Stopping Summer Staff Burnout: Employee Engagement Tips from 4 Parks & Recreation Leaders

Stopping Summer Staff Burnout: Employee Engagement Tips from 4 Parks & Recreation Leaders

As parks and recreation agencies gear up for the busy summer season, ensuring staff engagement and preventing burnout becomes a crucial priority for team leaders. 

Below we’ll take a look at four actionable strategies backed by insights from parks and recreation leaders, to help you keep your teams motivated and engaged during this demanding time of year.


1. Foster a Supportive Work Environment

Encourage staff to voice their concerns and suggestions. Regular check-ins and open-door policies can make employees feel valued and heard.

Michael D. Clark, Founder of Oxbow Planning + Consulting and former Parks and Recreation Director at the City of Roanoke in Virginia, emphasizes the importance of checking in:

"Avoiding burnout, especially during the summer months, has proven to be difficult in our field. However, showing authentic care and concern can help curb burnout. Regular check-ins ensure employees feel heard and supported. Conduct frequent one-on-one meetings to discuss workload, provide feedback, and address any concerns. Creating a psychologically safe workspace goes a long way in building morale."

Graphic of Michael Clarks Quote on keeping parks and recreation staff engaged during summer rush

2. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexibility goes a long way in making employees feel valued while allowing them to recharge and prioritize their personal lives.

Tabitha Martinez, Director at Hopewell Recreation and Parks in Virginia and VRPS board member, is a firm believer in the power of offering flexibility to staff:

"At Hopewell Recreation and Parks, we offer optional 4-10 hour workdays during the summer months to help our team achieve a better work-life balance and prevent burnout."

Graphic of a quote from Tabitha Martinez on keeping parks and recreation staff engaged during summer rushBrian Sousa, Senior Recreation Supervisor at the City of Hermosa Beach in California and CPRS District 9 President-Elect, also endorses offering flexible schedules to parks and recreation staff, emphasizing the need to balance flexibility with program needs:

“Whenever possible, we are mindful of scheduled hours and try to provide flexibility without compromising the programming. An essential part of this starts with ensuring your programs are adequately staffed in the first place.”

Michael D. Clark also backs flexible scheduling to keep staff engaged during the summer rush, offering a slightly different approach:

"Allow employees to work longer hours from Monday to Thursday, enabling them to take half or full days off on Fridays."


3. Treat Your Staff

Your team members are working tirelessly to ensure your community members are having the best summer possible. A little can go a long way in rewarding your team for their hard work.

Tyler Agee, Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Duncanville, Texas, recommends team outings to engage your staff:

“We aim to do at least one team outing in the summer months. Our staff really enjoy the opportunity to grow and connect as a team outside the normal work settings.”

Tyler Agees quote on how to keep parks and recreation staff engaged during summer rush

Michael D. Clark also encourages treating staff to outdoor group activities to help boost morale:

“Organize casual outdoor events like picnics, sports days, or hiking trips to foster team bonding and provide a break from the routine.”

Brian Sousa underscores the importance of treating staff to show appreciation:

“We do our best to treat our staff with things like summer BBQ’s, surprise pop-in treats, and outings.”


4. Celebrate Success and Recognize Hard Work

Recognizing and celebrating successes is crucial year-round, but it’s especially important during the busy summer months.

Brian Sousa highlights the importance of acknowledging staff efforts:

“We really make a point of recognizing our staff for all their hard work during the summer season, including staff announcements and spotlights.”

Brian Sousas quote on how to keep parks and recreation staff engaged during summer rush

Tyler Agee and the leadership team at the City of Duncanville leverage Parks and Recreation Month as an opportunity to celebrate their staff:

“With July being Parks and Rec Month, we’ll usually hold a luncheon or awards ceremony to recognize our staff’s contributions not just in the peak summer season, but the year leading up to it.”

Michael D. Clark champions public recognition and rewards programs to keep staff motivated:

“Public acknowledgement during team meetings always goes a long way. I also recommend implementing a summer-themed recognition program that rewards employees with small tokens of appreciations like gift cards or extra time off.”

Wrapping it up:

Keeping staff engaged and preventing burnout during the summer rush requires a proactive and holistic approach. By fostering a supportive work environment, offering flexible work arrangements, treating your staff, and celebrating success, parks and recreation leaders can ensure their teams remain motivated and resilient throughout the busy season.

By prioritizing these strategies, parks and recreation departments can not only enhance staff satisfaction and retention but also improve overall service delivery to the community they serve.

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