4 Ways to get employees moving after the holidays

By Heather R Huhman

It is the most wonderful time of the year — but these days it’s also the most stressful. After the holidays, employees reluctantly return to work to face a mountain of work, stuffed inboxes and year-end goals that still need to be met.

In a study of 1200 individuals surveyed in December by Appreciation at Work, pressure to get year-end tasks done was the top thing employees said they didn’t like about the holidays in terms of their jobs.

And management isn’t making their return to work after the holidays any easier. In a survey of 1400 office workers published by Wrike in October, 34 per cent said they were unhappy with their company’s process of managing work.

When employees come back to their desks after holiday time off, it will take time for them to get back up to speed and pick up where they left off. But employers and managers can take steps to help speed up that process. Here are a few ways:

1. Communicate clearly

Employees return to work after the holidays and are greeted by an overloaded inbox. Getting through all that email is the first hurdle, and it’s going to take time. After all, a CareerBuilder survey in June found that 31 per cent of hiring and human resource managers surveyed said email was one of the biggest productivity killers in the workplace.

Even with all those emails, employees are missing information they need to do their jobs. In the Wrike survey, missing information was the number one cause of stress for workers.

Help employees beat work overload after the holidays by improving communication. Don’t fill inboxes any more than they already are and communicate face to face, by phone, or through an internal communication network like a team chat. Use the communication method that will best deliver the message.

When employees return to work, make sure they have all the information they need to get back to full speed. Update them on any project or deadline changes, input from clients they may have missed over the break or other important information that may have gotten lost in their inboxes.

2. Set new year goals

When employees return to work after a break, they’re focused on clearing their desks and meeting last-minute deadlines — not the big picture. But these short-term goals may actually be overwhelming and demotivating. In fact, 49 per cent of employees surveyed by Wrike ranked unrealistic goals for projects as a top workplace stressor.

In fact, employees need long-term goals to stay motivated, but long-term goals aren’t a priority after the holidays. In a survey by Saba Software last fall, 60 per cent of HR leaders surveyed said they believed their companies provide employees a clear career path, yet only 36 per cent of those companies’ employees agreed.

Employees need manageable project and overall goals to stay engaged. When they return to work after the holidays, re-evaluate project goals to ensure that they are realistic and that everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected. Then, take the time to set goals for the new year with each employee. These long-term goals will help keep them focused and working to further their careers.

3. Facilitate teamwork

When employees return to work after the holidays, they typically face an increased workload, and breakdowns in teamwork will keep employees working longer than necessary. The Wrike survey found that lack of collaboration, unclear task accountability and the problem of team members not pulling their weight were among the top workplace stressors. 

To get through the post-holiday overload, employees need to understand their responsibilities and work together to complete them. After the break, review roles and assignments with your team to remind those employees who is responsible for what, and to keep each member accountable for his or her work. Use tools like SkillGravity to assign projects, find experts within the company who can collaborate with the team and communicate effectively with all employees involved on a project.

4. Eliminate procrastination

When employees return to work after the holidays, they’re often slow moving. They’re chatting with co-workers about their family parties, catching up on social media posts and going through holiday pictures. They’re procrastinating.

Among employees surveyed by Wrike, 51 per cent ranked problems with procrastination of tasks as a top stressor at work. And after the holiday break, employees may procrastinate more than usual. Although some distractions hinder performance, not all procrastination is bad, a recent report conducted by BambooHR indicated. More than 1000 US employees were surveyed, and they ranked trips to the water cooler or break room as the activity they believed enhanced productivity the most.  

Allow employees to take productive breaks and socialize with their co-workers. Focus on making the most from their time by breaking down tasks and setting priorities and deadlines for each one. Instead of letting them dread that huge mound of work created by the holidays, ensure that they have a manageable list of tasks.

If employees know they will need to turn in those tasks at the end of the day, they may be less likely to scan Twitter for an hour and more likely to remain focused after fun of the holidays ends.

This article first appeared at Entrepreneur.com