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What to do when your company's 'first day back blahs' are a year-round problem

How I spent my winter vacation: Indoors and under covers.
How I spent my winter vacation: Indoors and under covers.

If you were like me and had a week off for the holidays, Tuesday morning was a bit of a drag.

With most of my family – including me – ill or injured, and with temperatures that never quite reached above “oh heck no” degrees, I spent most of my days off unplugged and under covers.

I binged Netflix (Spoiler alert Black Mirror Season 4: Episode 4 is AWESOME) and spent some time with my ragtag clan of sniffling, sneezing family members, but I haven’t zoned out like that in ages.

So when I found myself slumped in front of my of work computer on my first day back, my first two biggest challenges were:

A) Remembering my password

B) Remembering just what it was that I actually do for a living and how to do it.

Getting re-engaged back into a job that I normally find quite fulfilling took just a few more minutes. It was hard enough remembering how to spell my name, let alone reminding myself just why I was up and out of bed at such an early hour – voluntarily.

So, it’s safe to say that employee engagement is an issue across most industries as everyone crawls into the new year.

But in some offices, poor employee engagement is a more long-term problem.

According to a press release distributed by the author of a book on employee engagement, Gallup found in its most recent employee engagement index that 71 percent of workers were not engaged in their work.

Gallup defines “engaged” as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

That’s a lot of people who have “first day back from a holiday” attitude all year-round.

One of the problems, said Don Rheem, author of the new book “Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience that Drives High-Performance Cultures,” is that most companies are going about motivating and engaging their workforce in the wrong way.

One issue noted is that after years of recession, “the notion that employees are lucky to have a job and that they should just do what they are told is still prevalent among leaders,” the release said.

But now, with a scarcity of skilled laborers in many corners of the nation’s workforce, that attitude is behind the times.

For companies to be successful, Rheem said, they need to find new ways to connect with employees.

“As leaders contemplate ‘What should I do to engage my employees?’ they need to move away from the mindset of ‘If I do this, then I will get that in return.’ ”

He has a few suggestions for companies that want to do it better.

First, use a more scientific method to find out what works and what doesn’t by measuring the details of what increases engagement.

Also, he reminds employers that an employee can be satisfied but not engaged. That means offering a “casual dress day” may make staffers happy, but it won’t equate to a 2 percent increase in engagement.

Satisfaction can fade quickly, he said. Instead, concentrating on an engaged employee will lead to more satisfaction overall.

Lastly, he suggests a top-down approach to increasing engagement in the workplace.

He said disengaged employees work under poorly equipped managers.

“People join companies but typically quit managers,” he said.

Making sure managers are engaged in engagement is a good starting point any day of the year.

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