Back to School is In the Air – How to Motivate Employees in the New Quarter

Written by Paul Marchildon, on September 2, 2014.

motivate employees

There’s a subtle shift: days a little shorter, nights a little cooler, thoughts a little sharper. While few are happy to see summer—and its laid back atmosphere—go, autumn carries in a sense of renewal. Nothing like fresh pencils and a new pair of cords to get us back into our routines. We tend to apply ourselves with more rigour than we did in the summer. Employers should seize this “back to school” opportunity. Fall is fleeting, but you can embrace and leverage it for increased employee engagement.

The 3 R’s

Now is a great time to leverage the back-to-school mentality in the workplace. Whether or not employees have children, everyone has been a child, perhaps waiting for the bus, feeling a sense of anticipation, of a fresh start. There is a sense of Renewal, Routine, and Rigour that comes with September.

The question is, how do you capitalize on that? How do you make “back to work” fun and exciting after months of vacations, summer hours, and languid attitudes? A few ideas:

  • Launch new programs or processes. It’s a terrific time to implement new initiatives. Think about what you want to accomplish and how you can create a more efficient, productive, and profitable workplace. Maybe it’s implementing a new leisureology program (hint, hint). How do you package and theme it in such a way that it is palatable to your people?

  • Get some stuff. One of the best parts about going back to school is getting new supplies. Think about your work environment and the tools people use on a regular basis. Maybe it’s new binders for folks who like to handle paper now and then; maybe it’s a new app for those who like to keep it digital.

  • Get some more stuff. It doesn’t have to be all about work. How about some value-added items for fun? What if you bought everyone a new lunch bag, maybe a trendy LugLife? You could add suggestions and recipes for healthy lunches. (After all, you’re going to get a lot more out of someone who eats a turkey on wheat with veggies on the side than someone who scarfs a fast food meal.) Give them a mason jar and instructions to make one of those shaky salad mixers. People love that stuff. And it doesn’t cost a lot.

  • Do a little decorating. You don’t want to mess with the functional spaces your team needs, but what about some fun, temporary decorations? Go with the back-to-school theme with a bulletin board, or try fall-themed accents to get people in the mood.

  • Hold sign-ups for teams. Another back-to-school ritual is joining teams. In school, you can sign up for sports, photography, yearbook club, whatever. At the office, why not invite people to join activities that help build teamwork? It could be volunteer days, health or fitness contests, or committees to plan other leisureology initiatives and events.

As with any action you take in the workplace, you need to research and understand your audience. What’s going to appeal to them—and how can you implement it successfully? You still have some time to engage your employees with a back-to-school mentality and get them excited about the 3 R’s. Don’t miss the opportunity. In the meantime, summer ain’t over yet! There’s still some patio time to enjoy and iced teas to be savoured!

Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.