How to Maximize Downtime

Every business has slow periods. Some measure it in days, others in weeks. The dwindling sales reduce calls, packages, and productivity. The company becomes lethargic, and employees become nonchalant.

This year, try something different. Use the downtime to recharge and revitalize your organization. Here are some tips:

Encourage employees to take vacation days during slow periods. It reduces the impact of their absence. Offer unpaid leave for employees who want to spend additional time with their family. This is especially beneficial to working mothers when the slow period coincides with school vacation time.

Schedule intensive training days. This is the best time to plan training in all areas. Be sure to include departmental cross-training and refreshment training in the schedule.

Clean house. Now is the time to unclutter, reorganize, and create an efficient work environment. This should be companywide and required of every employee. Countless hours of productivity are lost searching for products and information. The housekeeping should extend from the visible (desks, aisles, shelves) to the hidden (computers, closets, drawers).

Contact customers. Call your customers to find out what they like and dislike about your company and service. Schedule time to discuss what you learn with your team.

Get ready for the peak time. Develop and implement an initiative or two. Identify the areas that need the most improvement, and find the solution.

Debra Ellis is president of Barnardsville, NC-based operations consultancy Wilson & Ellis Consulting. (