Getting staff back up to speed after a summer holiday
by: Nick Hood
Nick Hood, partner at the UK’s leading independent corporate recovery firm Begbies Traynor, gets to grips with the factors that cause members of staff to suffer from post-holiday blues and suggests some measures managers can take to alleviate their problems.
|Summer is drawing to a close and staff are returning to work en masse after their holidays. Conventional management theory says that employees should be feeling refreshed, renewed, invigorated, and raring to get back in harness and demonstrate maximum efficiency. Well, that’s the spin, but for senior managers, the reality is not normally quite so positive. Instead, frequently they have cope with staff who after a holiday are returning less-than-eager for the fray.
The truth is that staff probably will, unless they are exceedingly peculiar types or ones with little or no social life outside of work, be a little lethargic and almost certainly unmotivated, and are back more in body than in spirit. As a very recent study conducted by my firm found that 81 percent of the 500 workers we interviewed said they “worked to live, not live to work” so it’s not surprising that the grim reality of working after a summer break produces post-holiday misery. This is also borne out by a survey on monster.com, which found that only 7% claimed not to get some form or other of back-to-work blues.
Of course, this situation is little help to company managers struggling to achieve sales or other forms of targets. It is even more important for managers at smaller companies, where there is often little spare capacity and every role is a vital one, that staff when back from holidays regain quickly their productivity.
The good news is that there is plenty that can be done to ease a person back to work and this often involves little more than common sense actions and simple procedures. First and foremost, effort should be spent before the member of staff goes on holiday in making sure that there has been a thorough handover of their work. They should be encouraged to write down in a formal “handover” document all outstanding tasks that must be completed in their absence and their manager should make sure colleagues have been delegated to pick these up. Many will no doubt agree that there is little more demotivating than going on holiday in the certain knowledge that nothing will done in their absence and that they will come back to a large amount of urgent work. A holiday won’t stand a chance of reinvigorating an employee if they have in the back of their mind fear of the mess and carnage that they might have to face up to on return.
On the day they get back to work, their line manager should dedicate time to the returning staff member to give them a full debrief about progress and changes made in relation to their role since they took their holiday. This immediately demonstrates their importance to the organisation, and offers a timely boost to their morale.
As with all staff, the best way of generating goodwill and hard work is to treat them with the respect you like to be treated with. It’s a good idea not to overload staff members with new work after their holiday. It’s much better to allow them at least a day or two to get back into the swing of things. Like you, they need time to digest emails, speak to colleagues, and generally catch up on work gossip and news they missed while away.
One way of restoring enthusiasm is to save a particularly interesting task, or frankly a nice treat, for their return. Again, this speaks volumes about your respect for their role and their contribution. It’s also wise to realise that even the most highly motivated and strongly performing of employees might suffer from the very real psychological aspect of ‘post-holiday blues’. According to the well-known psychotherapist Phillip Hodson, post-holiday blues are more than a case of being a little down-in-the-dumps. “Huge demands are being made on us [at work] both mentally and physically. Going straight back into that from a stress-free holiday environment can be a real shock to the system”, he says.
Naturally, not all should be the manager’s responsibility. Older and more experienced staff members often find their own coping mechanisms. One former colleague of mine used to immediately book his next holiday on return, giving himself the pleasure of something to look forward to.
Finally, the problem of post-holiday blues is exacerbated by Britons taking the least time off in Europe. If managers were a shade more generous with holiday, there might be less onus on staff trying to fit so much relaxation into a short-ish summer break.