December – the month where everyone and everything is geared up to the joys of the festive season and the BIG day of the year. One minute it’s all Christmas parties, present giving and sipping mulled wine at the local Christmas markets, and then in a blink of an eye Santa’s been and gone, the house is a tip and if you don’t ever see a turkey sandwich again it would be too soon! So you would think that by 2nd January we’d be chomping at the bit to return to our usual routine – back to work, decorations down, less family, less obligatory socialising, much less food and drink…. Yet it seems this may not be the case.
A recent study has found that it takes an average of 4 days to fully adjust to work after Christmas…. just as well many of us only had a three-day week to contend with this year! Furthermore, 52% of the 2000 surveyed said they would only be at work in body and not ‘in mind’. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/back-to-work-january-new-year-productivity-christmas-holiday-break-a8707631.html
So, what can we do to improve this as employers and employees?
Those email inboxes that haven’t been accessed in over a week don’t need any unnecessary additions – where possible communicate in person, be that face to face, by phone or in group chats. Where personal deadlines have been set, chat on a one-to-one level with individuals to get back up to speed with expectations.
When employees return to work after the holidays, they typically face an increased workload, and breakdowns in teamwork will keep employees working longer than necessary. To help employees through this make sure they understand their responsibilities and work together to complete them.
Procrastinating! After the holiday break, employees may procrastinate more than usual, chatting about who did what and sharing photos. This then leads to stress when work isn’t done. Although some distractions hinder performance, not all procrastination is bad, in a recent report more than 1,000 U.S. employees were surveyed, and they ranked trips to the water cooler or break room as the activity they believed enhanced productivity the most. Allow employees to take productive breaks and socialise with co-workers. Focus on making the most from their time by breaking down tasks and setting priorities and deadlines for each one. If employees know they will need to turn in those tasks at the end of the day, they may more likely to remain focused in getting the job done.
Embrace the blues! They’re not your fault. Researchers have found that the negative emotions associated with the end of the festive period, plus two weeks of irregular sleep patterns (not to mention irregular eating patterns) can throw our body-clocks out of sync and make us feel jet-lagged. Returning to our normal routine of early nights and waking up in the dark can induce what’s been dubbed ‘social jet lag’. Symptoms might include: feeling sluggish, struggling to sleep, indigestion, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, clumsiness, lack of energy and general fatigue.
Start gently, don’t use the period post- festive break as an excuse to slack. It won’t look good. Instead, acknowledge where your dwindling energy will be best channelled to get the ball rolling. Being honest with yourself is half the battle and will mean you don’t end up feeling frustrated or letting others down.
Accept that you will have to devote a chunk of time to tackling your email inbox. A thankless but necessary task. If your entire office had a two-week break, you might be lucky enough to be in the triple figures. But for many, trawling through a mailbox that hasn’t been accessed for 2 weeks can take the best part of a day.
Try and get organised the night before that first day back - choose your clothes for the next day (if there are any that still fit!), find your train pass / car keys and have your bag ready to go, step away from the wine and cheese and go to bed early. Try to arrive at your desk in the morning with as much positive mental attitude possible. Don’t grumble about the end of the holidays, or get overly caught up in your colleagues’ stories of insane parties or hilarious new year’s resolutions; focus!
The main thing for everyone to remember is that we’re all in the same boat. You, your family, your colleagues, your boss - some people even went back to work earlier than you…… others don’t have the luxury of time off over Christmas. The right frame of mind will help you get through those first sluggish days, and before you know it you’ll be back to meeting deadlines, thinking up the next big idea and plan of action, dealing with office politics, and counting down to your summer holiday.