It’s official – Kiwis are now back at work after what might feel like an all-too-brief summer break. Gone are the days of lazy morning lay-ins and vacation sightseeing as staff ditch jandals and shorts for work attire, and get back behind their desks and tools.

The first week or two back at work is widely recognised by employees (and even psychologists) as one of the most melancholy times of the year, with many dubbing the third Monday in January Blue Monday, given it’s the day many teams return to ‘the grind’ after an extended break.

The feeling of gloom can be compounded by the post-Christmas financial hangover, the consequences of silly-season over-indulgence, and the guilt that those best-intentioned New Year Resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.

It’s little wonder January is regarded as a peak month for job searching!

The good news is, you can help you team start fresh in January and enjoy getting back into the swing of things. Employers have a responsibility to help staff maintain wellbeing at work, but focusing on workplace wellness is not only the ethical thing to do this time of year – it’s also the smartest thing to do for your bottom line, given the benefits your business will reap.

We’ve compiled a list of ideas to help employers support staff to beat the back to work blues and kick the start of the work year off on a positive note.

1. A Balanced Workload

January can be a busy time for businesses that have closed down over Christmas, and while it’s important for staff to have a busy routine that offers purpose, overloading your staff with work can have a negative impact on their stress levels and wellbeing. Check in with your team on their work in progress and focus on prioritizing tasks, so they have a handle on which jobs are the most important.

Prioritising your team’s workload or schedule is a great way to ensure staff don’t feel overwhelmed. Balance is the key – staff want to be occupied (as not being busy enough can lead to boredom and fatigue), but they also want achievable tasks and goals.

2. Ease-In Hours

If your team has been on an extended break over Christmas and New Year, recognise it can be tough for staff to get back into the swing on things and consider implementing ‘ease-in’ hours the first week or two back in the office!

Giving staff the opportunity to start an hour later in the morning, finish a couple of hours earlier in the day, or take Friday afternoons off is a great way to show your team you’re supportive of their workplace wellbeing. Studies show that shortened hours can actually boost productivity levels, so what’s good for your staff is also good for business!

3. Supportive Management

Managers should strive to be actively interested in the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, and create an environment of open dialogue around wellbeing at work. Encourage employees to share their thoughts around wellbeing within your organisation, and support management to be receptive to staff input.

As a company, it’s important to recognise that all employees are all different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace. Considering the needs of individual employees, and showing you business is actively working towards supporting those needs, is a great consideration for your workplace wellness strategy.

4. Autonomy & Ownership

Research shows that employees having a sense of ownership and control in their job is vital to wellbeing. While this may not always seem easy, depending on your industry, some out-of-the-box thinking and suggestions from employees on how they can have more autonomy in their work can make a big difference. Something as simple as having your staff decide when they take their breaks, or giving them more say over their shift patterns and daily start times, can foster a great sense of ownership in the workplace. Not only is this great in terms of wellbeing – it can also increase productivity, since staff who feel in control of their own work tend to be happier and more effective.

5. Time for Fun

A happy and engaged working environment is an important piece of the workplace wellness pie, and making time for fun during office hours is an easy way to increase employee engagement and satisfaction. Schedule a team lunch on ‘Hump Day’, call it quits early on Thursday and head out for a team dinner, or plan an out-of-office activity the first Friday back, such as bowling, a family picnic (as many of your staff will be dealing with childcare before school starts back), or a round of mini golf.

Planning something for your staff to look forward to during the first week or two back is a great way to support workplace wellbeing – and these social engagements work double-time as a team-building exercise, fostering a tighter-knit team to be taken back into the workplace.