3 Tips to Beat the Back-to-Work Blues
It’s hard for anyone to come back to the office in the new year and immediately make the full impact that they usually provide for their organisation, and this issue is compounded in highly cooperative workplaces.
After the summer holiday break, your team is out of their flow, struggling with focus and communication, and probably a little bit disengaged, still dreaming of more leisure time with their friends and family.
For those in leadership and management positions, it is your responsibility to help your team members beat the back-to-work blues as fast as possible.
Here are three tips to help dust off the cobwebs and become that well-oiled machine again as soon as possible:
1. Air out your grievances from 2019
Retrospection is often a valuable skill but endlessly reliving the past will prevent you from moving forward. Perhaps there was a deadline your team missed or a goal that wasn’t reached last year (and the blame was laid on an individual) or maybe there was an ongoing personal disagreement between two team members. To ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of 2019, it is best to address them as soon as possible.
Organise a meeting to openly discuss the past year and air out any grievances that team members may have. This could involve sensitive matters, so ensure that this is conducted in a safe and egalitarian manner where every individual has the chance to be heard. It is essential that this is recognised as the final chance to speak about 2019’s issues, as the intent is to move forward, so having a deliberate structure and agenda to this meeting will make it more effective.
It is also important to note that this meeting is not necessarily about finding solutions to last year’s mistakes. Instead, consider it like a hard reset so that you can start 2020 with a fresh perspective.
2. Encourage fun and socialisation
Most people will have not seen their co-workers over the break and (hopefully) have had an interesting holiday. The inevitable result of this combination, once they have returned to the office: small talk. Traditionally, the managerial response to small talk is to ensure it is kept to a minimum. We recommend, at least for the beginning of the year, to do the exact opposite.
While conversation can of course be a distraction from work, research has found that engaging in small talk boosts cognitive function, specifically in the areas of the brain responsible for planning, prioritisation, and organisation — in other words, the most important aspects of work at the start of the year.
So to maximise your first weeks back at the office, encourage everyone to talk with one another as much as possible: not only will it prime their brains for the organisational work that January always brings, but it will foster engagement and help make your team excited to be in the office.
3. Align on goals (and foster the goals of individuals)
One of the biggest challenges of coming back to work is getting team members to cooperate successfully; after all, collaboration is a skill and all skills need to be maintained through practice. An easy way to help overcome this obstacle is to ensure that every individual is united on the team’s goals.
A significant portion of January will be dedicated to finalising the Q1 schedule and communicating this to your team, as well as to other functions within your organisation. Host a meeting as early as possible to outline the team’s schedule and effectively communicate expected goals; everyone being fully aware of what they need to do and when by is crucial to early year effectiveness.
While your team goals will directly align to the larger organisational objectives and provide small to medium-term benefits, now is the perfect opportunity to prepare for the further future by engaging with team members on their individual, personal goals. Discovering these career desires will not only enable you to foster their skills development, which provides an obvious benefit to your organisation, but also demonstrates your dedication to supporting their professional journey. This is a proven method to improve staff retention and engagement.