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Motivating staff: How to help your team beat the January blues


Returning to work after the long Christmas and New Year break can be an unpleasant shock to the system.

Some staff struggle to get back into a regular routine after what is for many a two-week holiday, and their mood isn’t helped by having to get off to work, and travel home, when it’s cold, dark and dismal outside.

We also have the unwelcome prospect of Blue Monday, which in 2020 falls on Monday 20 January. This day is said to be one of the gloomiest of the year, as it’s when the dreaded December credit card bills usually arrive.

On top of this, there’s Divorce Day, on the first Monday of the new year. Coinciding with the date when many people go back to work, it is so named due to the annual surge in divorce inquiries seen by solicitors. It’s become the day when unhappy couples say enough-is-enough after the stresses of the festive season and decide to seek advice about ending their marriage or civil partnership.

Given that the January Blues are now a widely acknowledged phenomenon, how do you motivate your staff, especially if they’re battling with problems such as a relationship break-up or money worries?

While everyone is entitled to their privacy, you do need to be aware of any serious personal issues so you can support that person, while also considering the needs of your business and the rest of your team.

Keeping your employees “in the loop” and sharing with them, where possible, your organisation’s plans for the coming 12 months can help staff feel included, wanted and trusted. It might be a good time to reflect with the team on last year’s achievements, and use that as a vehicle to “reboot” for 2020.

No one likes uncertainty, so your staff will welcome your thoughts on what opportunities and challenges are likely to lie ahead.

If you can, promote an ‘open door’ policy where staff can come and talk to you in confidence. Hold brief but frequent informal private meetings with individuals, rather than just formal workplace appraisals.

You could also consider introducing an employee assistance programme (EAP), a proactive counselling support service offered by many employers to better manage their employees’ emotional wellbeing at work.

Happily, not everybody is despondent at this time of year. There are people who thrive on routine and will be glad to be back at work. Some find the festive period goes on too long, and they look forward to returning to their jobs and catching up with colleagues.

Despite the gloomy weather, January also offers the chance for new beginnings and can be an exciting, optimistic time, especially now we’re into a new decade as well as a new year.

Depending on your company’s culture, you might want to harness this positivity by holding a team building event towards the end of the month. Christmas can be expensive and many people will feel “partied out” after the festive holiday, but some low-key socialising such as a meal or drink after work might be a good morale-booster.

Whatever 2020 has in store for your business, it’s reassuring to know that excellent HR help is always at hand. If you need advice on staff motivation or supporting your employees through difficult times, contact HR:4UK. We have lots of valuable experience in this area.

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