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Motivating employees: how to beat January blues

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

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

We also have the unwelcome prospect of Blue Monday, which in 2022 falls on Monday 17th January. This day is said to be one of the gloomiest of the year, with one of the highest levels of absence, and is 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 has 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 relationship.

Given that January Blues are now a widely acknowledged phenomenon, how do you motivate your employees, especially if they are 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 employee, 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 important. 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 2022.

No one likes uncertainty, so your employees 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 to help build good relationships, 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.

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 for 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, ideal for planning ahead.

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, a drink, or a quiz after work might be a good morale-booster.

Whatever 2022 has in store for your business, it’s reassuring to know that excellent HR help is always at hand. If you need advice on employee motivation or supporting your employees through difficult times, contact HR:4UK on 01455 444222. We have lots of valuable experience in this area.