The work marathon begins again
Plodder reaches the 100m mark of the 26km marathon marginally ahead of the field after a cracking start, only to fall victim to a mystery illness. An illness later identified as exhaustion.
Slow down and take a deep breath, now begin
Getting organised in the New Year, straightening up your wardrobe, running the duster over a few surfaces, straightening piles of papers, scouring the ring off the inside of your coffee cup – it’s all critical stuff after a long and tough calendar year. Christmas brings with it a mass of frantic activity made bearable by the inevitable and defining conclusion, whatever that is for you: Christmas Day, the office Christmas party or perhaps even the Boxing Day sales if that takes your fancy (and takes your bank balance). It’s not realistic or sustainable to carry on that frantic level of activity in the New Year knowing you’re facing another 365 or so days. You can’t start the next marathon at a sprint. You need to pace yourself and your team to ensure resilience, an important factor in employee engagement.
Forming a habit
They say it takes 3 weeks or 21 days to form a habit. That’s according to Psycho Cybernetics… Yes, I have that weird book at home. The only habit I formed at the time of reading the book was putting it down after a page and falling asleep. I wish I had one of those brains that consumed information like consuming a Sunday Roast after a day in the field, but alas, I remain a shadow of the intellectual I might have been. But I do note that it’s amazing how remarkably easy it is to form a habit in 3 weeks flat when that habit is a sleep in, overeating, a leisurely stroll to the coffee shop, and so on. All those little things you do on your break over the festive season. The things you put no effort into, but they fall comfortably into habitual behaviour 2 or 3 days in.
And breaking that habit
Apparently it’s not so easy to break a habit. Once your neural pathway to the coffee shop is well trodden and worn, you will find yourself sitting with a latte and lemon slice and wondering how you even got there before too long. After the break and upon your return to the office, you’ll be seeing images of the steam from the milk frother out your office window and you’ll smell the rich aroma of roasted coffee in the dust on the window blinds. Ok, I see it – I smell it now – back in a minute, I’ll finish this post later after a quick espresso.
A couple or preparatory stretches
Look, you wouldn’t throw on the footy shorts or the netball skirt and run straight on to the field and into the game, even after half time, without a warm-up, a few stretches and a rehydration. Work is no different. You’ve had a break, or the good people who report to you have had a break, and the last thing you want them to do is to tear a tendon or damage a heartilage in the first five minutes after the siren sounds.
The website HC Online have some tips for getting “Back in the saddle: Tips for getting back to work”
I have bent them and moulded them into my take below.
Some things to think of as you or your team get started again in 2014 might include:
Looking after your health The facetious side of me says you need to be careful your body doesn’t go into shock when you come back to work and immediately stop eating and drinking like Henry VIII. The sensible side of me says if you have been walking or exercising, relaxing, getting a good night’s sleep, spending time with loved ones etc. you’re likely to feel pretty good. Don’t just drop all that like a hot scone and fall back into a routine of sleep/eat/commute/work/commute etc. etc.
Get Organised I know you have done it all before. But find a new way to get organised or rehash an old and successful method. Empty that infernal email box into the dumpster, polish up the To Do list, set a meeting/communication schedule, clean up the in-tray. For goodness sake do Something! It’s amazing what a positive impact some housekeeping at work can have. It enables you to put some dimensions around the task at hand and often the task miraculously shrinks before your eyes, or at the least, comes into focus.
Communicate We all know the secret to success is open and transparent communication. This is true for both managers and their reports. If you’re a manager you should be communicating with the people who report to you. How are they feeling, what’s going well, what opportunities are there to do things better? Starting the year off on a positive note is critical. Man, what a waste to have your employees take a 3 week break then come back to work, dive in and sink to the bottom of the pool like a lead weight.
And if you’re not a manager, then chat to your manager. Really – it’s nice when a report asks a manager how they are faring. Let them know if all’s not 100%. Talk about opportunities to improve. Talk with your team mates. Check in with them on how life’s treating them. Make 2014 a year to communicate and collaborate.
Reflect A good friend and colleague reminded me, as the year starts and at regular intervals as the year goes on, take some time to reflect on the past period. Last year, what went well, what didn’t. I say focus on what went well, that’s where the real return on investment comes from. That’s where the real employee engagement resides.
If you’re a manager, the start of the year is the right time to:
- Review employee workloads and provide support where required
- Ramp up the effectiveness of your personal communication strategies. This doesn’t mean increasing communication as a default. It means doing it well, effectively and efficiently
- Get inquisitive. Ask questions and listen with genuine interest and empathy
- Get all the team on the same track with open communication, explain and be able to sell or justify the strategy
- Develop trust and respect by sharing responsibility and accountability and promoting ownership.
Good luck kick starting 2014 and achieving great employee engagement.