One summer, I interned at a law firm in San Francisco. I wanted to impress the partners so that they would offer me a job after I graduated the following year. This was back in the day when law firms really wined-and-dined their potential associates.


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The partners took us river rafting, invited us to fancy dinners and drinks at their homes, and yes, they even took us in a hot-air balloon. Oh yeah, we also did a little work too. Needless to say, I really wanted to work at that firm. Well, I got my chance a year later, and let’s just say that the real world was a tad different than my summer of fun.


It turns out that many businesses are learning that one of the smartest things they can do, especially at this time of year, is to take advantage of the natural rhythms of the season and give employees their own summer fun.


In fact, if you take a close look at the latest edition of the spring 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that many employers are taking this idea of creating a strong culture seriously. The Report found that almost nine in 10 small business owners offer some type of benefits to their employees.


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If you want to engage your employees this summer, here are a few tips mentioned in the SBOR that will make your employees feel more engaged:


1. Offer flexible work hours: Forty-five percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed in the SBOR said that they reward their staff with flexible hours and/or they let them work from home. While this used to be an exotic idea, it is much more commonplace today. Between the cloud, smart phones, apps and laptops, anyone can work anywhere at any time. let them.


Especially during the summer, it makes sense to give employees some flexibility and some time to enjoy the nice weather.  By allowing your employees to get work done at a time more convenient for them, they will reward you with their loyalty and hard work.


2. Share amenities like free lunch, massages, etc. When you visit a large, successful Internet company like Google or Facebook, one thing that is very noticeable is the amount of free (or subsidized) food available. No, it’s not cheap, but it is a benefit that keeps people at the office and not taking two-hour lunches.


For small businesses, one alternative might be to provide free, healthy snacks like fruit and water, which are affordable and appreciated.


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3. Lead team building events:  According to the SBOR, only about 25 percent of the small business owners surveyed used this tactic, and I think that is a mistake. In the summertime, when everyone is thinking about a lot more than just work, a fun event together away from the office is often just what the doctor ordered. Whether it is going out to dinner, a game, or a concert together, a team-building event is the best way to grow as a team and build a strong culture.


4. Allow social media at work: This is a tricky one. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they use this tactic to reward employees. However, as we all know, social media can easily gobble up a whole lot more time than one anticipates and potentially decrease productivity in the office. I recommend offering this perk to employees as it is a great way to take a short mental break from work, but certainly speak up if you feel the privilege is being abused.


5. Give unexpected freebies: Give employees some free time off. Have a spontaneous contest and give the winner a pair of seats to a game. Buy gift cards from Starbucks and hand them out. Give everyone an unannounced afternoon off.


This is the time of year when people like to take advantage of the outdoors. Let them and you and your business will both be rewarded.


What are some techniques that you use to engage your employees? Share your story below.


About Steve Strauss


Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

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