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Banishing post-holiday blues from the workplace and keeping staff switched on

Though the UK may have experienced a belated and unexpected heatwave, the summer holidays have come to an unwelcome end. Children are back at school, you can’t get a seat on the train and people have returned to work, slightly sunburnt and downcast with a case of holiday blues.
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After a summer when business has been disrupted by the Olympics and Wimbledon, employers would be forgiven in thinking that things will finally be getting back to normal. However, nothing makes you question whether you’re in the right job more than returning to work after a break with the holiday blues. Employees who feel disengaged and disheartened, particularly after the highs of a summer holiday, could be driven to speculatively begin looking elsewhere.

Of course, management teams should always be looking at ways in which they can keep employees motivated, not just when they need to arrest a dip in productivity. And at this time of year the need is greater than ever. It’s therefore crucial for organisations to focus on employee engagement to support retention and keep productivity levels high during the potential slump caused by post-holiday blues.

Money talks? Not always…

An important part of keeping a workforce motivated, especially in the increasingly competitive job market, is to make sure employees are fairly rewarded, but that doesn’t necessarily mean handing out pay rises.

In fact, recent Kronos research shows that out of the 11 top reasons why respondents would consider leaving their job, remuneration ranked a lowly ninth on the list. As it turns out, doling out financial compensation does not necessarily guarantee employee loyalty or longevity.

So what can employers do and which benefits work?

Employers should consider a more personalised approach to engagement. The way we work has changed and people want to believe in the business they work for and to feel they are part of its success, all while being treated fairly. It therefore may not come as a surprise that not feeling valued in the workplace topped the list as the main reason respondents consider resigning, with 60 per cent.

After all, it is part of human nature to want to do well and to be acknowledged for our achievements. Whether it’s coming top of the class in school, right through to doing a job well in the workplace, people want to be praised for their hard work. Commending employees for exceptional work can be a huge boost but often businesses find it hard to identify those individuals who are performing the best. Without systems that are able to monitor employee performance, managers will always find it hard to single out individual employees for rightful praise.

Other ways in which management teams could boost engagement revolves around giving the employee more ownership of their work-life balance. In fact, the Kronos research found that 41 per cent of employees regard flexible working as the main reward they look for in employment.

Rather than just dishing out a blanket annual bonus, offering things such as flexi-hours, employee self-service and self-rostering can all help to make employees feel more valued, empowered and engaged. It will also take the sting out of coming back to work following annual leave if they already feel they have a healthy work-life balance. As a result, engaged employees will be far more productive and loyal to your business, and drive an increased output during the time that they are at work.

Another big benefit to the business is that a better work-life balance is likely to drive down absenteeism at critical times in the year – like post-summer holidays and in the run up to Christmas – when employees are more likely to phone in sick.

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However, with this kind of flexibility comes a need to manage the process in a way that works for both employees and employers. This is where visibility is the key to everything. As the saying goes, you can’t change what you can’t measure, and it is true. If you do not have real-time data, you cannot make the decisions that will enable you to maximise the performance of your workforce and your business.

It’s all well and good to offer flexibility, but it’s critical to implement a consistent attendance and leave policy to support that flexibility for all levels within the organisation. This creates a workplace environment that has a feeling of equality and fairness, which in turn encourages employees to be more productive and loyal to the business and their co-workers.

If everyone plays by the same rules and have a stake in organising work shifts and holidays, employees will be less likely to “pull a sickie”, as they know it is okay to take time off to recharge. They will also appreciate the impact on their colleagues if they take unauthorised leave without prior notice.

Meanwhile, the management team will have clear visibility over attendance, and plans can be put in place to avoid overburdening individuals or impacting productivity by having unqualified cover. This will harness a healthy culture in which people feel responsible for the days they take off.

Happy and empowered employees result in a productive workforce. Making the workplace somewhere people actually want to come to work, rather than wishing they were back on the beach or looking for pastures new, will add real value to business productivity. When going to work feels like a hardship, or is depressing, productivity suffers. Communication is the fundamental point that everything hinges upon. Only when employers make an effort to find out what their employees really want, will they really understand what to give them.

Listen intently and intelligently, respond accordingly, and the post-holiday blues will be overcome; in their place will be a recharged, motivated and loyal workforce.

Neil Pickering is marketing and industry insights manager at Kronos

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Image: Shutterstock

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