every member needs to use them if the software is to work effectively. If they do, team collaboration suffers no setbacks just because some people work differently than others.
Your team might have lost track of where they were during the summer, so work together to get timelines and tasks up to date. Reprioritize where necessary to help speed completion of the key fall goals you’ve set.
Don’t forget to monitor the chatter among team members to make sure everyone’s back to normal productivity and no one is overwhelmed. Once you see tasks ticked off at a rapid pace again, you’ll know your team is re-energized and on its way to achieving company goals.
Make time a thing again.
Part of the magic of summer is that time seems to become almost irrelevant. Daylight starts early and ends late, making you feel like you have all the time in the world to get things done. That summer sense of time is probably why teams lose some of their sense of urgency.
It’s your responsibility to make time a thing again when the troops reconvene in the fall. I wouldn’t suggest you accomplish this by restoring rigid schedules. Employees work better when they feel like they have some flexibility in how and when they work. However, do make sure projects have not just full completion deadlines, but due dates for milestones along the way. These will be particularly important for maximizing your team’s time in order to achieve major objectives before the year-end holiday lull.
Time is what you make of it, so be sure you help your team clock back in. As days get shorter and the end of the year approaches, their sense or urgency should increase. After all, good timing creates great teamwork.
Get back to business.
There is a certain sense of excitement when teams reunite in the fall. Summer gave your people a little space and time to relax. It’s up to you to harness the renewed energy that occurs as a result. Employ some techniques that will help your team use their time and energy wisely.
As the saying goes, “To everything there is a season.” In this case, fall can be the best season to make up for a summer productivity lag. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to get everyone back to business as usual.