Studies have found that January is the least productive month of the year, and this year, the problem has been compounded by layoffs, so-called silent layoffs, and a broader decline in productivity. The signs are strong that 2023 will not be an easy year to navigate, which is all the more reason to shake things up to begin with. The author presents four ways to breathe new life into this notoriously dreary time of year.
The tinsel is gone, Starbucks is back to its regular cups, the office holiday parties have come and gone, and the sun goes down while the workday continues. It’s no wonder that many workplaces are underpowered in January.
Studies have found that January is least productive month of the year. And this year, the problem is compounded by making headlines dismissalis called silent pauseand a broader decline in productivity: In October 2022, a Washington Post analysis data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in the first half of 2022, worker productivity fell “at the highest rate recorded since 1947.”
But first impressions are important. And despite the adage that you never get a second chance to make it, the new calendar year offers an opportunity to change things in a meaningful way — infusing organizations that there is energy and excitement that can stimulate productivity throughout the year. Here are some strategies for breathing new life into this notoriously dreary time of year.
By spending the first month or quarter of the year experimenting with new tools, technologies, processes, and meeting cadences, companies can discover techniques and methods worth pursuing. The more radical the departure from business as usual, the more likely it is that employees will break old habits and reassess what they do best.
Shopify is making headlines (and no doubt getting the attention of its workers) by announcing a plan to eliminate most meetings during the two-week period. In a memo to employees, Shopify estimated that 10,000 meetings would disappear from workers’ calendars, freeing up 76,500 hours. Employees are encouraged to think critically before resuming meetings after the end of the trial period.
What if your organization replaced daily hourly meetings with 15-minute agile touch-bases, supplemented by Slack conversations throughout the day? Or taking a temporary break from Slack altogether? Or set aside one day a week as a no-meeting place? Since this experimental period has a predetermined end point, it is perfectly acceptable if practices fall flat.
As advocates of the agile approach know, sometimes the key to success is failure and quick failure – then keep iterating on a solution until it succeeds. The final product or strategy may be very different from the beginning.
Sometimes the most creative ideas for improving organizational effectiveness rise from the bottom. By inviting and encouraging employees to channel their own creativity to create big and small ways to improve the organization, and recognizing February (or March) as a month where rapid failure is celebrated, leaders can uncover unexplored opportunities and spark new thinking. which continues to develop and improve.
At the start of “fail-fast” month, senior leaders can talk about their own most damaging professional failures and what they learned from them. Companies can choose a range of the best new concepts to pilot, from marketing strategies to unusual projects to meeting modalities (Zoom vs. in person, for example ), then hit the ground running.
In December, workers look forward to holiday gifts and notes of appreciation. When leaders surprise their people with meal delivery gift cards or employee recognition opportunities early in the new year, these gestures have more meaning because they don’t feel obligated. . Leaders can put such moves as a “thank you in advance” for the work to come in 2023, when many companies will be forced to do more with less.
An exercise called “asset mapping” gives employees the opportunity to identify each other’s strengths. If conducted in person, each team member places their name in the center of a piece of paper. Teammates circle each other’s names with messages describing what they see as each person’s key assets. At the end of the exercise, each team member has a document that confirms their strengths, as seen by their colleagues – and a stronger sense of connection to their team. You can practice this with remote workers using Google docs.
Asset mapping can also be used to crowdsource solutions to work problems. Here, each team member raises a problem or question, such as, “What is the most productive way to use short gaps between meetings?” or “How can I best support someone returning from maternity leave?” This exercise is very effective in tapping into people’s deepest generosity and unleashing a sense of gratitude for the wealth of expertise in colleagues.
Reconnect with What Matters Most
Another way to cut through the seasonal gloom is to connect employees to what matters most. These may be the customers an organization serves, the clients it serves, or the users of the products it develops. Whenever possible, it’s most powerful to make these connections happen in person, even if employees often work remotely.
A law firm, for example, may bring on a client whose life or business has been affected by the firm’s work, which would not be possible without team members who may not have heard the client’s name. A software company may bring in beta testers who find a new product particularly helpful. Office workers who support a manufacturing company may travel to the factory floor.
Space for formal reflection after these encounters is critical. A quick but effective exercise is to map out to employees the ways in which their work contributes to the overall mission of the organization. The idea is for people to see their own essential sparks in an awe-inspiring constellation.
A Second Chance to Make a First Impression
Every fall, the new school year — with its fresh notebooks and unfamiliar schedules — gives students a sense of excitement and possibility, even if it’s accompanied by a certain dread of the end. the summer. We adults often miss this annual opportunity for a change in our professional lives. The signs are strong that 2023 will not be an easy year to navigate, which is all the more reason to shake things up to begin with.