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January 15, 2018

Boosting workplace productivity and morale on Blue Monday – and beyond

Strengthen team bonds and improve morale and motivation this January for a happier, more productive workforce.

By James Nunns

The hangover from the festive period can continue long into January – culminating in the dreaded Blue Monday, the so-called most depressing day of the year. Although there may not be hard science behind the idea of Blue Monday, there’s no denying that January can be a gloomy time – for both employees and employers.

Blue Monday

Paul Burrin, VP, Sage People.

In 2018, Blue Monday falls on 15 January, and it can be challenging to motivate and enthuse employees around this time of year, making way for a swathe of unauthorised absences as festive feelings fade and the return to work hits home.

It’s important that business owners and managers fully understand the effects that lack of motivation and enthusiasm can have on both the individual and consequently the productivity of a business. Try having a one-to-one with them to make sure everything is ok, because there might be more going on than the winter blues. For example, lack of sunlight during the winter can lead to a form of clinical depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), with symptoms including mood swings, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Over all there are a few approaches managers can adopt to maintain motivation and ensure staff stay focused and productive.


Show gratitude

An appreciated colleague is a happy colleague. Showing a little gratitude can go a long way towards a motivated, higher performing workforce. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and a bit of recognition can lead to better self-esteem and workplace relationships, boosting productivity. Not only that, unhappy employees can lead to unhappy customers.

Recent research has revealed that over 66% of those surveyed, see being valued as the most important aspect of their day to day employment. Positive work experiences also have a huge impact on productivity. 78% are more productive when work experiences are positive. This jumps to 92% for younger employees (millennials), which are becoming the largest generation in the workforce.

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Gratitude is absolutely vital in the workplace, confirms UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on the subject. “Most of our waking hours are spent on the job, and gratitude, in all its forms, is a basic human requirement,” he says. “So, when you put these factors together, it is essential to both give and receive thanks at work.”


Get volunteering

The phrase ‘conscientious capitalism’ is becoming increasingly popular, emphasising the need for businesses to focus on the purpose beyond profit. Many organisations across the world are committed to taking action to make a tangible difference to both local and global communities, and bringing employees along on this journey could be a good way to keep them engaged.

Setting up an employee volunteering programme and giving employees paid time off to volunteer for important causes is likely to pay back in spades. It can enhance your employees’ skills, encourage team-building and create a positive culture within your business, which can be recognised internally and externally.

Employee Volunteering, an organisation that works with businesses in the corporate, third and public-sector, found that 97% of volunteers found it helped to develop a strong team, 95% felt that volunteering had a positive influence on them and 76% said it had a positive influence on how they feel about their employer.


Promote flexible working

Giving employees an element of control over their time could be highly beneficial for both the business and the employee. Research conducted by Cass Business School and Cranfield School of Management suggested a positive association between both informal and formal flexible working arrangements and job satisfaction and organisational commitment.

For many working parents, flexible working provides a good way to balance work and everyday life without compromising either. Especially with working mums on the journey back to full-time work after pregnancy, flexible working provides a great way to transition back into the swing of things at work while retaining the option of attending to responsibilities at home.

When implemented properly, flexible working could work wonders for employee morale, engagement and general workplace productivity


Try gamification

Making work fun and introducing healthy competition leads to better results. This is the theory behind gamification, the buzzword for the process of introducing game elements into various activities to help motivate, engage and keep employees and customers. Gamification typically includes badges, leader-boards, points and progression, and can be used for employee engagement in various day-to-day operations.

With recognition often an important factor in high productivity and morale, gamification can be a great way for employees to receive plenty of feedback, quickly. Positive feedback can incentivise good work, improve motivation and reward team achievements. Employees might also better understand their strengths and weaknesses, leading to enhanced performance.

Don’t let Blue Monday get your employees – and your business – down. Beat the worst of the Monday blues this January, and the rest of the year could be the most productive year yet.

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