By Ryan Ayers
It’s no fun going back to the office after a break. Even people who love their jobs have trouble getting back in the swing of things during the new year, and as a leader, this January slump can be frustrating. Now, you can’t expect peak productivity immediately following a week or two of sipping eggnog by the fire, but you also can’t just sit back and watch productivity tank, either. So how do you motivate your team without resorting to authoritarian tactics that will just make everyone feel more resentful about coming back to work? Try these 7 tips to battle your team’s post-holiday blues.
1. Bring cheer to your regroup meeting
Holiday parties usually involve gift exchanges, notes of thanks, or gift bags, but why not extend the season of giving past the holiday season? Starting the new year off with a regroup meeting that involves coffee and breakfast (who doesn’t love free breakfast?) can be a great way to share stories from the holidays, catch up, and get everyone motivated to reach team goals. Creating thank-yous and little gifts (if you’re able) can add an extra dose of goodwill and give everyone the boost they need to be productive.
2. Help everyone get organized
When you come back to work and find a pile of emails and tasks waiting for you, it can be overwhelming. If you think your team might be experiencing the same thing, offer to help everyone get organized and set priorities. Setting mini goals for the day and week can make the workload seem more manageable after a week or two off (though that shouldn’t mean losing sight of the big picture). Give everyone the updates they need to work effectively, and ensure communication is flowing.
3. Encourage self-care
During the fall and winter, people don’t spend as much time outside, and may be affected more by depression and stress during the colder months. Encourage your team to take time for themselves, whether that means taking a walk after lunch or allowing flexible hours so team members can make that yoga class down the street. In one eight-week study, regular yoga practice decreased depression scores in participants by 9.47 points, in contrast to the 2.99 points the control group dropped. Activities that get your team moving and outside improve both their well-being and productivity, so be as accommodating as you can. Want to be even more accommodating? If you have the budget, bringing in a yoga instructor for a lunchtime session or a chair massage therapist can help everyone feel a little less stressed.
4. Relax a little
Going straight from lazy days to 9-5 can be jarring, and if you can offer some flexibility in the first few weeks, that can help ease the transition. Allowing your team members to work from home or work flexible hours can help improve productivity, since everyone will be able to work when they’re feeling most alert. If you can make these policies permanent, all the better: studies have shown that flexible work policies make workers achieve more, take less sick time, and work longer hours—yet are happier overall.
5. Give back
Instead of focusing on the negatives of getting back to work after a long break, why not focus on the positive impact your team can have on someone else’s life? Organizing a group volunteering day at a worthy cause, such as preparing food at a homeless shelter, can be a great way for your team to give back and get back into the spirit of working as a team. 549,928 people were homeless on January nights in 2016, and channeling leftover holiday spirit into making others’ lives a little better could be just what your team needs.
6. Set aside socializing time
After a few weeks away, everyone is going to want to catch up—it’s only natural. After all, your team spends almost every day together during normal weeks, and they may not have seen each other for a while. Consider organizing an after-work get together so everyone has a chance to chat without distracting each other from their work.
7. Be a good example
Admit it. You’re not so thrilled that all the decadence and warmth of the holidays is over either. But does your team need to know that? Sometimes, being a leader is all about setting a good example—even when you don’t feel like it. Come into the office with a plan for your day and week so you can jump right in and be productive. Don’t expect your team to become ultra-productive if you’re still dragging—show them that the new year is the time to get moving.
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis. You can find more from Ryan on Twitter at @TheBizTechGuru.