How to encourage motivation in dreary January

Posted in : HR Updates on 14 January 2019
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

As we start another New Year it doesn't feel like a year ago since I wrote an article for Legal Island 'Beating those January Blues'. Returning to work after the Christmas break can be a tough transition for most, moving from social and family time back into work and focused time. On a personal level as I approached the end of my own Christmas leave I thought I would attempt to get my grey matter back into action by writing this article and taking a fresh perspective on how to encourage motivation in dreary January.

The first obvious step is to remove any remnants of the festive period when we step back into the office. There is nothing worse than being greeted with tinsel and furry reindeer antlers when you approach your desk. I have even heard of some employers giving the office a face-lift to something brighter and inspiring but I could just imagine the response from many Facilities departments if HR suggested this! There are many other less drastic ways that employers can encourage staff to refocus and get their heads back into action after returning to work.

Where possible managers should let staff ease back into work during the first couple of days. We all know how long it takes to wade through our inbox and revisit our to-do lists so the thought of jumping straight into an intense 3-hour meeting is probably not very realistic. That said, January is a great chance to bring the organisation together and communicate the goals and values of the year ahead. This should be an opportunity to remind people of the Big Picture; what your organisation’s purpose is, where it has come from, where it is going. It is about communicating the WHY behind what we do as an organisation and each person understanding their part. We've all heard of the story about JF Kennedy at NASA asking the janitor what his job was and how he replied that it was to help put a man on the moon. So consider what your Big Picture is and sing it from the rooftops so that staff know that they are working towards something meaningful, not just to help the organisation make a profit.

Follow-up meetings or one-to-ones between managers and staff are a great way to reinforce this message and set goals on an individual level. Ask staff how things are going both in terms of what's going well and what's not going well. Coaching is a useful way to empower people to work through problems themselves and agree solutions rather than simply being told what to do. Also involve staff in decision-making by inviting their input into decisions affecting the company to boost morale and make them feel like their opinions count.

So after we've given staff a bit of breathing space and then rolled out our kick-off meetings it is also good to focus on staff health and wellbeing. Perhaps you already have a programme in place but with January typically being a period of low mood, financial hardship and new gym subscriptions, it is often useful to focus on mental health, fitness and financial wellbeing during this month.

'Blue Monday', known as the most depressing day of the year, could be a great occasion to hold a staff event to encourage happiness and wellness. Sessions on mindfulness, positive thinking or even laughter yoga may be enough to change perceptions on this otherwise gloomy day. Employers may also want to consider holding financial wellbeing seminars to help employees reduce the financial stresses and strains that they may face after Christmas and, in the process, boost their workplace motivation. Offering subsidised corporate gym membership or holding a healthy weight loss challenge will promote physical health and fitness.

January is also an ideal time to schedule the first staff committee of the year.  Part of the remit of the committee could be to agree suitable staff events throughout the year, allowing staff to focus ahead and map out regular activities and outings.

Appreciation can be hugely motivating at any time of the year and will encourage staff to continue to work hard. Well-structured employee reward schemes or a monthly praise forum for staff can be very encouraging and set a level of healthy competition among peers however nothing beats a simple 'thank-you' as long as it is genuine and timely.

Finally, if you're stuck for ideas on how to motivate staff then why not ask them? We're all motivated by different things and often our motivations change over time. For example, many of us will appreciate an annual bonus being paid in the lead up to our summer holiday or if we need to pay a deposit for a new car however that doesn't mean that we're always motivated by money. Opportunities for learning and development, challenging and interesting work and of course working towards the organisation's Big Picture will be motivating to many people but if we don't ask, we'll never know. Line managers should get to know their staff on an individual level during the January one-to-ones, and follow up reviews. Not everyone is motivated by the same thing so tapping into what motivates each person is perhaps the secret to true staff engagement and commitment.

Useful reading:

Beating those January Blues 

How to motivate staff through the January blues 

How to keep your employees motivated this New Year 

How to keep your employees motivated this January 

This article is correct at 14/01/2019

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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