Nina Spencer

It’s still summer and “August is a terrific month at work to…”

"It ain't over til it's over", or until some woman sings something! Right? There are still over five full weeks of official summertime to celebrate. Perhaps some of your vacation time is still in front of you, and you're still singing Nat King Cole's song about rolling out those "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer", or Cliff Richard's "We're all going on a summer holiday...doing things we always wanted to..." (I realize I must be dating myself, quite severely, if I think of these songs as quintessential, happy-go-lucky summer songs!). On the other hand, perhaps you're like most, "all done now" and feeling a little wistful that the best of those "sunny, sunny, sunny days...lying in the sun with your radio" (early 70's rock band "Lighthouse"), are over; no more vacation time left; might as well bring on the snow (a sentiment that may be expressed by those dear readers who dwell in geographical regions where there are only two seasons...two months of summer and 10 months of winter!). Take heart. In many organizations, the summertime workplace ambiance has a bit of a special, more relaxed (yet still productive) feel and mood. Even if you already can see and hear that "back-to-school/back-to-the-grind" chatter in print, on television and radio (my favourite being a commercial that usually plays in late August, to the Christmas tune of Perry Como's "It's the most wonderful time of the year"...implying that back-to-school, at least for parents, is the most wonderful time of the year), remind yourself that it is still August, the official other half of summer, and that August is a terrific month at work to:

  1. buy some new plants for the office; make them the flowering variety to get your best return on investment through the months ahead
  2. wear your "grubbies" to work one day, bring in the Mr. Clean and other cleaners and give the ole' workstation a proper "spit and polish"; while you're at it (grubby and all) clean out those drawers and vet as much "dead stuff" from your filing cabinets as you can possibly stand to do; vet your computer files, too-quite cathartic! And, on that "clean-up" day...when it comes time for lunch...order "pizza for everyone!"...delivered right to your door
  3. treat yourself and your colleagues to one fine Belgium truffle each, to start off your next weekly or regular team meeting-that'll really get people in an agreeable mood!
  4. plan a last hurrah of summer "Hawaii Work Day"; invite colleagues to celebrate the last days of summer by wearing, on this one special day, their most splashy, flamboyant, vibrant, colourful, and/or playful summer outfit-provided, of course, that it's "tasteful and professional" enough for your workplace environment-you set the guidelines for that! (how about the Friday before Labour Day Weekend?)
  5. if you haven't done so already, as a team (perhaps while you are savouring those Belgium Truffles), choose a cause or charity to which you can all commit; charge a modest dollar or two for colleagues to participate in events such as "Hawaii Work Day", and, by year end (or any other time you deem appropriate) watch those dollars add up...and watch how proud you and your team mates will be to make such a fine donation, and make such a difference, to your worthy cause! In Canada, visit www.charityvillage.com to explore more than 175,000 different Canadian Charities; there's one just right for your team's focus, for sure!
  6. kick off your end-of-summertime charity drive with a "Back to the Beach/one last time" pot luck lunch or company on-site lunchtime barbeque (if, of course your workplace site permits), all the while playing a stream of Beach Boys songs, and/or any other songs you deem fit for celebrating the best of the rest summer!
  7. go to a farmers' market one late August weekend; bring back, come Monday morning, a bag of fresh, delicious and drippy peaches; heaven on earth-or at least at work! (bring some napkins, too!) If you're feeling really energetic, kindly enough to your colleagues, and competent enough to pull it off...bake some of those peaches into a pie or two to bring in to your work environment on Monday morning! Is there any better taste of the best of what summer has to offer than the taste of a fresh peach?
  8. plan at least one workday coffee break with a special person that you just never get around to seeing much these days; plan a one-on-one curb-side caf? break with that beloved work colleague whom you, for the most part, take for granted. Pretend that you've just won the lottery and don't have to return to work...at least for 15 minutes, that is!
  9. get an after work, end of week massage (or maybe a start of week one-that ought to help you keep your workplace serenity for the full week, and ward off some of that stress that builds from Monday, onwards!) You may even enjoy keeping up this weekly tradition through all the months to follow!
  10. host a fifteen minute afternoon workplace Tea Party, complete with crustless cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, biscuits (cookies), scones, local peach, strawberry and/or raspberry jam and real Devonshire clotted cream (go on...throw a little calorie caution to the wind...just this one afternoon-swimsuit season is almost over now!); bring along a proper tea pot and cozy, a nice selection of teas, and have all "participants" also bring along one of their own fine bone china tea cups (perhaps a beautiful cup which is sprung from the family china cabinet, and never really gets to see much of the real light of day!)
  11. review your work station fittings (especially if you work at a computer terminal). So many employees work at ill fitted stations and, whether they realize it or not, ill fitted stations can be a major source of chronic neck, shoulder, arm, and even chest pain. Ask an Ergonomist for help in ensuring that your workstation fits and suits your body's dimensions. If you're really lucky (and if your organization is big enough) you may even have an Ergonomist or two right there, on-site)
  12. have a "Greased Lightening" style drag race in the company parking lot; of the mini/toy, remote-control variety, that is; make it the featured attraction of your team, lunchtime barbeque and take entry fees for each car, to, again, add to your charity's pot
  13. Take your whole work team to see the 5:00 p.m. showing of Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and have a swashbuckling good time with Johnny Depp and his "maties"!

And here are a few of my favourite "August is a great time to..." suggestions, from 2002, worth doing all over again:

  1. Scatter a few of those disposable cameras around the office. Ask your team to take impromptu pictures of colleagues throughout the day (perhaps at some of your special events). Make a collage of those late summer workplace moments, for your team's meeting rooms or other appropriate locations, and relive that August feeling all through the winter months ahead.
  2. Get out of bed an hour earlier so that you can putter around at leisure for a change, before the regular bustle of your day begins, while the mornings are still bright and while summertime shows off its fullest splendor. Do what you want with this magical hour. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Eat a real breakfast. Take the morning newspaper to your backyard swing or rocking chair and give that paper a proper read...while still in your robe and slippers! Don't have a swing? Time to get one and it will probably be 50% off now! Everybody likes to swing. I promise you will end up considering it the best purchase of the summer of 2003!
  3. Order custom made fortune cookies for your team, with messages only they will understand. Make sure the fortunes reveal only "good" and sunny or funny fortunes!
  4. Arrange an Ice Cream Day at work to celebrate a "Last Hurrah of Summer". Last year I delivered a keynote address for a client's summer management conference and was thoroughly impressed by their relatively cheap but charming way to "treat" and thank their staff. In the lobby of their on-site conference facility, this employer arranged for a free chest of ice creams flavours and cones, served up by a man in an old fashioned red and white stripped jacket and matching hat, while a Dixieland Band played on! The staff were delighted and refreshed. When I expressed how impressed I was, this same staff bragged their pride about working for such a terrific and thoughtful employer and boasted that they have this event every year!
  5. Plan or encourage your organization to book a series of autumn Lunch and Learn presentations, and/or an in-house annual autumn conference or professional development day for each of its branches or divisions. Partner with a professional speaker to inspire, motivate and re-energize staff who are saying goodbye to the tail end of summer and facing forward to a new "season" of work, eg. a "welcome back" series is very popular with many of my clients.

Go ahead, use the excuse of the balance of the lovely month of August--summer's last hurrah (with two thirds of September thrown in, to boot)--as your inspiration to implement at least one of these ideas...or implement one of your own that may have been inspired by this list. Good luck with your efforts--I'd love to hear about your positive results. Roll out the rest of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer with a smile on your face and some workplace fun in your heart.