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7 Ways to Motivate Employees in the New Year

January 13, 2020 | By 20/20 Onsite
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While we’d like to think that employees return to work feeling refreshed and recharged after the holidays, the reality is that this is not always the case! When the holidays end, the excitement and festivities fade, and employees often feel overwhelmed by the work that has piled up over the break. Additionally, for some employees, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) starts to set in, along with the “winter blues” (a milder form of SAD). According to Workforce.com, 6% of the U.S. population suffers from SAD, and 14% percent have the winter blues. Research shows that these conditions cost businesses $26 billion dollars in treatment costs for depression, and $51 billion due to absenteeism and lost productivity. 

As leaders of your organization, it’s important to prioritize creating a healthy work environment for employees, so that they can start the new year off on the right foot. This will ultimately boost employee engagement and employee productivity, and result in a happier team. We’ve developed a list of seven ways that you can help motivate your employees in the new year.

1. Establish clear goals and objectives.

According to Gallup, only half of employees understand what is expected of them at work. The same study showed that only 32% of employees strongly agree that their manager helps them set performance goals, and about 38% strongly agree their manager supports them in setting work priorities. Without clear goals, employee engagement suffers. Gallup recommends three key areas (the three “As”) that managers should focus on to support employees:

  • Achievement: Establish clear goals and expectations of your employees, as well as direction on how they can achieve those goals. 
  • Accountability: Hold employees accountable by meeting regularly to discuss their progress. 
  • Accessibility: Make it clear to your team that you are available at any time to provide support.


2. Instead of "assigning" tasks, encourage ownership. 

Research shows that 74% of employees surveyed feel micromanaged by their employers. The job of managers is not to assign task after task to employees and micromanage every step of the way, but rather to empower employees to take ownership of their work. While it is certainly important to provide your team with counsel and support, you don’t want to spoon-feed them all the answers, or inflict your own ways of working upon them. Build trust with employees by empowering them to figure things out their own way. If they make a mistake, it’s a learning opportunity!

3. Schedule regular brainstorming sessions.

Brainstorming sessions are valuable for a variety of reasons. They have the potential to:

  • foster creativity 
  • uncover new solutions to a problem that you can’t discover when working in a silo.
  • promote team-building 
  • give employees a voice
  • gather various perspectives 
  • encourage critical thinking 

A common issue that organizations face with brainstorming is lack of preparation. To avoid feeling scattered or disorganized during a brainstorm, leaders should set a clear agenda, establish goals and objectives for the meeting, and share background materials with employees in advance of the session, so they have time to prepare. This will make for a more fruitful discussion.


4. Allow employees to focus on what they’re most passionate about.

Each of your employees brings different experience, skill-sets, and interests to the table. Identify each of these areas for your employees, and structure their workload accordingly. Certainly not every aspect of their job is going to be enjoyable at every second of every day, but by showing employees that you want to help them create the role they want, it will naturally boost their engagement and overall happiness in the office.

5. Get to know your team, both professionally and personally.

Gallup found that employees who have regular 1:1s with their managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t. Schedule weekly check-ins with each of your team members to review their workload, set priorities, and check in on their overall health and well-being, both inside and outside of the office. Showing your team that you care about their personal and professional growth will establish trust, which ultimately enables a healthy work environment that breeds productivity.


6. Listen to your employees - and act on their feedback.

Employees want to feel valued, appreciated, and heard, and there’s research to back it up: 

  • One study done in the UK found that giving employees a voice resulted in higher levels of employee engagement, lower staff turnover, and better business outcomes
  • When an employee feels heard, that person is 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their abilities. 
  • Only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that their opinions seem to count. 

Good managers listen before they act. Be sure to provide ample opportunities for employees to provide their perspectives via 1 on 1s, team meetings, town halls, and surveys. We recommend planning a company-wide meeting in the month of January to reflect on the previous year and look ahead at what’s to come in the months ahead. Importantly, you must also act on the feedback you receive! Communicate clearly to employees that you hear them, and set a plan into motion to address any concerns or recommendations they may have. 


7. Boost your wellness program

Research shows that employee wellness programs can:

  • improve employee health behaviors 
  • reduce elevated health risks, such as blood glucose, high blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure
  • reduce healthcare costs
  • improve productivity 
  • decrease absenteeism 

Did you know that one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on well-being at their company? Make self-care easy for employees by bringing wellness directly to work. Some examples include: 

  • Onsite healthcare: research shows that convenience is disrupting the healthcare industry. In fact, 80% of patients say they would switch providers for “convenience factors” alone. To meet this need, you can bring healthcare services directly to employees at the office. For example, 2020 On-site brings on-site eye exams and eyewear to corporate companies, at no cost!
  • Health education: bring in a certified nutritionist or dietician to explain to employees the impact of adopting healthy behaviors both in and outside of the workplace. 
  • Monthly or quarterly wellness event: organize a monthly or quarterly event for employees featuring different topics related to wellness. One such example is to have a potluck lunch, where employees prepare their favorite healthy meals and bring in the recipes to distribute to the team. Another idea is to host a health fair. Find out everything you need to know to plan a successful health fair using our handy checklist.
  • Running clubs: organizing a running club at your company is a great way to not only boost employee wellness, but also foster team-building and camaraderie. 
  • Financial wellness: your bank account is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “wellness,” but the research tells us it should not be overlooked! 58% of employers reported that financial “illness” plays a role in employee absenteeism, and 71% of employees say their top source of stress is personal finances. Consider creating a lunch and learn where you hire a financial planner to help employees implement healthy practices to manage their finances. 
  • Mental health: as mentioned, during this time of year, seasonal affective disorder and the “winter blues” start to set in, which can lead to depression for some employees. In the workplace, consider supplementing your employee wellness program with wellbeing coaches - such as life coaches or behavioral health coaches. Research shows that employees are more creative and do better work when they are in mentally-healthy work environments.

For more ideas on how to improve your wellness program, check out our eBook,“18 Brilliant Ways to Boost Wellness on a Budget”.

Related to the topic of motivating employees, we also recently published two eBooks on how to boost employee engagement and reduce workplace stress. These resources provide several other ways to create healthy work environments for employees. We highly recommend giving these a read as you strive to make employee health and productivity the very best they can be in the new year!

Click the image to download our 7 ways to Make Your Employees More Engaged eBook!

7 Ways to Make Your Employees More Engaged


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