So it’s all over.  The last bit of tinsel has been taken down, the chocolates have all been eaten and it’s back to work we go.

Although there are a few people who will no doubt have bounced back into the office with Tigger-like enthusiasm, for most of us, the first week of January is pretty rubbish.  It’s cold , it’s wet and everyone is broke and frankly feeling a big sluggish and unenthusiastic about getting back into the grind.

So what can you do to energise your team and get them focused on the priorities so that your business gets off to a flying start in 2014?

Revisit priorities

An extended break gives people a valuable opportunity to relax and switch off from work – but the trouble is, by the time they come back, they’ve often forgotten exactly what it is they are supposed to be doing.  It’s all too easy for people to fritter away the first few weeks of the month answering trivial emails and doing work which is ‘easy’ but actually not that important.  Make sure you sit down with your team within the first few days to revisit priorities and help people refocus on what really matters. A team meeting at the start of the New Year is also a great time to share the company’s overall objectives for the year ahead, so that everyone feels involved and understands how they personally fit into the bigger picture.  You might consider holding the meeting outside of the office or using a format that’s different to the norm.  Breaking out of the familiar can often help stimulate people’s creativity and get them fired up for the challenges ahead.

Give people something to look forward to

January can be a long month – so why not plan some activities or small ‘treats’ to give people something nice to look forward to.  If you need to revitalise an existing team or help new recruits settle in, you could consider some kind of team-based activity. This doesn’t have to involve challenging, outdoor pursuits (and who wants to do that in January anyway) – getting people to cook together, take part in a music workshop or work together on a community project can be just as effective in building team spirit.  If time and budget doesn’t allow for an event, at the very least just put a date for a team lunch or evening out in the diary. It may sound like a small thing, but even a simple and inexpensive social occasion will create a ‘feel-good’ factor and give people a chance to get to know their colleagues outside of a work setting.

Pay attention to the environment

Take a look around you.  Is your office a warm, welcoming environment or a grey and gloomy one?  Our surroundings have a huge influence on our mood and the way we feel about work.  A recent survey of over 1,000 office workers by Opinium and Epsom found that 59 per cent felt depressed and demotivated in the winter months.  When asked what measures at work might improve their mood, 33 per cent cited better lighting while 27 per cent felt they would benefit from a more colourful workspace. This doesn’t mean you have to repaint the entire office orange.  Just a few simple steps, like putting up some pictures or posters, providing some extra uplighters or bringing in plants or flowers can do much to lift people’s mood.

Accentuate the positive

People do like to have a good moan – about their workload, salary, colleagues, clients or the fact the office photocopier is broken, again.  It’s all too easy for teams to get into a negative cycle, particularly during the winter months when people are often feeling a bit low anyway.  So try and find ways to highlight the positive things that are happening. Make a point of celebrating new business wins, important project milestones or outstanding achievements.  Even if it’s only cakes with the afternoon cuppa, it will give people a boost. You could also try to add an element of positivity into your team meetings – encouraging everyone to share one good thing that’s happened this week, whether that’s a vote of thanks from the head of another department or a constructive conversation with a difficult client. If you can shift the focus away from problems and towards what’s going well and how you can do more of it, you will soon see an increase in people’s energy and enthusiasm. (And by the way, you could also get the photocopier mended)

Focus on well-being

Hands up if you’re on a diet/giving up smoking/having a dry January? The beginning of the year is traditionally a time when people’s attention is focused on their health and well-being. This is good news for employers, who stand to benefit enormously from a fitter, healthier workforce – so now is a good time to think about what you can do to encourage your employees to look after themselves. People do, of course, have to make their own lifestyle choices and I’m not suggesting that employers should turn into the diet/exercise police. But you can certainly support staff in their efforts by providing information, signposting them to sources of help and advice and helping them to make healthy choices within their working day.  You might consider setting up a lunchtime walking group, organising a weekly swim at the local pool or inviting a diet/fitness expert to come in and give a talk. Providing fresh fruit for people to snack on is also a relatively inexpensive way to support people in their resolve to eat healthier. Small steps can make a big difference and employers who prioritise the well being of their staff will reap the dividends in the shape of reduced absence levels and a healthier and more energetic workforce.

What steps are you taking to get 2014 off to a flying start? How do you get people up to speed quickly at the beginning of a New Year?  We’d like to hear your views and ideas!

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.