By Michael Pendergrass, AIA
Ah, the traditional summer road trip. Packing the family up in the car and heading out to see far-off destinations feels like a rite of passage in the U.S. When you pull out of the driveway, you’re fueled by the excitement of the adventure to come. Spirits are up, hopes are high–at least until you hit that first long stretch of road that goes on for hours without any sign of the promised adventure. Nine hours in the car without a reward can make both kids and adults cranky, bored, and restless. Suddenly the destination no longer holds that magical appeal–all you can think about is getting out of the car.
This may sound familiar to anyone who’s worked on a big project that is months or even years down the road from completion. That long-awaited moment when the work pays off and the goals have been realized is the ultimate celebratory occasion, but if you’re so focused on that end goal that you neglect to do a little sightseeing on the way, all you have to look forward to is that feeling of being stuck in the car. What started as an exciting journey becomes an unrelenting grind.
To keep my family engaged on a recent trip we took through California, we made it a point to find interesting landmarks along the way, like the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, or the World’s Biggest Dinosaur Museum in Cabazon. By having these mini-stops on the way, our ultimate destination didn’t seem so far away.
When it comes to the workplace, how can we commemorate the smaller milestones on the way to a big project completion? Happy hours at the end of the day or catered lunches to celebrate the completion of a deadline are great ways to reward your team and remind them how much they have accomplished, even if there’s a lot more to do. Any outing or activity that offers a change of pace creates opportunities to connect, recognize our accomplishments, and re-energize ourselves for the next phase. Our office even participates in the occasional ping-pong or shuffleboard tournament to encourage people to put down their pencils and get out of the car to stretch their legs, so to speak.
If you’re feeling a little worn down by a long grind, stop for a moment to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. It’s probably more than you think! How can you commemorate your progress? What milestone will you celebrate next, and how will you reward your team?
Michael Pendergrass is an associate principal with Watry Design, Inc.