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Debra Corey


Chief Pay it Forward Officer, Speaker, Author and Consultant

Read more about Debra Corey

Six ways to keep employees engaged and motivated over the summer

Six alternatives to a company party to keep employees engaged over the summer.

We all love a good company party, especially when the sun is shining and the days are long. Indeed, after the year we’ve all had we could use a celebration and an opportunity to let our employees know how much we value and appreciate them for all that they’ve done. Despite restrictions being lifted in many areas of the UK, however, the shadow of the pandemic continues to loom over us, with worries over the new Covid variant growing.

Spread that summer vibe to keep spirits up and to help your workforce feel valued.

Being sensitive to people’s concerns, therefore, what we can do to create that summer vibe and recognise all the hard work our colleagues have put in this year? Here are six ideas to engage and motivate employees over the summer.

1. Virtual party

The most obvious thing to do is to have a virtual party, something that I’m sure you’ve become an expert at over the last year. Before you start planning it, however, let me challenge you to push yourself to either try something completely new or bring back the thing(s) that your people loved the most.

For example, I recently organised a virtual party where my objective was for everyone to put their stresses aside for an hour. No complex or mind twisting games, just fun and networking. So I did something completely new to me, and brought in the team from SongDivision to help us work together to write a song based on the theme of the call. It worked like a charm, with attendees writing to me afterwards to say that it was just what they needed, stepping away from work to be creative and to have fun through music. It was a good lesson for me about the importance of blending connections with wellbeing, so do keep this in mind.

2. Empower teams to celebrate together

A big face-to-face company party may be off the cards this year, but some companies are instead holding smaller parties across departments and teams to enable employees to celebrate with the colleagues they interact with the most. Take your overall party budget and divide it into smaller amounts, letting the teams organise something that is not only safer, but could actually meet their needs a bit more closely. And if you want to magnify the party vibe, have teams share photos from the parties, creating a bit of fun and buzz for everyone.

3. Send a thank you gift

Another thing that many companies are doing is to send their employees a gift to thank them for their hard work during these challenging and uncertain times. Anything from food and drink, to quirky summer-themed or brand-based gifts, I’ve seen companies  get really creative.

If you can’t figure out the ‘right’ gift, which I know can be difficult, some companies are sending vouchers or gift cards to people instead, letting them decide what is right for them. I’ve even seen companies send vouchers they can use at local restaurants to give their employees a meal out and support their local community.

Either way, you need to decide what works best based on your culture, values and budget, and what aligns with your objectives. Start by asking yourself this, and you have a better chance of getting the ‘right’ gift.

4. Give the gift of time

The next type of gift I’ve seen companies give is the gift of time, using it as a way to thank employees for their hard work. This has been happening throughout the pandemic, and especially during the summer months, and is a double win as it ticks both the recognition and wellbeing boxes.

As far as how much time to give, I’ve seen anything from an afternoon off to one or two days. You need to decide what works best for your company and what will make your employees feel that you appreciate their efforts.  

My thoughts on this is that time can be a great gift to give, but only if you genuinely give it, meaning that you adjust work demands based on the time you are giving them off. For example, if you give employees a day off and expect them to deliver the same thing in four instead of five days, you are causing more pressure to an already pressure-filled world. For this reason, think of time off holistically.

5. Raffles and competitions

Another gift that employees like are those won through raffles and competitions, and the summer is a great time to run them. You could hold a raffle to raise money for a charity, or run a competition that has a fun summer theme, creating a fun vibe that lasts throughout the summer weeks.

One of my favourite competitions again ticks the recognition and wellbeing boxes as it’s centered around wellbeing. You could have daily or weekly activities to raise awareness of key wellbeing topics and get people excited and involved. The good news is that the prizes don’t have to be massive, as often I find that the most fun is in the competition, especially those involving teams, and not in what the final prize is.

6. Family fun

More and more companies have included and/or supported employees’ family throughout the pandemic, so why not continue that over the summer? Last summer I shared stories of how companies were holding virtual summer camps for their employee’s children, sending home activity packs for the kids, and even holding virtual parties for the entire family.

Many companies are still focusing on this, especially in the summer when it can be more challenging for working parents. I’d recommend pulling together a group of your parents to help you decide what you can do, and as mentioned previously, doing so through a diversity lens so that you support children of all ages.

I encourage you to get out there and spread that summer vibe to keep spirits up and to help your workforce feel valued. The sky’s the limit in terms of what you can do – the only thing holding you back is your imagination.

Interested in this topic? Read Four things the pandemic has taught us about employee recognition.

Author Profile Picture
Debra Corey

Chief Pay it Forward Officer, Speaker, Author and Consultant

Read more from Debra Corey

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