The Christmas break is a highly anticipated holiday for most, as people look forward to celebrating the festive season with family and friends and enjoying time away from work.

However, the Christmas break can cause serious disruption to the day to day running of businesses, as specific agendas are pushed to the new year. This can make January a challenging time of year for employees as this can mean that there is a backlog of tasks waiting for them upon their return. 

This can be extremely demotivating for employees, especially when they may feel unable to switch straight back into “work mode” following an extended break. January is also a time of year when many employees will experience high levels of stress and mental pressure. 

An example of this can be seen with “Blue Monday” - the third Monday in January - which the University of Exeter claims could cost the UK economy around £93 billion in staff absences and a drop in workplace productivity every year. 

How can business leaders motivate employees in January? 

There are many ways that business leaders can make an effort to keep employee motivation levels up. Our top ways are:

  • Outline clear paths for the year ahead 
  • Promote open communication networks 
  • Introduce incentives 
  • Effective training solutions

Outline clear paths for the year ahead 

By reviewing the aims of individuals and setting clear career progression objectives for the year ahead, it is possible to gently re-focus individuals and remind employees that with hard work comes the opportunity to further their careers.

This is an effective way of motivating employees in their roles, as providing clear goals will inherently make it far easier for employees to find their feet in the new year. 

Motivating individuals in this way is especially important following the Christmas period, as many employees may be considering pursuing alternative careers. Research by Investors in People revealed that as many as 60% of employees may consider leaving their current roles at the start of a new year. By re-engaging employees with fresh challenges and progression opportunities, it may be possible to avoid losing talent to the January blues. 

Promote open communication networks 

It is vital that business leaders take steps to promote open and transparent communication in the workplace following the Christmas break. 

By encouraging transparency at a leadership level, employees will feel more comfortable in approaching superiors with problems they are facing as they occur, rather than allowing issues to build up internally, which can cause larger problems in the long run.

Promoting open communication is especially crucial following the Christmas break, as this is a time of year where individuals are typically more susceptible to mental health issues that could affect their productivity and wellbeing. 

The number of sick days in January is on average 53% higher than any other month of the year, and with 13% of all staff absences being taken due to mental health conditions, it is safe to assume that some of these absences can be attributed to issues including stress and depression.

Ensuring that there are open communication networks and that employees feel as though they are able to speak openly about their health issues and the effect they are having on their work, will make individuals feel safe and supported. This is key to boosting motivation levels and keeping the wellbeing and morale of employees high. 

Introduce incentives 

Following the Christmas period, it is often the case that January blues spring from a feeling that the fun is over, and worries about money begin to creep in. Christmas is an expensive time for everyone and can make January a difficult month. 

CIPD research shows that one in four people perform poorly at work due to money worries, which highlights just how detrimental this could be for employee performance during January. 

Introducing some incentives, such as cash bonuses when targets are met, or vouchers and gift cards, can be a great way to boost productivity and give employees a tangible reason to stay motivated. 

It’s also an effective way of showing appreciation to employees, which, in turn, can go a long way in boosting morale as well as showing that the hard work of individuals throughout January is not going unnoticed. 

Effective training solutions

January is a good time to introduce commercial skills training to refresh employee knowledge on the key functions of the business, and to deepen their understanding of their role and its overall contribution to the company in preparation for the new year. 

Commercial skills training also allows individuals to learn about wider industry developments and gain knowledge on competitors that will help them to better perform within their roles.

Here at MDA Training, we utilise experiential learning methods to ensure that employees are prepared and organised for the specifics of their role all year round. Delivered through a wide range of innovative techniques, our programmes are designed to enable individuals to run through real-life scenarios in a safe environment.

Some examples of experiential learning techniques that we offer at MDA Training include business simulations, virtual reality and e-learning platforms.  

Although January can be a difficult time for businesses as employee motivation and productivity plummet, adopting the right methods can help to maintain a positive environment for all and encourage the entire workforce to stay on top of their game.

By making business leaders aware of the effects of the beginning of the year on employees, it is possible to preempt a loss of employee motivation and plan to keep productivity high by taking steps such as providing clear future paths, promoting open communication, providing incentives and introducing training solutions such as commercial skills training.