As the fun and excitement of year-end holidays come to a close, an upbeat spirit can quickly degenerate into the “late winter blues.” This is especially true in the workplace, where a return to the grind can negatively impact employees’ mood and motivation. Leaders are tasked with keeping spirits high in a time that’s objectively a bit gloomier — an even more challenging task during a lingering pandemic.
Fortunately, there are several smart and simple ways leaders can maintain the enthusiasm and cheer of the holidays in the weeks that follow. To help, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share favorite strategies for boosting team energy and morale in the early months of a new year.
1. Let your team members focus on growth and goal achievement.
One way to take the positive momentum from the happy holidays into the new year is to get into goal achievement mode. The cold, dark months of winter are no doubt tough, but getting people focused on their purpose and their passion is a great way to keep them thriving. Get your team involved in creative projects, self-development, professional learning, mentorship and so on. It’s a great time to grow! – Jay Feitlinger, StringCan Interactive
2. Focus on ‘New Year/New You’ initiatives.
The start of a new year is a great time to leverage the excitement from the holidays into action and new growth and to create community and engagement. Ensure the wave of positive cheer is redirected into the new year’s growth and excitement for individuals and teams. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
3. Conduct annual strategic planning.
We have conducted our annual strategic planning — typically via an offsite meeting — at the beginning of every year for the past 15-plus years. I’ve found it creates energy, alignment, insight and focus for the entire team, and it seems to carry us right through the January blues. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.
4. Add a few additional long weekends to the calendar.
In high-performance environments, there is peer pressure to not use PTO. At Mindgrub, we have three “Canadian Long Weekends” in February, March and April. It’s a $250,000 reinvestment to add three additional holidays, but it ensures our team members take some personal time to decompress. By giving everyone the same days off, there is no pressure to work and they can personally detach and recharge. – Todd Marks, Mindgrub
5. Hold virtual events to build on holiday fun.
Extend the holiday through the first weeks of the new year with biweekly virtual events that engage employees in mini-contests or holiday-themed sharing. You can consider sharing cooking or baking fails or wins, stories of family encounters, bad food photos or anything funny that just extends what was joyful or interesting. This promotes more face time with each other and learning about colleagues. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.
6. Deliver clear, consistent leadership communication.
Make sure that the communication from leadership remains consistent and clear. This translates to continual touchpoints that emphasize everyone’s value within the organization and their role in reaching the immediate and long-term goals of the company. People will continue to press forward with optimism if they know their work is making an impact. – Jarod Latch, Spiracle Media
7. Create ‘resolutions’ for employees’ careers.
The new year brings new goal setting. Everyone creates New Year’s resolutions for personal development, but not everyone considers career development. Enable employees to further their careers with tangible goal setting. By creating monthly, quarterly and annual measures your organization will continue to keep the January blues at bay! – Justin Mihalcin, Discount Dumpster Rental
8. Hold a daily unity challenge.
Bring your team together with a daily unity challenge. We have a companywide contest each day to keep everyone involved and connected to our culture. Over the holidays, we even hosted a 12-day unity contest in which each day featured a different holiday event, game or craft. All 30-plus of our teams hold daily morning huddles with their specific team members as well. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
9. Don’t put too much pressure on your team.
Things will probably be more challenging than usual in 2021 because many organizations will still be working remotely. Since there will be no way to encourage the team in person, the best thing you can do is to take it easy. Try not to put too much pressure on people. Limit out-of-hours communication — maybe even cancel a couple of meetings. See what works best for your company. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
10. Be realistic and open about your business goals.
It’s really important to be realistic with the goals you set for yourself and your business for the new year. Communicate clearly with your team, sharing how meeting short-term goals relates to the long-term strategy and your core values. Restate your core values now and be able to discuss how your Q1 goals align with those values. If you can’t do that, then it’s time to reevaluate the goals. – Wes Jackson, Three Wire Systems
11. Set a near-term, achievable milestone.
Move the target milestones closer. So much of the excitement of the holidays is about a milestone or threshold. As a leader, find a way to set a threshold that is near-term and will create excitement. – Russell Harrell, SFB IDEAS – a Strategic Marketing firm