The holidays can be hectic. And, since even positive stress is still stress, they can wear people out. Even if the people on your team had only positive experiences throughout the holiday season, heading back to work afterward can leave everyone feeling let down. Productivity and mental health in the office can both suffer as a result.

How Can You Tell People Have the Holiday Blues?

It’s not as simple as someone walking around with a glum look on their face. Most of us almost automatically keep a positive or at least neutral demeanor at work, even if we’re not really feeling it. Instead, you may see post-holiday depression manifest in other ways.
Sometimes, someone who usually does stellar work will turn in stuff that just meets the minimum requirements. Others may take longer than usual to get things done. Still others may avoid chatting, come in late or call in sick more often.

No matter how people are showing that they are in a slump, you as their manager can help them turn it around to make things more positive going into the new year.

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How to Battle the Blues

Putting a few policies and actions in place to start can get people out of a funk and back to being engaged and content at work. A few things that can help battle workplace depression:

1. Leave the out-of-town messages on.

When people come back to the office after a trip or a few days off for the holiday, let them know it is okay to keep their away messages on on their email and voicemail for another day or two. This gives them breathing room to catch back up with work and to get back into their routine before they are crushed with new incoming messages.

2. Show empathy.

Let people know that it’s okay for them to feel down in the wake of the holidays. Instead of worrying about wallowing, recognize that expressing emotions allows you to properly process them so that you can move on and get healthy. If you are feeling a bit of post-holiday workplace depression yourself, confide in your team members. They need to see that you trust them enough to express emotions to them and that you understand what they are feeling, too.

3. Cut everyone a little slack.

It’s perfectly normal for people to work a little slower or to make a few mistakes when they are just getting back from the holiday festivities. Be understanding when it happens. If people are feeling high stress because they are getting called out on mistakes, that will only multiple issues and make them last longer. In fact, it makes sense to lower goals for this time of year so that you account for time people spend out of the office as well as the time it takes to get them back into the groove.

4. Make healthy drinks and snacks available.

We all overindulge over the holidays. Whether it’s a bit too much to drink or suffering the effects of rich meal after rich meal, it doesn’t leave us feeling our best. Stock the break room with bottled water, seltzer, fruit and whole grain snack bars. People will appreciate the chance to keep themselves on post-holiday diets and to be able to forge healthy habits in the new year.

5. Make it possible for people to get out of work early.

When you’ve just spent a couple weeks at the beach or camping in the great outdoors, it can be hard to adjust to 10 hours a day in an airconditioned box, and an hour or two of public transport either side. If it is possible to offer a half-day here and there or stop work an hour early now and then, consider adding it. People will be grateful for both the extra free time and for the chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

The good news is that, after a while, people fall back into their normal routines. By making the transition back into work after the holidays easier, you can help people get back to normal faster and enjoy a healthier and more productive workplace.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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