Guest Blog by Sarah Musgrove, Editor at Brighter Business
Christmas is over, the decorations are down, the New Year’s celebrations are already a distant memory – welcome to January.
It’s a long, dark month, so it’s hard to find some feel-good factor to cling to – particularly with employees coming back to work after a relaxing Christmas break.
As tempting as it is to start the year as you mean to go on, motivating your employees can be somewhat difficult. Keeping them happy at this time of year can be difficult, too, even when you’re trying your best to make employees love you from day one.
There are a number of challenges small businesses face come January, and one of the first is the notorious ‘Blue Monday’.
The Blue Monday myth
With Christmas and the New Year over, we are already starting to look forward to spring and summer – but first we have to get over the dreaded Blue Monday.
A combination of bad weather, the post-Christmas lull, and failing to stick to New Year resolutions means January is a terrible month – but this is supposed to approach menacing levels with the 15th January coined the most depressing day of the year.
… Or is it?
The formula used to calculate Blue Monday has been widely discredited by academics as pseudoscience; it actually started as an advertising campaign for a travel company encouraging people to book holidays.
Blue Monday is actually an issue of perception; if you’re expecting to be depressed and ready for a bad day, you’ll probably have one. If you start the day with positive vibes, you might just have a great day.
However, the image has stuck and January is a long, cold month. If your staff need cheering up – and you want to banish the spectre of Blue Monday for years to come – you’ll have to change perceptions, making people associate Blue Monday with happiness.
Giving your staff something to look forward to at the end of the month, or at the end of each week, is a good way of keeping them motivated. Flexible starts and early finishes could be one way; a prize draw on Blue Monday with the chance to win an extra day of annual leave, along with other prizes, should do the trick.
Keeping to your resolutions
New Year’s resolutions are still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, so do your best to encourage this. Make use of your employee’s seasonal determination to better their lives by promoting health and wellbeing around the office, which in turn can lead to a boost in productivity and improved mood – undoubtedly beneficial at this time of year.
Consider other ways of showing employees your support, such as offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to your employees. EAPs help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their health, wellbeing or work performance.
Taking down the Christmas decorations can make the office feel sparse. With ‘New Year, new you’ in mind, take a look at your workspace – a pleasant working environment can make a great difference to employee morale.
Try changing the layout of the room, introducing some new features like plants or pictures. A splash of colour can transform a drab, uninspiring office into a bright, airy workspace can help to encourage creativity and productivity. At the very least, conduct a thorough office de-cluttering.
Approaching flu season
With Aussie flu already taking its toll on the British public and with French flu ready to descend on us, it’s important to take steps to prevent the spread of the disease and minimise sick days.
Employees taking sick days is a harmful practise from a business perspective, and particularly for small businesses on a limited budget. Last year alone an estimated 137.3 million working days were lost due to sick days in the UK, meaning businesses suffer from low productivity and potentially lost profit.
No matter how hard you try, unfortunately there isn’t a way to 100% prevent someone from catching a winter cold or the flu. What you can prevent is the illness from spreading throughout your team. Hygiene basics like hand washing reminders, sanitiser and tissues will help during those early hours when symptoms start to arise. No one wants to get sick, so having easy access to tools to help you stay well is bound to be a hit.
If someone does get the flu, send them home. Unlike common colds, flu symptoms come on quickly and can last up to a week. Most cases can be treated by simple rest. However, if employees feel that they need to continue to come into work despite being seriously ill, the duration and potential complications can turn what would have been a few days off into something much longer.
For more tips on staff productivity and wellbeing for SMEs and start-ups, visit www.brighterbusiness.co.uk.