As it often brings new budgets and opportunities, January is one of the most exciting times of the year for businesses. However, when it comes to your employees, morale can be at an all-time low after the buzz of the festive season has worn off, and they’ll need to swap the parties, mince pies, and Christmas films with early mornings, busy commutes, and endless meetings.
This isn’t helped by the fact that Blue Monday is just around the corner. Falling on the 15th January in 2018, this is considered to be the ‘most depressing day of the year’ due to a range of factors including the weather, failed New Year’s resolutions, and the amount of time since Christmas day, and our most recent payday (let’s face it, December is an expensive month for even the most budget-savvy of us).
This is something that transformation Coach, Floriane Letulle, agrees with. She says: “Long winters are definitely tricky for me. Come March 1st, I am ready for Spring for sure! However, my best ways to cope with winter blues in my office is to create an environment where I feel alive. I have indoor plants scattered around the room, and some are in bright coloured pots to liven up the room a little. I also have an essential oil diffuser which I use with waking scents such as lemon, bergamot, yang yang. I also regularly open the window to get some air in especially if I feel I am getting drowsy.”
As Floriane shows, fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way every January! In fact, there are a number of ways you can help your employees beat the ‘New Year Blues’, and increase office morale after the festive season…
Review perks to promote a better work-life balance
Let’s get straight to the point; after a week or two of sleeping in, attending festive parties, and sitting on the sofa watching Christmas film after Christmas film, the cold dark mornings can make it tricky for office workers to readjust to their regular 9-5 working day, and jump straight back into work all bright-eyed and bushy tailed!
To make this transition easier, you should review your employee perks, and see how many enable you to promote a better work-life balance. For example, offering flexible working (to a certain degree), as well as the ability to work from home when needed, can be very useful for parents whose children are yet to go back to school. Not only that, but offering these benefits show your employees that you trust them, which can make them feel more appreciated and boost their motivation.
Virginia Brown, Account Manager at The Atticism, says: “Economists carried out a number of experiments at the University of Warwick to test this very idea that happy employees work harder, and they found happiness made people 12% more productive. A Gallup poll also found that 37% of respondents have enjoyed worked virtually.”
Gemma Renton, Owner and Lead PPC Specialist at Vine Street Digital, is an advocate of flexible working. She adds: “I worked for years in traditional advertising agencies where “office culture” was a huge focus. Most people are familiar with the usual advertising agency culture where they try to ‘fit-out’ their offices in a fun, Google-esque way. Unfortunately, client overloading and burnout were prevalent in all offices I worked in and morale suffered as a result.
“When I started my own agency, I knew that all the beanbag chairs and ping pong tables in the world wouldn’t make me happy. That’s why my agency is 100% online. Employees choose when and where they work and the morale couldn’t be higher. Giving people a true work/life balance and autonomy over their own working situations means they’re healthier, manage their time better and offer better support and positivity towards other team members.”
However, flexible working isn’t the only perk of the job that employees love. Newaz Chowdhury, Owner of SEO and web design company, PowerPhrase, says: “In my office, we let people listen to their music. Whether it’s classical, hip-hop or rock, it doesn’t matter; listening to music help a lot of people perform better. For some people, they’re more productive with music playing, so I let them.
“Another way to boost morale is to offer higher commission. When we offer higher commission, it motivates our employees to make that sale. However, although offering more money does help to increase morale, this it isn’t always true. Everyone works differently. I always take breaks and I personally talk to my employees to give them some tips and an energy boost.
I’ve found that food, money, music and personal rapport are what boosts my employees’ morale.”
Nedelina Payaneva, Digital Marketing Specialist at Asian Absolute, adds: “To improve employee performance, make it enjoyable to be at work. Spending 40+ hours a week in an uninspiring environment is a recipe to not get the best results. Performance is improved when the workday is broken up by small breaks and fresh air.
“Adding in team building experiences and opportunities to laugh are sure to go a long way towards improving employee performance. Gamifying work can also improve performance. Set goals that will win your employees fun activities, bonuses, or extra vacation time. Friendly competitions can encourage them to push their performance to the next level.”
Encourage exercise and healthy eating
After a spot of overindulgence over the holidays (and two of the most common New Year’s resolutions being to eat a healthier diet and exercise more), it’s safe to assume that many of your employees will come back to work in January with the aim to get fitter and eat more healthily.
It’s well-known that eating the right power foods can kickstart your concentration, and that exercising increases blood flow to the brain (which makes you more alert) and eases feelings of anxiety and stress thanks to the release of serotonin. To reap these benefits, you could provide healthy breakfasts a few times a week, and ensure your office has a well-stocked fruit bowl. You can also organise group fitness activities for the whole team to get involved in, such as a lunchtime run club, or even a quick game of football, rounders or Frisby in the park.
Another way you can promote healthy living in the workplace is by investing in standing desks. Rob Boirun, CEO of Reviewster, says: “One of the best benefits we offer in our office for employees are ergonomic desks and chairs. Though I was not a believer in standing desks until I got one for myself, having the option of standing and sitting is great, and gives me the energy to get everything done effectively. One I saw the positive results in myself, I got one for each employee!”
Work with your employees to set achievable goals
Opportunities for development are now more important to employees than ever; in fact, with it being the new normal for people to hold between 10-15 jobs in their lifetime (with 12 being the average), it shows that many won’t hesitate to move on if they feel their current role doesn’t offer them the best opportunity to develop their skills and career. Therefore, you should work with your employees to set personalised goals, and a great time to do this is in January; this is because many businesses are likely to review their budgets and plans for the year ahead.
