The festivities are over and we’re reluctantly getting back to work routines. Be it scraping the ice off the car and battling through rush-hour traffic, or simply opening up a laptop that’s been sat idle and hidden away.

The first few days back after the holidays are often pretty unproductive. It takes time for people to slowly get their brain back into gear, remember their login passwords and just what on earth they were doing before they finished up at work… or maybe that’s just me…

There’s also the fact that some people can suffer from so-called ‘Back to work’ anxiety – especially if they’ve been off work for a prolonged period of time. The thought of suddenly having to get into a work mindset can lead to a feeling of dread at having to set your alarm, and fear at the thought of working; rather than just relaxing, watching movies and eating whole barrels of Mini Cheddars… again, maybe that’s just me…

staff team jump battery energised

Anyway, if you want to get the New Year off to a good start, it’s important to get energised and out of the festive fog. So, what can you as a manager do to get your team geared up and ready for the challenges of 2022?

1. Let people settle back in

Ugh… The first day back after a long break. We’ve all had those days when we’ve had to sift through vast quantities of emails and messages accumulated whilst on leave, and then attempt to get back into the habit of doing our jobs again. It can be mentally draining if you’ve not been in that work mindset for a while – and that’s why it’s important to give your people a bit of time to get back into the swing of things.

It’s only natural for them to want to swap stories about the turkey that didn’t defrost in time, the car that broke down on Boxing Day or the unfortunate antics of New Year’s Eve. Allow everyone at least a couple of hours to catch up, acclimatise and clear their inbox of holiday junk mail before you launch in with any inspirational New Year messages or big projects.

2. Get your team together

It’s a good idea to hold a team meeting as soon as possible to get everyone focused on immediate priorities and talk about what’s on the agenda for 2022 – be it in-person or remotely. Although, probably not on the very first day back…

Make it a dialogue, not a diatribe. You’ll have messages you want to get across, sure, but it’s also important to give people the chance to talk about their challenges and ideas, and to ask questions.

Set a positive vibe by encouraging everyone to identify one good thing that’s happened in the first few days back – and what they’re excited about going forward.

3. Refresh individual objectives

It’s easy for people to lose sight of exactly what they personally need to achieve after a long break. Try to make time to sit down with people individually to either remind them of their core objectives or, if appropriate, set new ones. The best HR software solutions, like Cezanne HR, support continuous performance reviews, which make it easier for managers and HR teams to set and track goals and objectives, which includes goals and objectives to help keep track.

Make sure people understand how their role fits into the bigger picture and seek their input on how best they think they can achieve the goals that have been set. If people have been part of the discussion, they are much more likely to commit to any action that’s been agreed.

4. Have a meaningful career conversation

The beginning of the year is also a good time to talk to people individually about their career aspirations. Many employees will have had the opportunity to reflect over the break about what it is they want from life and work – and if they’re having a touch of the back to work blues, they might just be considering their options.

Some people – often the ones you really don’t want to lose – may have decided it’s time to look for pastures new. And, given that we’re currently in the grip of ‘The Great Resignation’, it really does make sense to understand what your people want from their role and longer-term career.

If you know what people’s aspirations are, you may be able to help by providing new challenges and opportunities – which in some cases, might prevent a talented individual walking out of the door.

5. Plan something social

Let’s face it, January can be a pretty grim month. Everyone’s broke, on a diet, doing ‘dry’ January and the weather’s usually cold and miserable. To give everyone a life, why not give the team something to look forward to by organising a fun social event?

What you arrange will, of course, depend on whether there are any COVID-related restrictions in place. However, whether it’s an online activity or a team outing, try and find something that’s inclusive and will give people the prospect of a bit of fun amidst the general back to work gloom.

Paul Bauer author image

Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is the Head of Content at Cezanne HR. Based in the Utopia of Milton Keynes (his words, not ours!) he’s worked within the employee benefits, engagement and HR sectors for over four years. He's also earned multiple industry awards for his work - including a coveted Roses Creative Award.