At the end of 2021 we could hazard a guess that all the world’s employees felt extremely fatigued (read: outrageously over it). With all the stress of the year, who could blame us for feeling weary?
After employees return from the holiday break – rested, well-fed and possibly a little sunburnt – it’s time to shake off the hangover of the past two years. How can leaders help their teams bust the bad vibes and hit refresh on employee mindset for the new year?
Set new goals for the year
Helping your staff make new year’s resolutions is an obvious (but powerful) way to get them feeling inspired. A new year is a great ‘temporal landmark’, a point that can trigger reflection upon our past behaviours and cause us to consider our desired future behaviour.
Ask your team – what kind of employee do they want to be in 2022? How do they want to improve from the previous year? What do they want to strive for? Get them to list five things that they’re excited about achieving in the new year.
For your management team and for yourself, ask what kind of leader do you want to be in the new year? How will you change your leadership style to get the best out of your team? What can you do differently to lead by example? Ask for feedback from your staff to find out what they want and need from you.
When considering professional goals for your employees or yourself, remember to always let your company values be your guide. Remembering the good work that you do and how your product or service can add value to your clients or customers’ lives is a great way to build motivation.
It’s an old tip but a gold tip, write your employees and your own goals down! Write down not only what you want to achieve but why it’s important to you to achieve it. Reiterate both of these things at regular intervals throughout the year when motivation can begin to wane. Better yet, add it to the agenda in your one on one (1:1) meetings.
Get to know your employees better by also enquiring about their personal goals. Do they want to complete a triathlon this year? Maybe they want to learn how to meditate or save for a property deposit? Letting employees know that you’re there to support personal and professional goals is a great way to keep them engaged. This is especially important if you’re continuing to work from home in 2022.
Our favourite way to set goals is to use Objective and Key Results (OKRs). With companies like Google and Netflix finding great success with this powerful strategy, we strongly recommend using it to kickstart work in the new year. OKRs may seem overwhelming at first, but stick with it! It’s an incredibly powerful goal-setting framework that can transform your team.
Throw out your old working style
If there’s any time to disrupt general routines and road test productivity techniques, now is the time. Following old working styles and chasing old priorities can slow your team down significantly. Have your team start by evaluating their old commitments.
“Question all of your work commitments.” – Elizabeth Grace Saunders
“Question all of your work commitments,” writes management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders for the Harvard Business Review. “In many work environments, tasks and projects get piled on without any clear sense of priorities or time capacity. The beginning of a new year marks the perfect time to clean house and reevaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.”
Ask your team to brainstorm some new working styles together. There’s power in numbers – if multiple people start a new habit it’s more likely to stick through. Here are some popular habits to get them started:
Set times for checking emails and messages: Have you ever found yourself having difficulty in getting back on track after being interrupted by an email or message? A productivity study from the University of California found that it takes an average of 23 minutes for an employee to re-engage with a task after being distracted. The study also found that people who were interrupted more often experienced a higher workload, more stress and more time pressure. How can you rectify this? Try scheduling a time to check your emails, like at 9am, 2pm and 5pm. Follow a similar schedule with instant messaging apps.
Schedule regular breaks: If you give your brain and body regular breaks throughout the day, you’ll find it easier to stay refreshed and fight fatigue. Researchers have found that the optimum focus time is about an hour – working in cycles of 52 minutes and 17 minutes break to be exact. There’s also the increasingly popular Pomodoro Technique, where employees work in 25 minute stints, broken up with 5 minute breaks. Of course, what you do on your breaks matter. Resist the scroll and instead get up for a stretch, drink a glass of water or go for a short walk. Remind everyone who starts a new habit that it takes 66 days on average to form a new habit, the effects might not be immediate, and they should keep going!
Do a monthly ‘mindset audit’: After the exciting buzz of the new year wears off, it’s important to check in with yourself to stay refreshed. Executive coach Amanda Blessing told the ABC that workers should ask themselves three questions;
- Are my beliefs and biases getting in my own way?
- Is my mindset actually proactive and positive?
