Employee, For employers

5 ways HR can tackle the January Blues

January is a peak time for employee absence, stress, and lost productivity – but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 5 simple steps to tackling the January Blues.

For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

So states Newton’s 3rd Law, which is never more apparent than it is in January.

Christmas is the action – your waistline and bank balance are the equal and opposite reactions.

One increases, the other diminishes.

The knock-on effect? A general lack of workplace productivity, motivation and engagement.

But it doesn’t have to be the case.

For some companies January is a time of vigor and execution. What separates the two is their approaches to employee engagement, with a particular focus on wellness during the early months of the year.

Today’s employees seek development opportunities, sustainable benefits, and support networks. These can be catered for with longer-lasting effect and less financial investment than the rewards of yesteryear.

We’ve pulled together a few tips to help you lead your teams through what’s often referred to as the most difficult time of the year.

1. Incentives
Introducing a recognition scheme will help to engage your people with the task at hand. Starting with a team huddle, launch the programme in the first week of January over a set time with incentives and milestones.

Gamification of recognition adds an element of fun, and works particularly well when shared both peer-to-peer and top-down. As well as boosting productivity and performance, the frequent feedback and collaboration can strengthen working relationships and align efforts.

2. On-demand training
Invest a small percentage of your fresh budget in a learning management system (LMS). This will give your employees access to tonnes of on-demand and real-time training schemes. Not only will the business benefit from upskilling its staff, but employees will also appreciate the development opportunity.

Allow your people to free up a few hours a week to use the materials – it’ll make a welcome change. The beauty of these schemes is that trainees can engage whenever suits them, breaking larger schemes into smaller modules.

3. Financial wellness
The term ‘Blue Monday’ was coined by Dr Cliff Arnall, who devised a formula for the most miserable day of the year. He identified personal debt, poor weather conditions, and abandoned New Year’s Resolutions as the combination of reasons that make the third Monday in January the day we’re likely to be at our lowest ebb.

While there’s little HR can do about the weather, it’s becoming increasingly easy for businesses to help their people’s paychecks go further. Subsidising travel and food costs, or offering a range of practical discounts and freebies is made possible with software.

4. Flexible working
One ONS study found that 50% of the UK workforce would happily lose a day’s pay if they could take a three-day weekend. Although this isn’t an option for many workplaces, relaxing rigid working hours is an ace up the sleeve for managers looking for an affordable and impactful way to show appreciation.

Flexible working could mean anything from work from home days to stretched lunch breaks in exchanged for later finishes – now’s a good time to workout which is practical for your organisation.

5. Physical wellness
Gluttony has its way with us over Christmas. That’s why health and wellbeing incentives should play a role in your engagement initiatives from January onwards. Offering discounts and free wellness classes will make the strive for health that little bit more attainable.

Think along the lines of discounted gym memberships, yoga classes, or even home cooking courses.

Final word…
The companies that excel in this space – Google, John Lewis, Virgin – are famed for their deep understanding of their people, which is knowledge that fuels standout engagement initiatives.

That’s why conducting an employee survey is a good place to start. Perhaps it will uncover a widespread feeling that your existing benefits or training need improvement – whatever the results, they’ll give you a starting point.

- By Oliver, at Perkbox.

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