The “dog days of summer” refers to the hottest stretch of the season, which evokes thoughts of escaping to the beach, mountains, or backyard hammock. It is also a time of year when many industries experience slowdowns in both customer demand and employee productivity.

A study by Captivate Network found that when temperatures rise, attendance decreases by 19% and workers are 45% more distracted. The reasons for this are not at all surprising, given that employees often leave work earlier or spend more time thinking about as well taking time off during the summer months. If this is typical for your small business, here are five ideas to help boost engagement and help your team avoid the dreaded summer slump.

1 – Be Flexible

Employees generally want to have more freedom and spend less time at work during the summertime. The Captivate survey found that more than half of respondents wanted more leeway in their workday and 42% said they would prefer to work from home more often during the summer. However, this can be tough for small businesses that cannot afford to have too many staff out of the office at one time.

That said, offering some summer perks could help keep employees motivated. Consider whether or not you can offer flex scheduling or job sharing that will ensure adequate coverage. Where possible, introduce options to encourage employees to work where they can be most productive and still stay on track with important projects. Trusting your team with workplace freedom could result in fewer absences or reduce the number of PTO days they would otherwise have to use to navigate rigid work schedules.

If your staff is itching to leave the office, encourage them to take their work outside. Swapping the conference room for a meeting on your company’s campus or at a local park will allow you and your team to take care of business while taking a break from the same old routine. If business tends to drop off in the summer, you could close early on Fridays. Knowing they have Friday afternoons off may give your staff the incentive to focus more on completing the work at hand and less on daydreaming about the weekend.

Be sure to encourage workers to use their vacation time. Stepping away from day-to-day pressures is vital, especially in business environments where heavy workloads and increased stress can make employees more susceptible to burnout. Effectively managing vacation schedules will go a long way towards keeping your staff relaxed, refreshed, and engaged, not only during the summer, but all year-round.

2 – Encourage Friendly Competition

Incentive programs can provide goals for your staff when they are less motivated during the summer months. Inviting employees to engage in a little friendly competition is a relatively inexpensive way to energize them to refocus on work, and it can also benefit your bottom line.

For example, create contests to see who can complete the most tasks, generate the most sales, or get the most positive customer feedback. Then reward the winners with perks like gift cards or an extra day off. Even something as simple as a company-wide summer fitness program can give staff something more to look forward to at work and double as a team-building activity.

3 – Show Appreciation

Recognizing your employees’ successes creates a positive and supportive company culture, and modeling an attitude of gratitude can inspire others in the organization to follow your lead. Many employers overlook the importance of providing positive feedback to their staff, yet, according to an employee engagement survey by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 71% of respondents said appreciation by a direct supervisor had the most impact on employee engagement in their organization.

Providing praise and meaningful recognition for their achievements is one of the most impactful and effective ways to maintain a happy, productive workforce. There are countless creative ways to celebrate both individual and team successes, ranging from comp days to perks like lottery tickets or VIP parking spots. However, remember that something as simple as a thank you note can inspire people to continue producing great work. Express your thanks for the individual’s recent accomplishments, and be sure to cite specific examples of where he or she has risen above what is normally asked of them.

For larger accomplishments or projects that involved a group effort, you may want to make a bigger show of appreciation. Either way, expressing your gratitude on a regular basis will boost morale and make it clear how much you value your team’s efforts.

4 – Send Staff to Summer School

Competent and informed employees are naturally motivated to ensure your company’s success as well as their own. If your business slows during the summer, use the downtime to invest in educating your staff.

There are numerous ways to provide training for your team. Investigate local colleges and community organizations that may offer affordable professional classes in the evenings or during the workday. Send employees to seminars or bring in consultants who can provide training that is in line with the newest standards or innovations in your industry. This will break up the daily routine and equip your team with the skills and knowledge to become better professionals and make your business more competitive.

Small business owners often use working capital financing to pay for training programs or professionals to provide education and expertise. Summit Financial Resources offers working capital loans that involve using your accounts receivable and other assets as collateral. We can mix and match from a variety of product options, including invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing. Working capital loans can be used for any business expense, which means you can provide the training your team needs, when they need it, without impacting your cash flow.

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5 – Take Five

Studies have shown that workers are far more distracted in the summer months than at other times of year. For example, 63% of workers admit to socializing with coworkers more, and 51% say they take extended lunch breaks. With fewer people in the office, clients away on vacation, and thoughts about their own getaway plans, its no wonder your staff’s attention spans are shorter in the summer.

Keep employees engaged and focused by scheduling deliberate work breaks. Organize a creative group activity or a walk outside for your department. Depending on your organization’s social media policy, surprise your team by allowing them to have 10 minutes to catch up on their personal feeds. Make it clear that when they aren’t engaging in these fun activities, they are expected to be focused on the work at hand.

Don’t forget to give yourself a break as well. According to Office Depot’s Small Business Index, 66% of small business owners find it difficult to take a vacation during the summer and more than half of those who do stay connected on their phones or tablets. However, it is critical to carve out time to disconnect from all things work related. With a little advance planning, you can leave your business in your team’s capable hands and avoid that wish-I-had-taken-time-off feeling when things pick up again after Labor Day.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.