How to Help Your Team Ease Back into a Routine After the Holidays

How to Help Your Team Ease Back into a Routine After the Holidays

For many companies, January 1st marks the end of winter break. It's becoming commonplace for companies to put business operations on hold between the last weeks of December through the first days of January.

For some, jumping back into the workday — whether virtually or in-person — can be daunting. And switching from family dinners to weekly meetings can be a jolt to even the most skilled professionals.

As a project manager, it's helpful to identify ways to help yourself and your team members ease back into a daily routine.

Here are nine ways to make a smooth transition from winter break to the office

Let Your Team Catch up on Email and Voicemails

How many times have you returned from paid-time-off to see an overwhelming number of emails and voicemails? While some vendors and clients may have been off for the holidays, many may not have. This means that some stakeholders could have reached out during that time. So, make sure you give your team members that time they need to follow up on any correspondence.

A recent survey published by email platform, Superhuman revealed that work communications like email or Slack were the most distracting tasks for professionals surveyed. Therefore, it's critical to get ahead of this, so these communications don't derail progress as you move into the rest of the year.

Tackle Lower Priority Activities

Instead of jumping right into a project timeline, it might be best to use the first week or two of January to focus on lower priority and administrative tasks. Are there files that need organizing? Could the shared folder use some cleaning up?

Try to identify some low-stakes activities that you and your teams can tackle. Not only does this allow your team to ease back into a routine and slowly get used to being back at work, but it can help you make time for some more minor problems that may have been an issue over the past year.

Encourage Flexibility

Do you have a set start time? You may want to build in some leeway for your team members as you all readjust to a standard work time. For two weeks — and in some cases longer — your team members have had a different daily routine.

Additionally, some working parents may have to tackle a volatile school schedule as the pandemic shudders school pans. Others may be managing new caregiving duties as the holidays come close. Regardless of the circumstance, allowing your team members to have flexible start and end times can eliminate stress and increase productivity.

In addition to the potential for increased productivity, flexible work schedules can also foster loyalty. A 2020 FlexJobs survey revealed that 79% of respondents are more loyal to their employer if they have flexible work options.

This setup can look like allowing your team to start work within a more varied time range or even instituting half-days on a weekday to enable team members to handle personal matters.

Be Clear about What January and February Look Like

What can employees expect for the rest of the winter season? Give your team time to settle, but be very clear about what they can expect regarding work and scheduling. Let your team know if the company offers a flexible start time only for January or takes a break from projects until February.

Being clear about what this season will look like will give your team members the information to plan out their days and ease any worries about what they can expect. Also, consider having a Q&A where you answer any team members' questions regarding what work schedules will look like going into the spring.

Make Sure Your Team Members are Taking Breaks

Sixty-two percent of workers eat lunch at their desks. Also, research by the time tracking app, DeskTime, revealed that the most productive individuals take breaks every hour . Our working culture doesn't always embrace the need for rest periods. However, they're needed.

It's critical that you encourage your team members to take consistent breaks. Not only will this help them stay productive, but it also sends the message that healthy work practices and rest are a priority for you and the company.

Again, as soon as a few weeks ago, most of your team were not working regular business hours. Therefore, it's essential that you encourage them to ease back into their work schedule by prioritizing breaks.

Be Patient and Realistic

Go into these next couple of months understanding that things may not feel normal for a while. You may not get to everything you want to, and recognize that it's okay and normalize this for yourself and your team members. Setting the expectations that work may be slow can help your team members understand what's normal and what isn't.

Also, consider taking the first few weeks of January to collaborate and work with your vendors and clients to communicate when you'll be ready to take on projects again. This correspondence will allow everyone to coordinate project start times with each other.

Have a Kick-Off Event

Have a week-long kick-off event to add some structure to this time and tell your teams about any new developments regarding scheduling and upcoming tasks. This event can help set the stage for the rest of the winter months.

A kick-off event would be a great time to inform team members of any augmented schedules, discuss when project-based work may start again, and help them prepare to ramp up for upcoming projects within the next few weeks. This event can also be the forum for office hours (which answer any questions about upcoming tasks) and for teams to collaborate and prepare for the rest of the quarter.

Encourage Goal-setting

This first quarter is an excellent time to revisit any goals discussed in the previous year. Also, if they didn't have the chance to create any plans last year, encourage them to do so now. You can even sync these activities with performance reviews and manager check-ins.

These actions can lead to higher productivity as various research studies reveal that goal-setting can lead to higher achievement.

You want to make sure that teams, team leads, and managers are all on the same page. You may have individuals who wish to increase their skills in a specific area or want to know if they are meeting their manager's expectations. Therefore, see about using this time for team members and their managers to sync and address goals for the year.

Embrace a Hybrid Work Arrangement

Depending on COVID-19 numbers in your city, you may already be working remotely. However, if you aren't, you may want to consider a hybrid remote work arrangement. Just like instituting a flexible schedule, allowing your team members to work remotely one or even two days out of the week can help them improve their productivity and have more control over their time. According to an Accenture Future of Work Study, it can also lead to a better bottom-line, as a "productivity anywhere" mindset has been adopted by 63% of high revenue growth companies .

They can avoid lengthy commutes, better handle family duties, and ease back into work while spending time at home — where they may be more comfortable. Hybrid work arrangements can be a great way to help your team members ease back into their work routines.

It's Okay For Things Not to Feel Normal

The holidays are a time of rest. However, it is still a disrupting event that will make things feel not-so-normal. Your team members could be handling various situations as they come back to work. Their first couple of days could even be filled just with answering emails and catching up on voicemails.

Therefore, use January to ramp up for the year. Don't feel the pressure to jump into projects, tasks, and high-intensity work immediately. Taking the time to get back to normal can pay off for yourself and your teams.

While all the steps on this list can be critical to getting back to normalcy, being patient will likely be the key to getting back on track. Also, be realistic about what you all can do coming off an extended break. Slowly easing back into a routine will help everyone feel like they are on the same page and can smoothly move into the rest of the year.


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