It happens every year. The dreaded January slump, often characterized by a productivity decrease after the holidays, can sap your team of energy and drive down employee motivation. While you might be used to a bit of a slow down in normal years, be aware of the extra stress employees are working under with the pandemic still in full force. This holiday people might have had to miss their usual gatherings or had a smaller, more isolated break than they normally would have. Instead of the mental respite we all needed after a difficult year, they could have experienced more personal or family stress over the break. Now that their back in the office, particularly a remote one, they may feel less motivated than before and that can drive down the energy of the whole team. If your employees are hitting a slump or finding it hard to get back into the swing of things after the holiday, then you might want to adjust your approach to engagement this month to help bring your team’s motivation back up. But when you need to raise engagement quickly, where should you start?
Employee engagement ideas for remote teams
Be mindful of the stress employees are under this year as you decide on a way to combat the winter blues. Instead of ignoring the problem and hoping teams will sort themselves out, why not try the following ideas.
Talk to your team about winter slumps: The best way to get ahead of the problem is to be open about it. If it feels like the energy is draining on your team, schedule a time where everyone can be together and discuss what’s happening. This is a great opportunity to lead by example if you’re also struggling to get back into your usual routine after the holiday. Sharing your personal experiences can help your employees feel safer to talk about what they’re struggling with. Or if your team isn’t comfortable with that sort of open communication yet, try using an engagement survey to collect their feedback anonymously. Once you know where the challenges for your team lie, you can brainstorm solutions as a group to address them. Maybe employees need some training or a change in project. If you never ask employees what will help set them up for success, you might be missing the best ways to support them.
Tackle projects in chunks: If you have a large project that needs to happen at the start of the year, one tactic to reengage interest is to break it down into smaller pieces. This makes the work less overwhelming, especially for an employee who may be having a hard time shifting gears from holiday to work life. If employees are struggling to focus, having smaller tasks can help keep them on track while still allowing them to chip away at projects. This decreases the tendency to procrastinate and makes larger undertakings more manageable. It should be noted, this can be a good idea to try at any time of year but it’s especially useful in January when employees are getting back up to speed.
Rewards don’t need to end with the holidays: December is often filled with articles on employee recognition and appreciation and it’s true the end of the year is a great time to say thank you. But taking the time to recognize or reward your team should be a priority at anytime of year. If engagement is declining in January, think about ways you can recognize the work being achieved. A few words of appreciation can go a long way, after all. If motivation is low, try turning to new or different reward system to bring the energy back up on a team. That could be giving weekly kudos during a team meeting or something more tangible like a gift card for a job well done. People like when their hard work is acknowledged and taking the time to tell someone they’re doing great work can have a long ranging impact on their engagement levels.
Try some L&D: Why not invest in some training or a workshop right now? It’s a perfect time to let your employees learn a new skill. You’re probably not working at top speed yet as other companies also find their feet after the break and your employees likely need a boost to beat the blues. Take advantage of your lighter schedule try some L&D to improve your employee development options and support ongoing growth. This year we’ve all learned the importance of being adaptable and embracing new ways of doing things. Giving your team a chance to learn something new and different in a year that has been very monotonous can help jump start your team’s motivation.
Bring people together: For colleagues who live alone or weren’t able to see family, the holiday break might have been a long and potentially sad one. If you can, try to schedule some sort of social gathering in January to reaffirm those interpersonal connections in the workplace and help solo employees feel less alone. If could be something informal like a Zoom cocktail hour or something more structured like an online game or event. The idea is just to get the team together as a mental cue that it’s time to switch back into work mode.
Don’t let employee engagement decline
The winter months can be hard, especially for employees still working from home who may be isolated. Having a plan for how you will address the winter blues as a team or company can go a long way in ensuring you have engaged employees all year long. When in doubt, try asking your team how they feel either in a meeting or with an employee engagement survey. Break down projects into more easily digestible pieces and don’t skimp on praise or rewards. And don’t forget about the social aspect of work just because everyone is remote. Bringing your team together for a gathering or to learn something new can really help re-energize your employees. Because remember, disengaged employees can cause an entire team to spiral so it’s a better idea to make a plan and get ahead of the problem. Making engagement a priority can increase job satisfaction and long term retention so don’t let the blues get the best of your team. Start this year with a new focus on engagement to help your employees continue to succeed in the months to come.