How to Intercept Mid-Summer Burnout

Mid-summer burnout is inevitable. And when it happens, you can either take it as a chance to coast until the end or use the learnings as a turning point to close out strong.
min read

Let’s face it. Mid-summer burnout is real, and it’s going to happen. A summer at camp is a marathon, one that’s run at a sprinter’s pace. Even when a camp session is going incredibly well, there comes a point where people start to slow down. The first thing that’s important as a camp director to realize when this happens is that it’s completely normal! In fact, it’s almost inevitable!

The second thing to remember is that mid-summer burnout offers a turning point. It’s a chance to slide downhill to the end of summer, as well as a chance to take what you’ve learned so far use it to make camp even better and stronger until the end.

Offer More Choice

There are so many different responsibilities at camp, so there's a great opportunity to intercept mid-summer burnout by giving staff the opportunity to mix up their routine. For example, at a staff meeting, ask the staff members to fill out a simple worksheet that details their “ideal day at camp” or asking other questions like:

  • Where on camp do you find the most meaning?
  • What are some activities at camp that help out but also help you relax?
  • Which coworkers do you absolutely love working with?
  • If you could create your own schedule, what would it look like?

You might find out that Caity’s ideal day is talking with parents on the phone and sorting T-shirts in the camp store, but we’ve had her with the 8-year-old campers all summer. You might find out that Sheridan loves to work with Murphy, especially if they’re at the horse barn together. You might learn that Johnny substituted for the arts and crafts instructor one day and has been itching to get back–and that he’s sick of archery.

If you collect the worksheets and look at your staff members’ responses, you could then have the knowledge to offer new assignments or create more ideal schedules or environments. This idea is an adaptation of organizational scholar Amy Wrzesniewski’s Job Crafting, and interventions like this have been proven to increase enjoyment in the work and activities folks do!

Build in Appreciation

You can do this on a macro level by having all-staff recognition events. For example, one night when my staff was having a mid-summer slump, I called an all-staff meeting (I made sure to say that it was not for anything bad, so they weren’t anxious about it, and I actually told them that it was a meeting to recognize them for their hard work). When they arrived at the meeting, they were surprised to find a party-like atmosphere with snacks and tie-dye stations set up. Each staff member got a T-shirt in their size and got to socialize (while on the clock)while making a shirt. I washed them and returned them to the staff a couple of days later, and everyone got to wear their matching tie-dyed shirts. It was a fairly easy surprise and definitely bonded the team.

Another idea would be to do a daily surprise raffle. If you have a prize wheel, it’s even better! Each day at your morning meeting, draw a random staff member’s name to spin the wheel. The wheel can be labeled with prizes like:

  • The camp director does your laundry (one load)
  • One extra hour off
  • The chef will make you a breakfast of your choice
  • Choose one free item out of the camp trading post
  • You pick the five songs we’ll play during today’s lunch

However, this activity is more powerful if you can level it up from a simple giveaway and turn it into a gratitude exercise. Before they spin the wheel, they have to get some props. Ask for three volunteers to verbally share an appreciation for the person chosen. After the appreciation is shared, the person spins the wheel and collects their prize.

When you have the two tools in your back pocket of choice and appreciation, you can intercept mid-summer burnout. Burnout is going to happen, but adding in as much choice as possible and affirming your staff members by recognizing their hard work will absolutely make the difference when making sure you can finish the summer strong.

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