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.
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.
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
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.
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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