Workplace blues and how to beat them

Motivate your employees, boost their happiness and find your business mojo with expert advice from a leading business psychologist.

You’ve made it through January, only to discover your employees are still suffering from the blues. So, what now? It’s time to help them regain their get-up-and-go attitude – otherwise, your business could fall into the slow lane.

Revealing the secret behind the January lull is Sarah-Jane Last, co-founder of leadership consultancy company, CDP. We spoke to her about her how-tos for lifting employee spirits and how to maintain this feeling throughout the year.

What is it about January that makes people feel so deflated at work?

80% of employees are actively disengaged at work; this ‘blue’ feeling isn’t unique to January, it’s experienced throughout the year and across the globe. It’s brought to the floor at this time because it’s a miserable month weather-wise and employees have just had a long period away from work, celebrating Christmas. Coming back and having to adopt a working mentality again is a shock to the system. They’re under a lot of pressure, especially from social media, to create and stick to New Year’s resolutions like, ‘Veganuary’ and ‘Dry January’. There’s all this talk of change and, if you’re stuck in the same career, same job role, same manager and not taking part in this change, it can be a bit of a downer.

What can a small business owner do to support their employees’ wellbeing?

The most important thing in any business, regardless of size, is leadership. Everything comes from the top down; the business owner is the most important predictor of someone’s enjoyment or ability to flourish in a particular job role. If they’re not doing their job properly then that’s going to have a trickle effect. ‘What should the employee be doing?’ should be flipped to, ‘what is the leader not doing?’ Rather than quick fixes, they need to take a long hard look at themselves as a leader and the effect they’re having on their staff. That’s essentially the lynchpin of when companies thrive or die.

Do you have any morale-boosting examples for businesses?

In small companies, I understand money is tight. You need to question, ‘what can I do that’ll both improve employee morale and save costs?’ If your employees get an email that said, ‘office is closing at two tomorrow’, they’ll be over the moon because it’ll mean they can devote their afternoon to themselves – yoga, shopping, or travelling home early to see their kids. And, it won’t cost you a lot of money. It’s those random acts of kindness that will make a huge difference.

Something that can really change the running of a small business is to come up with ways to relieve the monotony of the winter months together – as a team. Different people have different lives, so something that is important to one person may not be as important to another, for example, spending quality time with their kids. A collective meeting will make every member of your team feel heard and valued.

What role can technology play in keeping employees engaged?

In her book ‘Thrive’, Arianna Huffington reveals the mental challenges she experienced when running Huffington Post, and how this led her to develop a software which ensured her employees’ wellbeing. When she set up her succeeding business, she created an app that banked her employees’ emails from 6.30pm to 8am the next day, so they physically couldn’t open them during these hours.

Also, a team of business psychologists developed an app, called WiseAmigo, which allows employees to rate their colleagues on their ability in a particular job area. It means they can see how they’re growing throughout their career journey and can prove their development to future employers. The problem with poorly devised training programmes is, they usually cost a large amount of money, often require employees to leave the office and there’s no way of telling if they’re going to be useful. This app offers a more effective and productive solution.

Anything that makes you take time out of your working day to focus on ‘me-time’ is great, technology included – even if it’s using your mobile to catch-up with friends. We cram as many working hours into our week as humanly possible, it’s time we were mindful of our wellbeing.

What can business leaders do to ensure they keep the pace throughout the year?

Dedicate a day to discuss a three-month goal plan. The majority of these goals will be business orientated but, make sure you’re mindful of your employees’ lives. One of your employees may be more productive at 6am than the 9am-norm, or need an extended lunch break to go for a mind-clearing run. If that’s what they need to be their happiest (and most productive) then you should seriously consider doing everything you can to make it work. It’s about realising your employees aren’t robots, but people – that way they’ll be more likely to perform at their best in the workplace and benefit your business.

Want to read more from Sarah-Jane? Check out her top five tips on how to energise your employees and set your business up for a positive year coming soon.