Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had August off? A month-long, national holiday. A giant timeout.
Totally unrealistic, of course – it wouldn’t be much fun turning up at the supermarket, or the GP surgery, to find everything shut up and a ‘Gone Fishin’’ sign across the door – but it’s a nice idea.
Particularly this year. If ever there were a year where you feel everyone would benefit from a timeout, this is it. 2016, to date, has been traumatic. Tragic. Terrifying. Toxic and entangled in ways we’ve perhaps never seen before.
Regardless of what’s happening in your own life, the daily onslaught of destruction, disaster, dangerous words and deadly actions is enough to make anyone want to lie down in a darkened room for quite some time.
Stop the world, I want to get off!
Not that, historically, I’ve ever taken much time off myself during August.
For the childless in full-time work, we tend to be the ones left holding the fort during the summer holidays. Quite right, too. Those with children should take precedence when it comes to bagging those dates when the kids are off school (and those without children can take advantage of the fact that any holiday will be markedly cheaper – and quieter – if taken when the kids are still in, or back, to school).
Not that it can’t smart a bit like fresh sunburn when everyone seems to be off to sunnier climes bar you.
August is a weird working month, one that projects a myth that everything will quieten down, whereas, in fact, with lots of activity always planned in for the ‘back-to-school’ vibe of September, it’s usually just as busy as any other month, there are just less people around to do the work.
The weather doesn’t help one way or the other. A dull, dreary August makes those Instagram shares of sun-bleached poolsides and beaches enough to turn any eye green. A heatwave weaponises most workwear, making it sadomasochistically restrictive or humiliatingly dampened by visible sweat patches.
In addition to the stretching work schedule and sketchy weather, the Remainers also face the triumphant tales of the Returners, sharing graphic descriptions of tapas dishes you’ll never taste and insisting you must go to somewhere you’re never going to go.
Worse still if they want to share photos you have to feign interest in, when what you really want to hear is that their break away was a familial psychodrama akin to August: Osage County.
Tact and sensitivity. Always a challenge in the workplace. Even more so in such divisive times when a brief chat around the water cooler about current affairs has the potential to lead to some extremely over-heated debates.
Against this backdrop, I would advise those that lead those that will be chugging on with the work this summer to spare a bit more thought for them.
Take the temperature. Literally. Nothing will cause more conflict than a working environment where no two people can agree on whether it’s too hot or too cold (for all the wonders of air-conditioning, it can get a little trying walking in from the sunshine and having to put a jumper on). Finding a happy medium that suits the majority will undoubtedly make for a more harmonious workplace.
Make sure, before packing their bags, the holiday-makers have completed detailed, accurate handovers (which might also mean those holiday-makers needn’t be checking in on emails when all they should be checking for are holes in li-los and sunscreen coverage).
Put aside a little budget for some treats (it’s amazing on a hot afternoon how joyous a grown man or woman can be on receiving a popsicle).
Think about injecting something a bit different into the usual working rhythms – take a meeting in the park or hold a lunchtime picnic; organise an offsite event or workshop.
Mix it up. Create a refreshing summer cocktail of activities (and not particularly active activities) to keep your people pepped.
It can be a cruel summer* when you’re colleagues are away and you’re on your own (trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry). Don’t sail away leaving others to go bananas. We’ll all be back to reality soon enough.
*Quite possibly the best pop video of all time – check it out!