By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and your friends are planning exciting vacations…It’s official: summer is here!  

Sounds great, right?  

Not so fast…if you run a business, your employees are likely stuck indoors at work struggling to stay engaged. A recent study found that productivity dips 20% during the summer months, this means many employees are gazing out those giant office windows dreaming of the next time their toes touch a sandy beach.

In order to foster employee engagement and keep company culture strong through the summer season, try these 5 tips to keep employees happy at work.

1. Set summertime goals with a reward at the end of the season.

Host a team meeting to sit down and set some goals for the next quarter. During this brainstorm session, be sure to write down your goals and then share them out in a summary. Research finds that writing down your goals results in a 33% higher chance of success to attain them.  

During this goal-setting meeting, decide on an incentive for your employees if the goals are met. This could be anything from a spot bonus to team outing or office closure for a day. Get creative and make it a goal that everyone values. This is tricky, and often requires you asking your employees what means something to them– for some, it’s flexibility; for others it’s cash; for others, it’s a free day off. Nonetheless, remember to explore beyond the simplicity of cash bonuses, as science shows some employees are more likely to work for tangible non-cash incentives and rewards.

Don’t stop there! Consider printing the quarter goals and posting them around the office as a reminder to the team. Use colorful graphics and images to be eye-catching, no one is going to stop and re-read a bulleted document. According to a study from Brain Rules, people can recall 2,500 pictures with 90% accuracy days after exposure, far exceeding recall of words. 

2. Create an outdoor working environment.

With warmer weather, employees are going to be itching to get outside. While at work, focus on making this a possibility, set up a breakout area outside with tables and umbrellas to encourage outside meetings or remote workspace.  

If you do not have any outdoor space on campus, bring the outdoors inside. Humans are pretty easy creatures to please. In fact, a study in the Harvard Business Review found that employees number one office perk desire was natural lighting and a view of the outdoors. Psychologists discovered that the simple act of adding houseplants to the work environment improved productivity 38%. Open windows to get natural fresh air to flow through or swap out standard light bulbs for natural lighting sources that best mimic the sun. You can even host a team activity to all attend a succulent workshop or head to a local nursery for everyone to pick out a houseplant for their desk.

3. Create a summer happy hour or event schedule.

According to research on workplace relationships, there is a direct correlation between job satisfaction and perception of friendship opportunities at work. Use the summer time season as an opportunity to encourage coworkers to build real friendships.

Host a schedule of happy hours or company gatherings to bring employees together and break up the long work hours. Find a restaurant that holds a large patio space and cut a work day short for people to attend.

You can go beyond an after-hours event and host an annual event such as a company picnic or creative team building field trip. Group shark diving might be a bit extreme, but building team morale and collaboration during the summer will lend well when you head into more demanding months later in the year. In fact, I went on a leadership retreat recently in the Middle East and one of the exercises they had us do was herding sheep! The lesson? Great leaders lead from behind.

There’s always a lesson and a connection building opportunity in these exercises.

Invest in your employees now to prepare for the future.

4. Offer telecommuting abilities.

There are many benefits to having a remote work policy. If you do not offer employees the option to work from home, the summer months may be a good time to trial or start one. People crave this option–a recent study shows that 68% of Millennial job seekers would be more likely to want a job if it had remote work options.  

Over 60% of families have both parents in full-time jobs, this makes the summer months with no school a struggle. If you offer remote work capabilities, parents will be able to better balance their work and family life. This goes beyond families, as the benefits of working remote, lend well to keeping all employees connected while allowing mobility during the travel season.

5. Create summer hours.

With workplace attendance already down an average 19% during the summer season, offer a half-day every Friday or maybe every other Friday off for a few months.  

These few short hours of added free time for employees can go a long way with keeping employees engaged during the hours they are at work. It may be hard to believe but, employees actually report feeling more productive -not less- when their work hours were reduced with a half day. It also provides a sense of understanding and appreciation that as an organization, employee work-life balance is a priority and part of the culture.

With productivity naturally down during the warm and bright months of the year, use them as an opportunity to invest in your employees and give back. Take this time to recuperate and plan ahead for a successful year to come!

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  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.