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How to Maintain Healthy Work Engagement During the Dog Days of Summer

Jason Diamond Arnold

July 21, 2022

The dog days of summer are upon us. For many employees, family commitments, vacations, and home improvement projects beckon our attention to things beyond our work tasks. The long list of summer activities can be a big distraction for organizations and cause lower levels of employee engagement during this season. In fact, researchers estimate there is typically a 20% drop in employee engagement during the summer months. Add to that the fact that warm weather can make us feel lethargic, less energetic about the normal routine of work, and it may feel inevitable that your employees’ engagement will take a dip in the summer months.

20%: Drop in employee engagement during the summer months

Employee engagement is closely linked to productivity. It also heavily influences an employee’s sense of connection and commitment to their employer. For that reason, engagement is critical to business success all year long — but especially during the swell of summer activities. Since it’s so important, there’s no need to let the “dog days” limit your people’s engagement and, by extension, your organization’s ability to execute strategy and achieve healthy business results.

Despite the normal engagement dip during the summer months, there are practices that can help employees remain productive and engaged in their work, despite having regular bouts of summer fever. At Inspire Software, we have designed engagement and productivity best practices into a performance management process centered on regular, ongoing — but flexible — performance check-ins where leaders and individuals can assess and adapt to the needs of employees anywhere, anytime. Here are just a few ways we recommend you consider an effective performance process that keeps your employees engaged throughout the dog days of summer.

Understand the Difference Between Passion and Engagement 

People are busier and less focused on work during the summer months. There are so many exciting life events and activities happening at this time of year outside of work to engage in. The result is that we are so busy naturally investing our energies into other endeavors that it makes it hard to stay equally energetic about our work during this season. But work is more than just an emotional investment, it’s also an intellectual endeavor and doesn’t have to suffer setbacks during this busy time in the life cycle. 

That’s why breakthrough research on Employee Work Passion can help address some of the issues that arise with the long summer days. Employee Work Passion is defined as an employee’s persistent, emotionally positive, meaning-based state of well-being, flowing from continuous, regular conversations about the mental and emotional aspects of work experiences. These regular conversations addressing mental and emotional states of performance can help employees excel beyond traditional notions of engagement, getting underneath an employee’s regular experience at work — especially in the summer months where multiple priorities compete for attention. 

Understanding that an employee’s work passion is something that needs to be intentionally engaged on a regular basis can go a long way to not only engaging your people during the summer months, it can also help them develop a passion for their role and their work while maintaining a healthy balance of personal activities and life experiences. 

Maintain Continual Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFRs)

Without a continuous performance process, it’s hard to discuss — let alone maintain — high levels of performance throughout the summer months. Traditional performance management models usually lead to “set it and forget it” goals that often disappear into the hot humid air of summer. Even quarterly check-ins can leave big gaps in the types of conversations, feedback, and recognition you need to have to keep employees’ passion for work running high, especially during the summer months. 

By having regular performance CFRs, you avoid lower levels of engagement (and work passion) throughout the summer when you have consistent check-ins through an effective performance management platform. An effective Continuous Performance platform gives individuals and leaders the ability to assess and respond to performance needs, anywhere, anytime. Whether you meet face to face, via videoconference, a voice call, or simply checking in through the performance management platform, having a central location to update progress on goals, generate meaningful conversations, solicit feedback, and receive real-time recognition for good work is foundational to keeping employees highly engaged and passionate about the work they are doing. 

Track How Employees Are Doing Through Pulse Surveys

Most engagement surveys only measure general feelings and moods about their work once or twice a year. By the time the leaders find out that engagement has taken a dip, it’s difficult to determine what caused it, or when the dip began. Pulse surveys are an intentional collection of feedback from employees on a regular basis, and a great way to keep employees front of mind during the busy summer months.

At Inspire Software, we use the term “pulse” to describe a rhythmic process of surveying employees to assess their relationship with performance needs and their relationship with leaders in their organization. A pulse survey is aligned with a more agile approach to performance and organizational strategic execution. They are different from traditional engagement surveys, 360, onboarding, or exit surveys in that they are much shorter and target specific parts of an employee’s experience, and on a regular basis. Over time, the data collected around this employee feedback can be equal to — or even more valuable than — a traditional engagement survey. 

Pulse surveys should occur as part of, or shortly after, an employee’s check-in on their performance. It’s critical to not only assess an employee’s performance through regular conversations, feedback, and recognition, but it is equally important to give them a voice to express their intentions toward the work they are doing — regardless of what season they are in. Pulse surveys give employees the opportunity to address questions such as: 

  • What are your intentions to perform at a high level, regardless of the season of the year?
  • What is your intention to endorse the organization to others? 
  • What is your intention to use discretionary energy during the current phase of performance they are experiencing?

An effective, more telling pulse survey will be concerned with an employee's emotional and intellectual state of mind as it relates to their workplace experience. With the right kind of pulse survey, you can gather actionable information and interpret meaningful data insights in real time throughout the summer months. That can help you beat the heat of summer lulls in performance and engagement.

Keep Summertime Fun and Engaging

Be proactive during the employee energy shortages of the summer months. Don’t let the dog days of summer hinder how engaged employees are during this busy time of year. By taking a continual approach to performance, you’ll increase your employees’ passion for work through regular conversations, feedback, and recognition opportunities, while taking a pulse of their engagement levels on a regular basis. 

With these simple investments in your employees, you won’t just keep productivity elevated during the summer months, you’ll also keep employees highly engaged without imposing work upon them during this fun and enjoyable season of flexibility and recharging while maintaining healthy business results.