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Beat the Back to Work Blues!

Beat the Back to Work Blues!

Two types of employees often return to work after a long holiday: those refreshed and raring to go; and those hoping to extend their summer break by a few more weeks.

You know who I mean: the employee who “works” from home a day or two each week in summer, has a longer lunch break, catches up on “forward planning” and other performs tasks that waste time and money. Before you know it, they’ve had an extra month off at the company’s expense.

Do you have colleagues who do as little as possible in January or early February?

I called a friend last week about a work matter and heard “15-love”, “30-15” and other tennis scores over the loudspeaker in the background. He had snuck off to the Australian Open, not to network with clients, but to avoid work. Clearly, he was still in a Summer Daze.

Even worse are employees who openly talk about how hard it is to get back into work and how they have to build up slowly to it. Some seem to hit top gear by Easter. How many businesses can afford to carry staff for a month, let alone a few, as they ease back into work?

What’s your view?

  • How hard is it to get back into work after a long summer holiday?
  • Does your employer ensure staff do not slack off in January?
  • What are your best tips for snapping out of the Summer Daze and getting back into work?

Companies often contribute to the summer lethargy. Poor end-of-year planning means staff do not have enough to do in January, or there are too many employees back from holiday when work is slack. Or its managers lead the Summer Daze with fake out-of-office appointments and poor supervision.

No such luxury for small business owners who cannot bludge on company time. They and their staff must be fit and firing the minute they return to work. A strong January gets the venture off to a great start and momentum quickly builds, just as a lethargic start to the year breeds more lethargy.

The trick, of course, is not to burn staff out in January, or be unreasonable. Hitting top gear immediately after three weeks at the beach is a challenge for the best employees. But companies can do a lot more to motivate staff whose minds are still on holiday. Here are some simple tips:

1. Create a sense of urgency

The best fast-growth ventures, and their founders, have a knack of creating real or imagined emergencies?  They constantly remind staff about emerging opportunities or threats – and the dangers of standing still. This sense of urgency – not panic – ensures staff row a little faster when the pace slackens. Done well, it excites and motivates staff.

2. Set short-term goals

As a journalist, I find constant deadlines in January are a sure-fire way to shock the system back into work mode in summer. You simply cannot cruise when work is due five days after your holiday. Do your staff have shorter deadlines or clear project milestones in summer? Forcing staff to start and complete work in short bursts can jolt the stragglers back to life.

3. Celebrate early wins

Good managers pick up on strong work efforts early in the year, praise those involved, and use the extra effort to motivate others. Bad managers let early wins go unnoticed because they are also in summer cruise mode well into February.

4. Restrict working from home

Unless you are a home-based business owner, there is little need to work from home in summer after returning from holiday. It’s too easy to work half-heartedly, enjoy the summer days, and bludge on company time. The exception is employees who genuinely need flexible working arrangements when their children are on school holiday. Save the teleworking for those who really need it.

5. Less forward planning, more reviewing

How many employees are tortured with useless forward-planning sessions in the New Year, endless meetings, and other wishy-washy team-bonding events that focus on corporate goals and values? It just reinforces to staff that the start of the year is about low-pressure, non-critical work. Spend more time reviewing the year’s early progress to keep staff on track. Forward planning for 2014 should have occurred months ago.

6. Shake things up

A former boss had a habit of making a surprise job announcement in January or February: the promotion of an employee, a newly created role, or the demotion of a slacker. It kept everyone on their toes and ensured healthy competition at the start of the year. Identify employees who have a habit or cruising during the summer months and plan some healthy career shocks to keep them motivated.

7. Spend more time with clients

I find getting out during summer and talking to clients when they return from holiday is a great way to start the year. It forces you to lift, be motivated, create opportunities, and build momentum. Your Summer Daze might work with fellow employees still in holiday mode, but few clients will (or should) tolerate it.

8. Don’t talk about how hard it is to get back into work

It’s amazing how some people still talk about how hard it is to get motivated in late January or February, no less, or want to wish you Happy New Year and ask about your holiday. Surely those comments are well and truly past by Australia Day? If you’re still in a Summer Daze in February, consider whether it’s time to move on.


*Original Article by Tony Featherstone: