Kylie Mansfield offers some advice on how to give stressed staff a much-need lift during the January slump.
The first few weeks of January can be a challenging time in the workplace. The once bustling environment of festive cheer is no more. The glow of twinkling fairy lights are but a distant memory. It’s back to work. With New Year one of the busiest periods for the hospitality sector, staff are often overworked and stressed out. By the time January rolls around, the likelihood is, team engagement and productivity will drop as people come to terms with the daunting start of a new year and the end of seasonal joy.
With many employees still on extended holiday leave, the pressure and stress for those who are at work is magnified. This can be challenging for those working in customer facing roles, not least because there is nowhere to hide and any negativity will have a direct impact on service. So it’s really important for employers to focus on inclusion and team engagement at this time of year.
There is an argument that managers should be better trained on how to support staff emotionally during this time of year. Well-informed, supported staff are always more productive, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time or temporary workers. Inclusion matters. Regular breaks with social interaction are also hugely important in boosting team morale during what can be an isolating time in the workplace.
For those who have not been able to take a decent amount of time off during the festive period, disengagement and demotivation creeps in and usually stems from physical and mental exhaustion. So at this time of year it’s important for employers to actively look for signs that their workforce is struggling and to respond in a positive and supportive way.
Signs that your workforce is struggling often manifest in the form of decreased sales, increased absence rates (common at this time of year), high staff turnover and lack of motivation or engagement within the team. There may also be more obvious signs that your team is feeling disconnected. Disconnected teams also don’t communicate well, so this lack of alignment causes duplicated effort and failure to complete tasks and meet deadlines.
For non-desk employees dispersed across various locations, it’s also difficult to keep communications transparent and operations streamlined. Without this visibility, it’s difficult to foster a tight-knit work ethic, keep employees informed about tasks and updates and gain clear insight into task progression. To tackle this issue, many companies have been turning to innovative workplace technologies to help bridge these gaps in communication without employees having to physically be in the same place.
Sharing achievable team targets transparently helps to boost spirits, as does distributing workloads fairly and showing empathy – even if that means pitching in and helping out as a leader. Constant team communication and feedback is also more important that ever after the festive period. Nurturing strong relationships and friendships within the team in an environment where everyone trusts each other, is one of the most beneficial ways to reduce the impact of the January Blues.
With that in mind, it’s important for employees to keep talking and for leaders stay visible and approachable. Recognising and rewarding the hard work they see will regularly reinforce the message that individual efforts are valued. So, make praise instant and public if possible because there is nothing quite like an “on the spot” motivational boost, especially during a high pressured working day in January. Setting clear goals and expectations for the coming year, with wellbeing of people at the top of the agenda, will help to kick 2020 off with positivity and enthusiasm.
Kylie Mansfield is head of customer success at Eko.