Helping employees find their spark after the holidays

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The holidays are over, so why does everyone in the office look like they’re ready for a nap? An HR executive of a large staffing agency says all that celebrating can actually cause employee burnout — something employers should address if they want to start the New Year off on the right foot.

The World Health Organization says the most common symptoms of burnout are mental exhaustion and reduced productivity. Disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy between $450 and $550 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a Gallup study. And while it’s common for employees to use PTO during the holidays, it doesn’t mean they’ll come back to work refreshed.

“The holiday season typically brings a lot of traveling, shopping and celebrations that leave us tired and fatigued, leaving employees with low energy and little motivation,” says Allison Betancourt, senior vice president of people strategy and development at Addison Group, a Chicago-based recruiting and staffing company. “While this may not be the case for every employee, it’s important for businesses to take the proper precautions to ensure their employees are set up for success after the holiday and start the New Year off strongly.”

Betancourt spoke with Employee Benefit News on strategies employers can use to help ease their workforce back into a productive routine after the holidays.

Why do you think returning to work after the holidays is such a struggle for employees?

The holidays are typically a busy time for people. From traveling to hosting parties, it’s an enjoyable time that can simultaneously be exhausting. Returning to work can be a struggle because individuals are forced to restart their day-to-day schedules after nearly two — not always relaxing — weeks off. Add colder weather to this and it’s understandable why employees aren’t always the most motivated at the beginning of January.

What can employers do to help combat post-holiday blues?

Employers should first start by assessing how their employees feel. What’s their overall sentiment toward their job? What’s going well? What could be improved? A well-curated and specific employee engagement survey can help answer these questions. From there, employers can determine how to best engage their employees in times when energy and motivation may be lower.

Survey answers may result in some employers encouraging simple team bonding activities, while others may need to think about unrolling larger initiatives like learning and development plans or health and wellness programs.

Additionally, employers should consider hosting kickoff meetings at the beginning of the year. These meetings can be for specific teams or company-wide and can help reenergize employees and get them motivated for a new year.

Do employers need to take a different approach with new employees?

New employees starting after the holidays may be more motivated than an existing employee to start off strong, but their needs shouldn’t be ignored. It’s the employer's responsibility to make sure these individuals’ needs are met. Employers can do this by engaging in open conversation about this time period during the hiring process and offering flexibility to choose a start date that will set them up for success.

What about veteran employees?

Veteran employees can especially fall victim to the post-holiday blues. To make sure they feel seen and heard at work, their opinions should be taken into special consideration. Employers should keep their personal learning and development progress top-of-mind and determine how they can give them new — and sometimes more challenging — work, so they don’t feel like they’re entering a new year with the same old schedule.

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Employee engagement Employee retention Employee productivity Workplace management Stress management