January 15, 2018

Did You Beat the January Blues? (Nine Employee Absence Tips for Winter)

If any of your employees called in sick on Monday 15th January, you’re not alone.

The third Monday in January is known as ‘Blue Monday’ and has been calculated as the most depressing day of the year, with one of the highest levels of absence.

The lack of employee motivation at this time of year is caused by a number of factors, such as returning to work after annual leave; debt from Christmas; failed New Year’s resolutions; dark mornings and bad weather.

So how can you motivate your employees and keep them in work?

Here are nine top tips from our HR experts:

1. Inform employees of any exciting plans

What plans do you have to motivate your employees this year? Inform your employees of the business objectives for the coming year and how they will each play a key role in achieving them. By communicating with your employees and keeping them updated, they will feel more engaged.

2. Highlight the successes of 2017

When you meet with your team to discuss the successes of last year, it’s important to acknowledge and praise your employees’ contributions and efforts. This will help them to feel valued and encourage them continue to work effectively. Even something as simple as saying ‘thank you’ to an employee can help to lift their mood.

3. Set targets for 2018

Have you thought about involving your employees in target setting for 2018? It’s much easier to get their buy-in to meet those targets if they’ve helped to define them. Try setting milestones and review meetings so successes can be celebrated and keep employees focused and motivated.

4. Keep your spirits up!

Are you leading by example and staying positive? How you react and behave will have a dramatic impact on your team. You will need to generate enthusiasm for what you do to keep staff members motivated too.

5. Wellbeing

Employees who are healthy and content are much more engaged and productive. For example, have you considered providing healthy snacks and fruit in the workplace? Promoting healthy foods will help to prevent your employees experiencing withdrawal from the large quantity of food and chocolate they consumed over the Christmas holidays.

As a more long term strategy, many employers now actively promote health at work, with benefits such as subsidised gym memberships or discounted purchases on bikes.

To implement a similar system yourself, take a look at your work benefits to see what can be improved (without breaking the bank).

Also, you could consider benefits such as bereavement support, access to counselling or discounts for goods and services, which are available from health and wellbeing providers at very little cost.

Understand the cost of employee absence to SMEs

6. Work life balance

Research shows that many employees value job flexibility over other terms, such as pay.

There is no doubt that striking the right balance between work and home life is a very important aspect of modern life. Some employers offer career breaks or sabbatical leave, while others offer informal or formal systems of flexi-time.

A valuable flexible benefit is the option to either ‘buy’ additional holiday entitlement or indeed ‘sell’ it, meaning staff members can tailor their package to suit their own particular needs.

Don’t forget to encourage employees to take regular breaks and switch off when at home.

7. Provide feedback

Having regular meetings, giving feedback, celebrating achievements are all ways to keep staff motivated. Providing regular and consistent feedback will help employees to understand how your organisation works, where they fit into it and how their contribution counts towards the overall goals.

8. Build trust

Trust is one of the most important parts of the working relationship, but it can break down easily, leading to reduced productivity and low morale.

Being honest with staff members is one of the best ways to build trust. Even if it’s bad news, most employees prefer to know rather than be kept in the dark. Holding back bad news or not being completely straight with staff members could make them ‘fear the worst’.

Eventually, the truth will come out and, if it differs from the official position, it creates a huge sense of mistrust between you.

Openness and honesty is always the best policy.

9. Consider introducing an employee recognition scheme

A recognition scheme could be a way to highlight individual or team achievements. It would help with staff retention too.

Absence, whether in January or not, always needs to be monitored so you can easily spot patterns of non-attendance, identify the possible causes and address any issues.

Don’t forget to conduct return to work interviews after each period of absence to ensure focused discussions about the reasons for the absence.

If you would like more information on how to manage employee absence, download our Cost of Employee Absence whitepaper or take at look at our other employer resources.


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About the author

Louise Gillibrand

Louise is a generalist Human Resource professional with over 18 years’ experience across a variety of sectors including care, medical, retail and telecommunications, and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Louise provides sound practical and business-focused advice in line with employment legislation and best practice, and has worked in partnership with line managers, senior operational managers and directors. Typical consultancy projects include advice on complex employee relations issues, redundancy programmes, restructures, TUPE, recruitment, policy writing and grievance/disciplinary handling. In addition to her generalist knowledge she is experienced in delivering training on a wide variety of employment law and HR subjects. Louise joined the Moorepay consultancy team in October 2007.