Not only will setting clear goals help to keep your staff focused on their work (which will increase their motivation as they’ll want to work harder to reach these goals), but if they’re both small and realistic, this will increase morale by giving them a sense of achievement when these are completed. It’s simple, really; the more someone feels they’ve achieved, the more driven they’ll be to maintain a high quality of work and achieve more of their aims.
Organise fun team-building activities
One of the easiest ways to beat the New Year Blues and ease your employees back into working life is by ensuring they have as much fun as possible along the way! This can mean anything from taking the team out for lunch or a few drinks after work, to hosting quizzes in the office, or even taking them go-karting or bowling. Anything goes, so long as it’s fun!
Organising team building activities is also a great way of strengthening relationships within the office, which will boost morale and improve the atmosphere in the workplace. Some great examples of team building activities include obstacle courses, escape rooms, and canoeing, to name but a few.
Lynn Simmons from CRMKC shares her own experience of encouraging team building at work. She says: “I once assumed a team of legal support personnel who had weathered an embezzlement scandal with the prior leadership. The team was skittish and closed off, and trust was a rare commodity.
“As a new manager, my goal was to assess the strengths and weaknesses of my staff and meet corporate goals. Breaking down those protective walls was a huge challenge. In addition to monthly staff meetings where everyone was encouraged to participate (and everyone’s opinion was valued), I threw in some silly team-building exercises. Perhaps the silliest, yet most successful of those activities was creating a “Jalapeno Award” emblazoned with the words “I’m on fire!”. The first recipient of that award received a note from me thanking them for three things that I recognized as noteworthy performance. This person was then tasked with finding the next recipient of the award, and presenting the award with a note. As silly as this sounds, it made each member of the staff look at their co-workers through a different lens and find qualities and performances that could be appreciated, regardless of personalities, work styles, and past experiences. Everyone was recognized for their strengths and started looking for little ways to shine.
“Our jalapeno made its rounds and become much sought after. Sometimes it is the simplest actions that result in the biggest change.”
Promote employee engagement
Rebecca Hannan, a coach, speaker and trainer, feels that employee engagement is one of the most importance ways of making your workers feel valued and busting the New Year blues. She says: “Employee engagement is a way of thinking and behaving that’s designed to build an inclusive and inspired workplace culture. In an age where work is becoming less secure and more demanding, it’s more important than ever. How does it work? Genuine employee engagement creates the conditions for everyone to bring their best selves to work. What this means exactly, will vary from business to business. Generally, though, there are a few widely recognised ‘enablers’ – things you can do to get employee engagement up and running and build its momentum.
“One example is to have a great story; otherwise known as a ‘strategic narrative’. This story starts with your ‘why’; that simple, amazing thing that motivates you to do what you do. You need to provide the spark, but write it as a team so that it captures your company’s collective purpose. Keep it short and highly visible, and make sure everyone knows and believes in it.
“Another example is to give your staff a genuine ‘say’; also known as their ‘employee voice’. This means creating formal and informal opportunities for your team to be involved in problem solving, innovating, crisis aversion and much more. When people are asked about job satisfaction, contributing their ideas and expertise to their organisation’s success consistently tops the list.”
Jerry Haffey Jr., President of Business Development at Ambrosia Treatment Center, says: “Building a company culture where people are encouraged to work together and feed off each other’s ideas is vital to the success of any business. I have found that the number one way to promote collaboration is to make sure each employee knows their opinion or suggestions are valid and should that they should share them with the rest of the team. This goes for employees at every level. When people know they have a voice within the company, they are much more likely to speak up and give their two cents. Some of the best ideas we’ve run with are from ground-level employees who felt comfortable expressing themselves.”
Ben Lai, Sales Trainer, Coach, Speaker and Director of Sales Ethos, adds: “My business is built on the premise that the only way for businesses to be successful is to conduct themselves with integrity. This means having a code of morals/ethics that permeates the culture of the organisation.
The new year blues, due to things such as Christmas overspending, failed resolutions can be a thing of the past. When you learn to develop the Habits of Happy People you can feel happy on a more consistent basis, even during the most challenging times. When you realise that happiness is an inside job, it is sustainable and no-one can take it away from you.~ Deborah Fairfull, Blisspot.com founder.
“People will certainly feel greater morale if they feel the company aligns with their personal morals. If the business treats its customers with dignity and respect, staff should reasonably expect the same for themselves. I have found with my clients that this is a far more important motivation than commissions and salaries. Some of my coaching clients have even stated that they accepted lower pay for better working conditions like this.”
Invest in green spaces in your workplace
Ben Donsky, Vice President at Biederman Redevelopment Ventures Corporation in New York City, says that one way you can improve your employees’ morale is by providing them with green spaces. This allows them to get out of the office for fresh air, which can help to clear their head and lift their spirits. In fact, plants have been proven to lower people’s feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and fatigue when they’ve been introduced to the workplace.
Ben Donsky advises: “Businesses that offer greener workplaces, particularly those that have access to an outdoor space for meetings or lunch, not only normally see an increase in worker productivity, but also have an edge in recruiting and keep talent.
“Study after study has shown what’s intuitive to anyone who sits at a desk eight hour a day or more: a little bit of down time and fresh air helps you refocus on your work. When businesses invest in this outdoor experience, it pays off. The better the environment, the stronger the emotional connection an employee has to the space, and these feelings translate into a more positive attitude about work in general.
“Instead of a couple benches, an attractive and comfortable seating area makes break times more pleasant and encourages camaraderie among coworkers. Adding fun bonuses like ping pong tables and other games makes these spaces into platforms for creating positive memories–and these memories are associated with the workplace. In addition, providing high-quality WiFi in outdoor spaces can directly increase productivity for employees who need to do work that requires intense individual concentration, like writing or financial analysis that can be hard to complete in the modern open office that’s full of distractions.”