How To Avoid The January Blues

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After a week or so of festivities, time off work and catching up with food, family and friends, coming back to the office can be a chore for many. A study by consultant firm, Mercer, shows that January has the highest rate of sick leave, 35% of which is taken on a Monday. Avoid employees ‘quitting in seat’ - reignite their ambitions and engagement.

Blue Monday

In addition to being a great New Order song, Blue Monday is a phrase coined by Dr Cliff Arnall, who calculated a formula for the most depressing day of the year. It factors in personal debt, the weather, New Year’s resolution failures. He discovered that the third Monday in January is typically the worst day of the year. Research from Business Environment uncovered that Monday is the most stressful day of the week for 36% of workers.

To combat this, acknowledge the day and fight back as a team! Organise some team building exercises - some fun ice breaker types, that will have everyone giggling and working as a team. Or give in and buy some huge selection boxes of chocolate. Let employees know what will be happening in advance and hopefully you should see a decrease in employee absence.

Goal Setting

Motivate staff with goals, and any rewards for achieving these, and how their contribution will be crucial. Make each member of staff feel like a valued contributor. It can be easy to forget why we’re at work having had so much time off.

Remind them of the overall company vision, the targets within the business and their own personal goals. Set deadlines, milestones and performance reviews to add structure at this point.

Calendar Highlights

Now is the time to look to the future, rather than reminiscing about all that lovely Christmas spirit that seems to have dissipated now that it’s January. Highlight the year’s exciting plans - conferences, visits, days out, anything that workers can look forward to. Now’s the time to set up regular staff lunches; to remind people when the upcoming bank holidays are.

The most important aspect of this is to communicate to all staff the highlights of the year ahead. Put them onto network company calendars, stick them on the wall - whatever gets through to employees.

Beware Of The Bare Minimum

Given the current climate, it may come as no surprise that employees are more likely to stay put rather than look for another job. But their demotivation will manifest itself in doing the absolute bare minimum until another opportunity arises. Levels of ‘discretionary effort’ (i.e. going above and beyond their usual job requirements) is at an all time low.

Watch out for this type of employee and see what you can do to reignite their love for their work - perhaps a departmental move or strategic fresh challenge within their current role. Reiterate your training, professional development and career progression opportunities to all staff.

Quick Mood Boosters

  • Make everyone responsible for the office music - get everyone to share a spotify playlist they use to get motivated.
  • Set some time to catch up - some one-to-one time with direct managers will allow employees to highlight any worries for the upcoming year, rather than letting them fester.
  • Encourage staff to make use of any social recognition scheme in place by reminding colleagues that their efforts do not go unnoticed.
  • Lead by example - set the tone by putting on your bravest game face and generate some enthusiasm and energy in the workplace.
  • Everyone on a diet? Doing dry January? Help employees work towards these personal goals, with a chart and fun rewards for achieving their own targets.
  • Lay on some healthy snacks - water, fruit, superfood salad. These all help boost people’s wellbeing and health at this notoriously unhealthy time of year.

Capture the Spirit

The Scandinavians have a couple of different words that you could borrow for this less-than-motivating time of year. The first is Danish and has received a lot of press over the last year, even receiving the nod from the Collins and Oxford Dictionaries as a ‘word of the year’. ‘Hygge’ pronounced hue-gah, is the feeling of cosiness, making special moments. To translate this to the workplace you might want to create comfy chillout areas for employee downtime, or allowing personal pictures on desks, casual dress codes or bringing staff together at lunchtimes.

The Swedes have a slightly different ethos which you could look to adopt, called Lagom (pronounced lay-gom). This might be even more appropriate for the workplace. Rather than cosy moments, it’s a way of life. It means ‘just the right amount’. It’s about balance, collectiveness, moderation. It looks at frugality, working collaboratively, and listening to and taking action on employee suggestions.