- Am I going into things with a can-do attitude and treating my career as an “exciting playground”?
Auditing yourself on these topics can help keep you feeling excited about your work and keep you curious about evolving into a better and happier employee.
Take the time to make remote working awesome
2020 and 2021 saw workers around the world rush to slap together home offices and home working habits. The speed at which we all shipped out of the office was not conducive to great remote working operations.
Remote working is here to stay for the long term (92% of employees surveyed for our Remote Working Report said they wanted to continue working from home in some capacity after lockdown). With this front of mind, now’s the time to help your employees embrace all of the great things about this working style.
Ergonomics is the hot word of the moment. Allocate a small allowance so that your employees can make their home offices comfortable (working from home should not mean working from the couch). Investing in a proper office chair, desk and laptop stand can go a long way for your employees’ health.
Evaluate your operational systems. How useful is your internal messaging platform? Are your team properly collaborating using task management systems? Do you have HR software that can easily onboard new staff members remotely? The ‘clean slate’ feeling of a year sets the perfect scene for implementing helpful new systems and training staff how to use them effectively. Not sure about what is the best HR system for you? We can help. Check out our comprehensive guide to HR technology.
Lastly, think about the possibilities of becoming a hybrid team in the new year. A hybrid team works from home half the time, in the office half the time, with the office generally being a destination for collaboration and brainstorming.
Mental, physical and financial wellness was truly tested in the past two years. Most of us finished 2021 feeling drained after fighting against the year. Last year was about keeping afloat, no one could have expected more than that. Now’s the time to rebuild.
A sense of wellness is a key element of a positive mindset. Employee wellness should be examined throughout the year, with research showing that one-time wellness events are simply not helpful for most workers. Wise workplaces will implement a health promotion strategy that senior leaders actively promote.
Remove the stigma from mental health
A new year is a great time to set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you don’t already have one. An EAP is a free and confidential counselling service that you can offer your employees. Regular informal check-ins with employees can also help you recognise when something has changed and the person may need assistance, so be sure to catch up often. Encourage all employees to only work within stated hours and take time off when they need it. Stay tuned for original research from Employment Hero about employee wellness in 2022.
Celebrate fitness at work
Allocate some time in the workweek for employees to exercise and encourage them to have fun with fitness together. Have you considered facilitating a work sports team? If there’s a fitness event coming up together, a training team could be a great option to help bring your employees together?
If your team is working remotely, set up a company group on Strava or Nike Running Club. This can help you keep track of your team’s achievements and even provide incentives for employees that smash their goals. Looking for something online? Why not take a look at virtual yoga classes.
Don’t forget financial wellness
Financial wellness is an easily-forgotten area of support that employees are looking to their employers for assistance. Consider offering your team sessions with a financial advisor a couple of times a year to help them stay financially well. Offer small concessions around the office – a coffee machine that makes cafe-style coffee is a low-cost way to help employees save money (and keep them happy!).
If either of these options are too expensive for your business, direct your employees to ASIC’s Money Smart, or start a conversation to share savings tips. Want to give your employees access to awesome discounts on a huge range of products? Employment Hero’s Discounts has great deals on everything from everyday goods and services to gifts.
Be realistic about what went down in 2021, and the uncertainty of what could be ahead
It’s ok to say that 2021 was probably not the most productive year on record. If your team kept their heads above water and persevered through all of the disruption, that’s a huge achievement in itself. Whilst you might want to rush into 2022 and make up for any lost productivity, we would caution against kicking the year off with too much intensity. Sadly, the pandemic isn’t over yet. As the world continues to vaccinate and try to move forward, the events of 2021 are likely to linger a little longer and continue to be a source of uncertainty for your staff.
2021 taught us to be empathetic, have patience and act with kindness. It might be the only good thing to come out of the year, but it’s worth bringing with us into the future.
Transform your HR for the new year!
Employment Hero makes work easier and more rewarding for everyone. A new year is a great time to implement a new system, book a demo with one of our small business specialists to see how our features can work for you.