Tips to solve your employees’ post-holiday blues

Whether you celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bottle of bubbly, or head to bed long before midnight, many of us experience a post-holiday hangover when January arrives. It’s not hard to see why: the holidays are over, work and school resume, and the jovial spirit of the season is replaced by the reality of a long, dark winter ahead.

As the decorations come down, bills come due, and icy conditions show no sign of abating, it can be hard not to feel a little blue. Still, with projects piling up and important goals for the year ahead on the agenda, this is no time for small business owners to be worrying about their employees dealing with seasonal depression. Want to make sure your staff steers clear of a January funk? Here are some tips to help keep morale high.

Provide structure and strategy

Some employees feel a bit disjointed in their jobs after an extended break, which can exacerbate their stress about looming deadlines. Get ahead of this problem by structuring their first day or first week back at work after the holidays, and breaking down big projects into manageable, bite-sized chunks. Being able to tick off a few items right away will create a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, while also helping people get back in the groove of their daily work.

January is also a great time to work with your employees on setting goals for the coming year. It’s important, however, to make sure their aims are reasonable and achievable, or you run the risk of staffers stressing themselves silly trying to reach unattainable targets.

Start an employee recognition program

Astute small business owner should already have some sort of system in place to acknowledge a job well done. If you don’t, there’s no better time to kick off a round of hearty thank you’s than January, when many employees struggle with motivation. Reward deserving staffers with sincere, public praise, or offer them something more tangible, such as bonus pay, time off, or tickets to shows and sporting events. Either way, make sure your people know how much their hard work is appreciated, and how all of their little actions add up to big picture success for the business.

Offer professional development opportunities

If January arrives and your employees are suddenly turning in substandard work or failing to meet deadlines, there’s a good chance they’re dealing with a lack of engagement. Try and turn that feeling around by offering the opportunity to build new skills or enhance existing talents with training and professional development. Of the two, giving people the chance to learn something new is generally better as it helps them break out of their regular routine. There’s a bonus in it for you, too, because you’ll end up with more well-rounded staff who are better able to handle a variety of roles.

Get in tune

Neuroscience research has found music can stimulate pathways in the brain that play key roles in both cognitive and mental health. And while we might not all like the same kinds of songs, it’s still possible to share music in the office without offending too many sets of ears. Consider a rotation system where different people get to choose the tunes on a certain day of the week, or assign each day a different style (ie. classical Mondays and country Fridays). When making your stereo schedule, don’t forget to build in some quiet time to accommodate those people who prefer a little silence every now and then.

Encourage healthy eating and exercise

Our diet plays a big part in how we feel, and it’s easy to overindulge during the holidays. The effects of multiple large meals, a steady assortment of sugary snacks, and maybe even a few too many celebratory toasts can all add up come January, leaving us feeling lethargic. Rather than bringing that box of leftover chocolates to the office, try to get your employees back on a healthy track by providing fresh fruit, squeezing juice instead of brewing coffee, or starting up a salad-sharing club.

At the same time, promoting physical fitness can be a big help in lifting people’s spirits. Whether it’s lunchtime jogs, weekly yoga sessions, or a simple group stretching routine every morning, getting the blood flowing is a great way to shake your staff out of the doldrums.

Keep it clean

No one knows for sure whether a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind or a sign of genius, but a freshly-cleaned desk tends to give its owner a fresh outlook. Schedule some time early in the year for your employees to clear away any accumulated junk, piles of paper, and other distractions from their work space. Make it fun event if you want, with a booby prize for the person who tosses the most in the trash.

Lighten up

Finally, a lack of daylight is one reason many people struggle with their mood once the holidays are done. Even though the solstice has come and gone, and the days are gradually getting longer again, it’s still tough to see the sun slip below the horizon so early every evening. Brightening up your workplace can go a long way to avoiding gloominess. Make sure your fixtures are clean and in good working order, and consider changing bulb types to make things brighter. Orient desks to maximize natural light wherever possible, and encourage people to step out for a stroll if the sun is shining. Another option: invest in a few light therapy lamps and let your staff take turns basking in their bright glow.

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