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Beating the post vacation blues

January.

It’s cold, it’s dark, Christmas is over and all that stretches before us are endless, unbroken weeks in the office.

Or so everyone would have us believe.

The internet is awash with business advice on how to beat the post-vacation blues, improve efficiency in the workplace and generally stop your workforce from slumping at their desks, mindlessly goggling at cat videos, for at least a fortnight.

While most people are hopefully grown-up enough to just get on with things, it’s fair to say that one’s heart doesn’t exactly leap out of one’s chest with happiness when the alarm goes off at 6am during the first month back. Here are our ideas for making January the season to be jolly.

Keep things in perspective

For what it’s worth, we would avoid mentioning the January blues in the workplace.

Moaning at work always destroys morale; it doesn’t suddenly become okay because it’s January and if you tell everyone how awful it is to be back, they will feel miserable even if they didn’t before.

What they need from you is energy and positivity.

And sensitivity – comparatively few people enjoy Christmas unreservedly and many people find it a strain and will actually be glad to return to the routine and normality of the office. They don’t want to hear how much everyone else hates being back – it makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them.

Also, count your blessings – if you’ve had time off over Christmas, you’re actually very fortunate compared with the many, many people who didn’t even get Christmas Day off. If coming back after a week or two is really so awful, you probably need to take a look at your office culture..

Provide a positive focus

January is a time we associate with making changes in our lives – New Year’s resolutions are fresh and we still (at least for the time being) have every intention of seeing them through. Your resolutions can apply to the workplace too: making positive changes based on staff feedback can make people happier and remind them why, after all, they have chosen to work for you.

You can do this both on a general level – perhaps introducing more flexible working hours if you don’t have them already – and on an individual level by giving people new projects or responsibilities, new objectives or the opportunity to work towards a promotion.

Start the New Year by sitting down with each member of staff individually and asking them three questions: what they want to achieve over the coming year, what would make their working lives better and how you can help make those two things happen.

More generally, you should also be thinking about what you want the business to achieve in the coming year – and, again, talking to your team about those goals, how their contribution will be important, and most of all, how achieving those goals will benefit the whole team, not just the people at the top.

Keep busy

Some people advise making sure you don’t put too many demands on your staff in the first few days back, to allow them a gentle transition back into the real world.

We completely disagree. The best way to make the day drag in the office is not to have enough to do; keeping busy is the best way to ensure the time goes quickly and you go home actually thinking you’ve achieved something useful.

Look out for signs of stress

This is, obviously, something you should be doing all year round – but it may be particularly apparent at this time of year, as family conflicts and marital troubles often come to a head over Christmas. Anyone at any level whose well-being is suffering should be encouraged to talk to their line manager – and should feel confident that their welfare will be taken seriously.

This helps not just the person in question but the whole team, who then know that you will help them if they have a similar problem.

But make sure you do this properly.

If you handle it insensitively, the results can be disastrous. Never force someone to talk when they don’t want to, or make them feel uncomfortable, or make it seem as though your concern is for the business rather than them.

Some of your employees may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a type of depression which is (usually) worse in winter because of the reduced light. A special lamp called a light box can help with this, and you can help employees affected by the condition by providing one.

Do something nice

January can be a bit short on the fun front, as a lot of people are short of money – so if your team members get on well, then a free or low-cost social event can give people something to look forward to. Team meals can be expensive but getting together for a pub quiz costs a few pounds and it’s already organised for you! But don’t pressure people into attending if they don’t want to.

Also, rather than just taking the decorations down and replacing them with nothing, see if you can maybe brighten up the office a little with some plants, a lick of paint or even just a good old tidy-up.

Go on a health kick – just a little one

Short-lived as they may turn out to be, if members of your team have made resolutions to eat a healthier diet or take more exercise, they will really appreciate you helping them achieve them – and might just actually end up sticking to them.

If you’re not already providing free fruit in the office, consider doing so, at least on some days. Can you organise an exercise class that people can take after work or in their lunch hour? You may well already have someone on your team who’d love to do it. Often convenience and lack of time are obstacles to people prioritising their health. These gestures don’t just help your team to be healthier, which obviously means better productivity and reduced sickness, they also show that you care about their wellbeing.

Lay off the email

Having spent most of this article saying everyone should cheer up, we’ve got to admit that nothing sends one’s post-Christmas spirits plummeting quite like a full inbox. Not only does this take people hours to wade through, it means they may well miss important information – so rather than sending emails after the holidays, maybe fill people in on the really important stuff face-to-face, following up with an email later in the day, when they’ve cleared their inbox and can give it their full attention.

At THP Chartered Accountants, our accountants in Chelmsford, Cheam, WansteadSaffron Walden and London City are experts in helping businesses of all types and sizes plan their finances for the coming year. With a team of more than 50 highly qualified professionals at our four offices across London and the south east, whatever you want 2019 to bring you financially, we’ll do our best to help you achieve it.

Avatar for Mark Boulter
About Mark Boulter

Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.

Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”

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