Regain Summer Focus, Motivate Employees

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“We’re into the dog days of summer, and my employees are lagging. How can I keep them motivated and doing good work? How can I motivate all of my employees?”

Long-Term Care Laundry, Kathrine Flitsch, Wheaton Francsican Healthcare, Brookfield, Wis.

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Kathrine Flitsch

Kathrine Flitsch

As summer is upon us, people tend to have many competing priorities. Keeping employees focused on the job can be tough when the weather is so inviting outside.

I have learned that what motivates one person does not always motivate another person. Our organization has activities throughout the year for all employees to be involved in. A few recent ones include a picnic with grilled food held during the workday for all to participate in; theme days; and casual dress days. 

On the theme days, we wear things like favorite baseball team shirts, neon colors on another, even Hawaiian day complete with a hula-hoop contest. Employees receive items like glow bracelets or leis to wear as part of the fun.

The events do not have to cost a lot to make a big impact. Having everyone involved makes the work atmosphere exciting and energetic. Those types of events help break up the day-to-day work we all have.

I also feel people can be motivated by the work they do. Feeling a sense of accomplishment when they are done makes them want to do more of it. Allowing employees to incorporate ideas they have on how to make a situation better can keep the motivation high.

Employees also feel motivated when they are able to be involved in decision-making. When a process is not quite right or equipment needs replacing, it is really important to get input from those who use it. People feel a sense of belonging, and that makes them feel valued.

So as we go through our summer, I think that taking time to share some fun at work as well as listening to your employees will make a better work environment for everyone.

Consulting Services: Chris Mayer, Performance Matters, Plymouth, Minn.

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Chris Mayer

Chris Mayer

Whether it’s your production employees in the plant or route service reps out in the field, summer heat is a challenge for any commercial laundry.

PRODUCTION EMPLOYEES

As far as internal production staff, I was once given a valuable piece of advice: “Keep buying and adding fans until the employees tell you they’re comfortable.” We always invested in large commercial fans that continually pumped out cool air at a maximum rate. Be careful of placement of the fans; don’t create a trip hazard or any other kind of hazard.

Try making your own “swamp cooler.” These evaporative coolers can reduce temperature by significant amounts. They range from the simple (e.g., a bowl of chilled water in front of a fan) to the semi-complex. It clearly paid off and was a wise investment from a productivity perspective. It also showed a commitment to improve employee morale and safety.

Another investment is to provide hydration stations at as many areas as possible within the plant. This could be water fountains, water coolers or Gatorade coolers. Many employees like the ice chest cooler full of ice to dip in a towel to wrap around their necks to keep them cool.

Finally, remind your production management to be aware of visual signs of heat fatigue with production employees. Don’t be afraid to pull someone off the floor to take a break, or add an extra break for all production employees on hot days. 

The key word is investment. Production employees need a comfortable work environment to meet productivity standards, and it’s also the right thing to do.

SERVICE EMPLOYEES

We know how important it is to consistently communicate the danger of summer heat fatigue and route service rep safety. Consistently drinking fluids should always be part of your safety communication. So what else can you offer your service team to be more productive during the summer months?

  1. Educate employees on the signs of heat stress (www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html).
  2. Invest in coolers for each delivery vehicle.
  3. Have water bottles available for route reps in the morning before they leave.
  4. Cool towels are a great way to dissipate heat and reduce body temperature. Check the Internet for information on “cooling towels” and other similar products.
  5. Company logo hats and sunscreen can help keep route reps cooler and safer from dangerous UV rays.
  6. Uniforms that are lighter and have moisture-wicking fabric properties can help assist in relieving common heat exhaustion.

The challenging summer months can also be an opportunity for boosting morale. Management handing out Popsicles® or providing cool, fresh lemonade can be viewed as a welcome gesture from the front-line team members in the production, stockroom and service departments.

Having an ice cream truck stop by at break time or at the end of the day is always an event that is well-received.

Textiles: Steve Kallenbach, ADI American Dawn, Los Angeles, Calif.

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Steve Kallenbach

Steve Kallenbach

Summer heat is a tough time to work in any situation, much less inside a laundry. Here are a few simple ideas that have worked well over the years:

Lead with your sleeves rolled up. It’s really important that employees see their leaders beside them, involved in the success of the operation from their perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to fold linen, but it’s great for motivation when employees see the boss walking through the plant regularly to have a hand in production.

Have a good time when you do walk the floor. Be the smile—it’s contagious.

Make sure the hot areas of your operation have working fans and access to cool water at all times. Check how well they work as you walk through the operation. If you have to invest in a few extra fans, it’s a great motivation for all to see.

Keep the lunchroom cool, clean and bright. Some operators offer ice cream or Popsicles® during breaks. It’s inexpensive and shows you care. Celebrate making it through the hot days, and do it with them.

Offer flexible hours when possible. If you can move hotter production areas to start earlier and finish earlier, allow employees who can utilize earlier hours to get them out of the heat of the afternoons.

The heat of summer is tough for anyone inside an operation, but creating a team atmosphere and being immersed in it personally can certainly motivate employees.

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