Aaah, January. The time of year when we all head back to work feeling rested, reinvigorated and excited about the year ahead -right?

Well… maybe in a perfect world – reality might look a little different. This is something that we hear a lot from our clients; the business owners head into the first day of work feeling excited about all the great things planned for the year ahead. But when they get there, they discover some of their employees are still riding the high of the festive season and holiday break, distracted or unsettled. Others are wishing they were still on holiday and haven’t quite adjusted to
being back in the office. It can be easy to forget that not everybody is in the same mindset first day back, especially if they have done a good job of switching off during their time away from the office.

So what happens if this isn’t done well? Well put simply, people will leave. Staff that have been feeling disengaged and unmotivated in 2012 will head into 2013 with a plan to find a new job, and if they return to the office to find nothing’s changed, they will start looking elsewhere quickly. And it is well known that employees who are actively seeking opportunities elsewhere will not be the most productive whilst they are still working for you. Their feet may not be out the door straight away but their head will be, and this does just as much damage to your productivity and morale as having no one there at all.

Returning to work can be a bit of a shock to the system and take some time to readjust.  So, to get a good start to the year, we thought you might like some tips on how to use the first few weeks of the new year to get your team’s heads back in the game:

  1. Give people the chance to catch up. Give your staff time to mentally readjust to being back in the office, to catch up with the colleagues and clear their inbox of unread emails. These things are good for your team morale. Hovering over them making sure they’re straight back to work by 9.15 is not. We understand that you don’t want your team spending the whole morning ‘catching up’, but some flexibility is worthwhile.  Our advice? Give everyone some time to settle in, then schedule that team planning meeting for 11am instead.
  2. Recognise that individuals are different.  Some staff will tackle their hundreds of unread emails straight away, solidly spending a few hours ploughing through. Others will do it for half an hour, then move onto another task, and then come back. Everyone is different.  It’s important you help your staff to prioritise and manage their time, but don’t do it for them – give them the space to do it themselves, in a way that feels comfortable for them.
  3. Have an individual development discussion.  January is the perfect time for these types of conversations – with the benefit of hindsight people are able to reflect more openly on their performance from the previous year, and plan for some positive changes for the year ahead. Remember, setting anything but clear, measurable and achievable goals is just setting someone up for failure. Within the first week back at work make sure you have scheduled individual discussions with everyone to take place within the next month – and stick to it.
  4. Get people excited.  Engage people in the big picture (what the organisation is doing) and the smaller picture (how they individually contribute to the business’ success). This can form part of the development discussion detailed above. In order to engage, people need to feel two things: motivated by what they are doing, and enjoyment from doing it. Talk to your staff about what they like, what they feel confident doing, and what inspires them to keep going, and incorporate these things into their plan for the year. Your staff need to feel that this is a two way commitment and their contributions are valued and not taken for granted.
  5. Don’t forget teamwork.  Having just had the team bonding activities of departmental lunches and an office Christmas party, it’s easy to think that that’s enough to carry you through to the next Christmas party in 12 months time.  But after the high of the festive season it can be quite a jolt back to reality to be returning to the office. Make this a little easier for your team by welcoming everyone back with a morning tea or a lunch. Your staff will feel valued and appreciated and reward you with loyalty, hard work and a positive working environment – and isn’t that what we all want in the end?

Some of these things are easy, and others may require a little more effort on your part. But trust us – show your staff that you value their contributions and
want to invest in their future with the business, give them the time get their head back in the game, and recognise their individual efforts whilst including them as part of a team that works hard and has fun. These are things that will make people stick around – beyond January.

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