How to Keep Your Employees Motivated to Tackle the January Blues

7 min

The new year has arrived and as we settle back into the daily routine after the buzz of the festive period, it can be easy to feel those January blues creeping in, no matter what stage of your career or how much you love your job. ­

Pfizer report that a small percentage of the US population (about 1 to 10 percent, depending on where you live) suffer with a more severe form of the winter blues known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms include feeling sluggish, agitated, hopeless, overly fatigued and changes in appetite – all of which can contribute to increased January blues.

This can impact how people feel about going back to work after Christmas – which is why it is key for management teams to recognise the important steps that should be taken to motivate and engage employees at this time of year. Actions taken at the start of the year will play a big role in the employee experience so it should be a priority for leaders at the start of each year.

A survey by Investors in People states that 44% of employees feel more motivated when welcomed back by their management team after the break. This type of interaction between management and employees is not only a key driver for motivation and employee engagement but also ensures that the best employee retention rate is achieved. 

Whilst salary is an important factor in motivating staff, and it’s advisable to continuously benchmark the salaries of competitors in your industry throughout the year, employee engagement and motivation can arise from many other aspects of the role. If you want to get the best out of your employees in January and set up for a successful year all round, ensuring employees stay motivated - here are our key points to consider:

Share your company vision and business plans for 2024

Motivating your staff is hugely important to the success of the wider business. Keeping employees updated with plans for the year ahead keeps them engaged and bought into the company’s wider vision, creating an inclusive environment where employees feel part of the whole process. This could be carried out through an AGM or event at the beginning of the year. If this isn’t feasible then communicating through a staff newsletter or intranet system is a good way to ensure all staff are kept up to date with future plans. 

Transparency and open communication are key to maintaining a level of trust between employees and management, as well as ensuring motivation is high for the year ahead. Sharing goals and growth plans can really help to engage current employees as well as appeal to potential employees keen to join a business who is forward thinking and planning for success throughout the year.

This could also extend into one-to-one meetings between managers and employees to set goals for the year ahead, so they can see how their role fits into the business’ wider plans, and ultimately how they can contribute to these with their individual objectives. 

Hear your employees’ voices and listen to feedback

To ensure employees feel involved in the wider business, it is a good idea to get their feedback through polls and surveys, showing them that they are a valued member of the team. To make this a positive experience, ensure the survey is not too long, and more importantly, communicate the key findings after the survey has been carried out, along with actions that will be implemented as a result. To get honest feedback from employees, they need to feel confident their responses will be reviewed, considered and acknowledged. 

Christina Shiels, Global Marketing Manager at CSG Talent shares her thoughts on the positives of utilising an enhanced system for distributing and collating employee surveys. “We recently invested in a new platform to facilitate engagement surveys across the business. We’ve been really impressed with the enhanced features which ensure both ethical and confidential survey distribution, excellent reporting features which can dive into granular insights and the ability to respond to individual survey responses (confidentially) to acknowledge all feedback, even if not part of overall delivery for survey actions to the wider business. This has been well received by employees and is a great feature that Culture Amp offer.”

Demonstrating to your employees what the business is doing to support them is key and making changes where necessary, based on the feedback, will ensure they feel their views are being heard. Managing the expectations of your employees from the outset is important, whilst still gearing them up for an exciting year ahead.

Ensure your employees get the recognition they deserve

Part of making your employees feel valued is giving them the positive recognition and rewards that they deserve. The lead up to Christmas sees companies splashing out on Christmas parties, and festive celebrations, but there tends to be little engagement after the festive period. To ensure employees are gaining the credit they deserve, an awards ceremony could be held to reward people who have had great success in the previous year, or even a small gesture from a line manager to employees who have gone above and beyond. 

Whether this can be done in person or remotely, it's a great idea to facilitate this at the start of the year to not only recognise efforts from the previous year but to share plans for the year ahead and involve all employees in this to motivate them at the start of the year. Reward and recognition helps to engage and motivate employees so they feel valued for the work they do, or inspired to achieve positive results like their peers, it's a great way to start the year on a high. Sharing success stories of other team members can help other employees set themselves goals and have mentors across the business to aspire towards. 

Ensure employee wellbeing is monitored

There are multiple factors that can affect employee health and wellbeing at the start of the year, in some parts of the world it can be the weather, the dreaded back-to-work routine, lengthy commutes, or challenges with remote working and lack of social interaction. 

According to the NHS, winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe, affecting all demographics which can impact January blues and overall wellbeing.

That’s why incorporating some form of health and wellbeing initiatives at the start of the year is a great way of motivating your employees and determining if they need further support. Having a focus on exercise and nutrition with a wellbeing week, for example, could be a great way to start the year off right. Whether you focus on short-term initiatives or plan to implement a long-term strategy, it’s a good way to demonstrate to your employees that they really matter, which in turn will contribute to their motivation to strive for success. Mental health and wellbeing is a focus for leaders to ensure the overall wellbeing of teams, but to also experience positive results and business success as a result, so this is something that should be a focus all year round.

Incorporate inspirational talks by industry-leaders and successful employees

Introducing inspirational talks by industry thought-leaders throughout the beginning of the year can help your business to start the year off on a high, as well as helping employees visualise how their role can support the company to achieve its goals in the year ahead. Similarly, asking successful employees within your company to discuss their best practice and tips for success is also a useful technique to motivate your staff.

The management team should also consider how they motivate their employees themselves. This could involve them speaking passionately about the organisation, the significance of each of the employees’ roles and what this means for the wider business/purpose.

Encourage planning and organisation

There's no better time to start afresh with new goals, processes and create positive habits than at the start of a new year. While everyone has a preferred style of working, planning and managing their workload, encouraging teams to take a step back before approaching the year to create plans and set goals is a great exercise and can help motivate employees.

Part of this process can involve a review of the previous year to help focus on what needs to be achieved this year, to enable individuals to set personal and professional objectives. Encourage employees to consider what they want to achieve while also setting objectives that align to company and departmental goals. Suggest ways that your employees can work more effectively based on your own experience as a leader, whether this is related to time management, organisation, prioritisation or utilising software or tools to work more efficiently.

Although it is incredibly important to motivate your employees through the January blues, you should continue to engage with your employees throughout the rest of the year as well. There are many different initiatives that your business can implement to keep employee engagement and retention high throughout the year. If this is not currently part of your wider talent strategy, it might be time to start thinking about how to incorporate the above ideas into your business.

Keen to explore new ways to engage, attract and retain talent for your organisation? Check our insights page here, or get in touch with a member of our team here. Alternatively, if you're considering a new opportunity this year, why not check out our latest job opportunities.