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Keeping your staff productive during winter

It’s December, one of the busiest months of the year for us at Impact Recruitment, and many other businesses. It’s one of the most stressful times of year (we cover this in our vlog How to look after your elves at Christmas), but if you’re not careful, it can also only inspire one to take it easy, indulge too much and generally be unmotivated to accomplish much. With the days so short, it can take an awful lot of willpower to get to work – with school concerts, office parties, reunions, and many more social visits than even during the summer, the lead up to new year can really make work feel like even more of an inconvenience than usual.  

In July 2019 we published some tips on keeping your staff motivated during hot weather and now we’re in the opposite situation, here is a bit of advice on keeping your staff engaged with their jobs during one of the most fun, and exhausting, times of the year.

It stands to reason that your staff won’t all celebrate Christmas but did you know that this time of year has a myriad of other religious and secular observances? Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Pagans and Zoroastrians observe religious celebrations in December but Orthodox Christians fast right up until 7th January and then celebrate “Old Christmas Day” alongside countries such as Belarus, Eygpt and Russia. Even if new years eve, boxing day and Hogmanay aren’t as religiously focussed, nonetheless they are widely celebrated and therefore will be on employees minds. With all this going on, people can be pressured into attending many celebratory functions, whether they want to go or not. Add on top of that, colds and flu doing the rounds, and the pressure of society to pull off a perfect celebration (and make it look effortless), and it’s easy to see how when they do come into work, staff would really like to do as little as possible.

Obviously they can’t, they are being paid to work after all, but when people feel too much pressure, conflict or absences (or both) can arise and that causes problems for businesses. To combat this, there are a few small changes employers can make to reduce the negative impacts of the holiday season on their resources:

  • Encourage staff to get their flu jabs, allowing time for them to get them done during work hours when there are more doctors appointments free.
  • Encourage walks or any time outside at lunchtime as it’s easy to spend all week arriving to work in the dark and going home in it again and that can really affect people negatively.
  • Rethink end of year deadlines – can that end of year review be from April to April instead of January to January? Could that project be due in the third week of January rather than the first? Being a bit more flexible at this time of year would ease some of the extra pressure and maybe would lead to better outcomes.
  • Bring in fruit instead of unhealthy snacks, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Run a weight-loss competition or fitness challenge for a non-edible prize (but put feelers out as to whether this will be appreciated, don’t just assume your colleagues want to lose weight).
  • If you let parents have early finishes for children’s concerts etc., let child-free people also have a similar benefit.
  • Encourage everyone to volunteer or arrange charity activities for the company to take part in – it gets them out the office for a bit, and also gets the company name out without a media spend.
  • Plan fun activities for January and February. Typically they feel like the most miserable time of the year and can seem to go real slow, so counter that with plans everyone can look forward to, and which break up the mundanity of post-Christmas winter. Examples such as Fun at Work Day (which can also be in April), Chinese New Year, Burns Night, Show and Tell at Work Day, and Hobby Month being just some of the awareness days or holidays in January 2019.
  • Remind staff of wellness services they can access at work, and if you don’t have any, let them know where else they can find help if they need it.
  • Encourage everyone to set goals that, as an employer, you are in the position to help them achieve. Many people set new years resolutions in January, only to break them a few days later and feel awful about it. Make work goals something that they can achieve and then celebrate the achievements so that even if they haven’t stuck something out in their personal lives, work is a place where they know they can reach a goal. Make it work-related so it helps the business, but maybe think outside the box to make them interesting.
  • Run Continuous Improvement sessions for some of the major gripes staff have – give them a chance to put their heads together and fix issues that hold-up progress and this will pay off as the year goes on.
  • Dedicate time and budget for training sessions at this time of year instead of doing training in the summer, when it’s bright and warm outside and no one wants to be stuck inside a hot room. Ask staff in November to put training courses down on a “wish list” and then unveil the popular ones for them to join in January. Popular courses at the moment are learning about how the menopause affects people who work, and mental health awareness, but it could be anything as long as it is useful for your team to know about. You could have a weekly speaker come in about a different topic such as creativity or time management.

Hopefully some of these ideas will strike a chord with you, keep the humdrum of post-Christmas winter full of busy, happy and engaged employees and start the year off with an energetic boost of creativity and enthusiasm.

About the author

Rebekah Frost

A champion problem solver; whether it’s a board game or a tricky computer conundrum, Bekah's attention to detail is second to none. Her interesting and varied work experience across different sectors means she always has a story to tell, a love of people and a way to fix any issue.