Productivity after leave

Everyone needs a break from work to stay focused and productive. Expecting employees to work continuously for months on end is not healthy and can lead to burnout. But returning from an extended holiday can cause loss of productivity as well.

Employees cannot just snap out of holiday mode and hit the ground running on their first day back at work. It is up to management to anticipate and prepare for staff returning to work. The value of taking a holiday is that it allows for a total disconnect from workplace responsibilities and pressures. This disengagement enables people to relax and regenerate so that they return to work keen and ready to face upcoming challenges.

But once the mind has disconnected, it does not just reconnect in an instant.

Is it normal for a slump in work effort after an extended holiday break?

Not everyone is impacted when taking an extended break from work, but many people are. People who readjust quickly are those who have prepared positively for their return to work and usually have a clear idea of why they come to work and what they want to achieve in the months ahead.

Unfortunately, most people dread returning to work and lament throughout their last days on holiday. Although it is a normal reaction, this makes the first days of their daily work routine challenging. Many people lack direction when returning to work and it is up to team leaders, line managers, department managers and executives to get people back into the flow.

How to motivate people when they return to work

How well employees readjust has a lot to do with their working environment and the level of management support. When people work in a positive, goal-driven atmosphere that has vision, they feel more in control of their job and their future. The opposite is true under weak leadership where staff are left to their own devices, reporting lines or responsibilities are blurred, or they are micro-managed.

Although leave might be unplanned in some instances, most people know well in advance when they will be away, as do their leaders. Managers must spend time with employees before they go on holiday to assess what projects they are working on and identify which must be completed while they are away. Then critical projects can be assigned to other team members so that the employee does not walk into a crisis on their return.

Managers can meet up again with an employee on their first day back at work, not to push them or to load them with a pile of work, but to assess and plan again. This can bring them up to speed on the progress of projects and let team members hand over anything that is still a work in progress. This allows the person to ease back into their work schedule, begin planning, pinpoint critical issues and set goals.

When people feel supported, comprehend their role and understand their goals, employers are more likely to get their buy-in right away.

When readjustment takes too long

A sluggish return to productivity might be normal for most employees, but when it is accompanied by emotional negativity and even depression, it is a sign of something much bigger. How well do your leaders know your employees and how regularly do they conduct performance appraisals? People who ‘hate’ their job can find it almost impossible to readjust from a holiday break in a reasonable time (which should be no more than a few days).

If this is the case, management can play a positive role as well. Find out what part of the job is demotivating and see if there are ways that responsibilities can be rearranged. The person could have skills and talents that are underutilised, leading to boredom or frustration. Often the problem can be solved by assigning the person to a new role and giving them different projects and goals.

Many talented employees are underutilised and dreading returning to work after a holiday break can be a symptom of that.

How to return to normal operations as soon as possible?

Support, planning and goal setting are critical to getting employees back up to full productivity after they have been on an extended break. Employers cannot expect employees to achieve this on their own, but it is also tricky for top management to motivate everyone on their own.

A high-performance culture relies on clearly defining expectations, empowering employees, regular evaluation with useful feedback and rewarding people for accomplishments. This can only be achieved in an environment that focuses on employee development.

Team leaders, line managers and department managers need to adopt a coaching mindset as well to increase team performance and develop individual talent. They must also be able to recognise issues before they become a problem. This approach builds strong teams, encourages innovation and retains high-calibre staff.

Coaching skills must be developed, and iHR offers the ideal solution with the I’m a Leader I’m a Coach leadership training program that can be modified to meet the individual requirements of any organisation or industry.

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