Article provided by Jamie Mackenzie, Director of marketing at Sodexo Engage
It’s the perennial workplace dilemma: after all the anticipation, excitement, and over-indulgence of Christmas, how do you cure the January blues and keep your employees motivated for the rest of the winter?
One radical idea is to reallocate all the rewards usually doled out in December to the New Year. After all, surely it makes sense to incentivise work during the bleakest time of the year when financial perks and social occasions will be most appreciated?
Let’s start by examining the convention of the office Christmas party. From Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night onwards, the end of the year is packed full of parties, and the annual office shindig may seem like one more commitment to stuff into an over-packed calendar. Yet after Epiphany there tends to be a total lull in festivities until Valentine’s Day. In this context, postponing the annual office Christmas party and rebranding it a ‘Not New Year’s Eve’ party could give everyone a night out to look forward to in the dark, dull days of January.
It’s also important to think about why the beginning of the year is so tough on employees and why productivity dips accordingly. After Christmas, the financial pressure of the holiday season catches up with many of us. Statistics show that one in the three Britons feel under pressure to spend more than they can afford over the festive period – so if annual bonuses are given out in December, chances are they’ll all have been spent by January. However, if bonus-time was switched to the new year, employee satisfaction could soar on contemplating their post-Christmas bank balances.
Despite living in a multi-cultural society, with workplaces more diverse and inclusive than ever before, it seems us Brits just can’t get enough of Christmas. As such, de-escalating the emphasis on Christmas could also be crucial in building a diverse and inclusive workplace. It’s important to ensure every member of staff is included, understood and catered to over the holiday period when it comes to their religion and cultural practices.
It’s also important to view January as an opportunity. Recognition schemes to reward stand-out performances should be implemented the whole year round but praise will be particularly welcome in the winter months.
The beginning of the year is often a time to reflect and many of us make New Year’s resolutions in an effort to make sure we do better than the year before. This makes it the ideal time to host inspirational guest speakers and start fostering fresh discussion and innovation. There’s a reason Ted Talks are so popular; new ideas are gripping. And they are far more likely to lodge in everyone’s brain without the distraction of the pre-Christmas frenzy, when hangovers are likely, attention spans are curtailed, and to-do lists seem endless.
January is also a brilliant time to trial flexible working patterns. With short days and long nights and little prospect of good weather until the spring, the third Monday in January is now known as ‘Blue Monday’ because research suggests it may be the most depressing day of the year. By allowing employees to exert greater control over their working arrangements – making them more palatable on an individual basis – it might be possible to increase productivity with shorter bursts of work and an attendant raising of enthusiasms.
January will no doubt continue to pose some problems for employees, but as Albert Einstein once said: ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’. If all these strategies and insights are combined and implemented, January may cease to be viewed with quite so much dread and appreciated as a quieter time in which to accomplish great things – with a little bit of scheduled fun in between.