Employees often return to work after the holidays worn out and depressed. What can employers do to energize and motivate them?

The decorations are packed away, the Christmas trees have been recycled and the champagne bottles are all empty. The 2019 holiday season is officially behind us. Unfortunately, getting back in the swing of things at work isn’t as easy as simply un-decking the halls.

While the holidays are typically viewed as a joyous time with family and friends, they can also be exhausting, according to Allison Betancourt, senior vice president of people strategy and learning and development at Addison Group, a Chicago-based recruiting and staffing company. The stress of planning for holiday celebrations—buying and wrapping the right gifts, baking, cooking, decorating, hosting or attending parties, not to mention all the time spent on the road or in the air—is enough to make people feel like they need a vacation. Yet, it’s time to go back to work.

“Returning to work can be a struggle because individuals are forced to restart their day-to-day schedules after two not-always-relaxing weeks off,” says Betancourt. “Add in colder weather, fresh to-dos, and new goals, and employers may find employees are tired and unmotivated, instead of energetic and refreshed.”

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With all the pressure to deliver the perfect holiday celebration—not to mention the inevitable post-holiday let-down—employees aren’t likely to suddenly become uber-motivated and energetic on Jan. 2. How then can employers conquer the post-holiday blues and ensure workers dive into the new year recharged and ready to give it their all? Fortunately, there are a few strategies for achieving just that.

Betancourt advises employers begin by taking the pulse of their workforce using an engagement survey. This will elicit valuable feedback on employees’ overall sentiment toward their jobs and their thoughts about what’s going well and what could be improved. From there, she says, employers can determine how best to engage their employees when energy and motivation is low, such as the post-holiday time. Their responses may lead to the development of team-bonding activities or new initiatives related to learning and development, health and wellness, or even something as simple as a book club or onsite massages. Whatever initiatives result from the survey, Betancourt says, employers should endeavor to carry those programs throughout the year, rather than considering them a short-term, post-holiday fix.

“To conquer the post-holiday blues, it’s important to have an employee-engagement strategy that’s implemented throughout the entire year,” she says. “This will help employees stay motivated to do their best and be their best regardless of the time of year and makes it easier for employers to reengage staff after the holiday season.”

Engagement strategies, including some mentioned here, will be discussed during the upcoming Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, which will be April 15-17 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Learn more here.

Julie Cook Ramirez is a Rockford, Ill.-based journalist and copywriter covering all aspects of human resources. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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