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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Post Holiday Employee Blues

By: Dennison Marzocco, Esq.

The holidays are finally over, so it’s time to get back to business.  With nearly everyone getting several days off, the transition to “normal”' can be difficult.  An extended holiday takes a toll on employees; emotionally, physically, and sometimes financially.   Thus, the present challenge for managers is get their subordinates to 'check back in'.

Have a Meaningful First Day Back

The first day and week back are always the most difficult.  Employees returning to work experience a degree of “post-holiday blues”.  It is hard not to feel nostalgic about the good times.  The issue is compounded when the first day back is mid-week.  Employees will look forward to the immediate next weekend.  It is tempting to put work off.  Thus, gently easing into a normal work pace will rarely be successful.

Cracking a whip is equally unsuitable, because it will aggravate the emotional letdown.  There is something bleak about being greeted by a swarm of unopened emails the first morning back.  Playing “catch-up” at work is necessary, but look for a different approach than piling on the work.

Your employees' first day back should be devoted to getting refocused and preparing for the year ahead.  It follows the traditional spirit of the New Year--a time of transition, rebirth and renewal.  Schedule a team meeting to discuss the goals of the New Year.  Review outstanding and overdue work.  Undoubtedly there will be work left over from before the holidays that needs to be addressed, but think of the first day back as a 'vacation from vacation'.  Your employees will inevitably get over the rut and your understanding will go a long way.  Be productive, but not burdensome.

Introduce Incentives and Support Structures

The holidays are sometimes financially difficult for employees.  They may not have much money left over after holiday spending.   Take the opportunity to run additional rewards or gifts for employees
throughout January.  A small bonus here or there will go a long way.

There may be non-financial issues 'at home' which unravel during the holidays.  If your organization offers formal counseling, make sure employees are aware it exists.  If not, spend time coaching and encouraging employees.  Everyone experiences some form of the post-holiday blues. 

Never leave serious issues to fester.  If you notice an employee suffering after the holiday, address the matter in a confidential and professional way.  If it is beyond your capacity to help, find the employee appropriate outside assistance.

Get Through January!

January is the hardest month of the year.  The experience of returning to work is still as disappointing for adults as it was when they were children going back to school.  Retailers bombarded them with the 'holiday spirit' as early as Thanksgiving.  Over the last six or seven weeks, they have spent countless hours shopping, attending parties, and with their families. The holiday is over, but months of winter and early sunsets are ahead.

Give your employees a reason to look forward to January.  Compliment the goal-setting proposition on the first day with a social event later in the month.  Keep it simple.  It doesn't have to be a pricey affair to yield big rewards for employee morale.  Nothing will revitalize employee happiness more than a day in January to feel like it is Christmas all over again.

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