County News

Cures for Summertime Blues

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As summer continues, some employees are awaiting their vacation, while others bask in the glow of time off.  How long does that vacation glow last? A week? Two weeks? Maybe just a few hours? How long an employee’s vacation glow lasts says a lot about the workload, stress and culture of the department and organization.  Once that vacation glow is gone, it can be difficult for employees to stay focused during the summer, as they experience sadness that their vacation is over, jealousy that a co-worker’s vacation is approaching, or frustration that they have to catch up on their own tasks, or cover someone else’s responsibilities.  

A 2010 study published in the Applied Research in Quality of Life found that anticipation of vacation — just planning the vacation — made people happier. The happiness from planning the vacation actually lasted longer than the happiness caused by the vacation itself. The study was conducted with 1,530 Dutch individuals and defined tourism as “an activity which allows for an escape from the routine of daily life” and that such a break was “much needed for healthy functioning in society.”  Therefore, one might surmise that celebrating the planning of a vacation and celebrating the taking of a vacation, combined with small changes to the work routine itself can also have an impact.

Here are five ways to make small changes to the office routine and boost morale in the office this summer.

● Celebrate vacation planning. A bulletin board with a map and some pins can identify where people are travelling, like to travel or want to travel in the future.  Employees can discuss things to see from their hometown or their favorite place.  Not all in one office?  Create a virtual map or send a weekly email that showcases trips, travel tips and/or photos. 

Potlucks and BBQs.  A come-and-go potluck or BBQ can still allow office coverage while celebrating summer. Picnic tables and eating outside in fantastic summer weather make the experience even more enjoyable, allowing staff time to relax and refocus.  The potlucks can have themes or recipe sharing too. 

Themed casual Fridays.  More than just jeans on Friday, themed casual days can be a special treat for employees who do not have to wear uniforms. Hawaiian shirts, souvenir T-shirts, shorts, sneakers or crazy socks can all be Friday themes.  Want to take it one step further? Have all the Friday themes start with the letter “F”:  Freedom Friday, wear red, white and blue; Fedora Friday, wear your favorite hat; Football Friday, wear your favorite football attire; Fan Friday, wear your favorite college attire; Fair Friday, wear boots to celebrate the county fair; Fitness Friday, wear a shirt supporting a local, charitable 5K walk or run. Put photos in the newsletter or have awards for most creative. 

Training or Teambuilding.  Have staff share their creative talents at a brief meeting or over lunch.  Have an employee who is a master gardener?  Loves to grill?  Finds the best airfare deals? Has experience travelling internationally? Perhaps it is a forum to allow employees to share travel tips, so that the team can hear about the vacation all at once, which prevents the employee who just hiked Mount Whitney or vacationed in Orlando from repeating stories multiple times.  The events can be lunch and learns, where employees bring their lunch to hear about fun topics. The conversations allow co-workers to learn more about one another and share interests. 

Summer flexible work schedules.  Some organizations have summer hours, where the office hours actually change from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer. Other organizations may not have this flexibility, but departments can create a summer schedule for staff or have staff develop their own summer schedule.  Perhaps most staff work 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., while others take turns covering the 4 p.m.–5 p.m. shift.  Perhaps some work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,  getting to either sleep in a little later now that kids are not off to school or exercise in the morning.  Or perhaps an employee would prefer a longer lunch.  This may allow them to have lunch with older kids, or carpool younger children to half-day summer camps.  Also, lunch times could be flexible.  An employee who takes their lunch break at 1:30 p.m. may run into less traffic and have greater time for their own use. 

Be sure to include staycation participants in the vacation celebrations.  Staycations allow people to be a tourist in their hometown, save money, eliminate travel time and maximize relaxation.   Staycationers can still benefit from the pre-vacation planning as they decide how to spend their time off. Maybe their favorite place is their own backyard, a trail they don’t get to hike often, or a restaurant they only visit on special occasions.  Maybe their planning involves a book they have been hoping to read, a movie marathon with a friend (In case you’re interested, bingeclock.com will estimate the time and give suggestions for movies; all the movies by Steven Spielberg are listed at 7 days, 8 hours and 55 minutes), or a new store they have not had a chance to visit.  

According to the U.S. Travel Association website, American vacation usage has declined over the last 40 years, but is on a slight upswing since 2014, with the average American taking 17.2 days in 2017.  The website states “52 percent of Americans left vacation time on the table,” for a total of 705 million unused days. 

So, take some vacation time this summer, help continue the upswing in vacation usage, encourage staff not to leave vacation in the accrual bank, and be happier, healthier and reinvigorated. You might even live longer. 

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