Don’t Throw in the Towel!

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Down but Not Out

They say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.

Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”

The Irrevocable Power of Attitude

While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:

“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”

Surviving or Thriving?

How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?

Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!

Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:

  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.
  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.
  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.

Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!

 

 


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How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

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There is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

 


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6 Over the Top Things to Look for in Business in the Future.

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Business isn’t going anywhere. In fact, here’s where the most probable types of market exchange will happen with customers according to famous futurists:

  • Remember those Star Trek episodes where people used a transporter to go from place to place? In the future, it’s likely that business will use something similar to deliver goods, from your printed materials to food to durable products delivered right into a person’s room as ordered, bought, and sent from a business electronically.
  • Michio Kaku sees a technology-driven convergence of thinking, consciousness, and the internet. Instead of thinking of the internet as a tool, people will become the Net by connecting their brain to it for full immersion and interaction, as well as contributing to real-time synergies in information generation and use. Business, no surprise, will become far more intangible as a result, adapting to the mind-environment to keep pace with where the new demand exists.
  • Personal augmentation with technology will be commonplace. Just being a regular, average human being won’t be good enough. Instead, people will carry their technology within them. Not to be confused with “on” them, but tech actually integrated with their bodies. We won’t need a computer to design what we want to print; the idea will come straight from a digital connection to our minds translated to electronics and then produced by a vendor as we desired.
  • James Canton sees robots and artificial intelligence giving human-led business a run for its money due to the fact that robots and AI will be able to easily grind millions of bits of statistical data and produce probabilities of what consumers want well before any humans can realize that want or need on their own.
  • Some folks don’t even look at business in typical environments. Instead, Jason Silva sees cars becoming so advanced, our need to drive will be replaced by our need to get lots done in a car while it dries itself. And that includes business, generating new ideas, printing and producing inside a car, and getting work and life done while traveling from point A to point B every day. Business services will tailor themselves to people working remotely all over the place, delivering what they need where they are, and when they need it.
  • Finally, our bodies won’t necessarily want to live longer just because our technology advances. So instead of relying on a failing system, the medical community will embrace body part production and printing, creating organ replacements designed by computer to work specifically with an individual patient. The term “batch order” printing replacement organs will take on a whole new meaning in hospitals.Long story short, business will likely still be around years from now, but how it delivers goods and services to consumers will change dramatically.

 


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5 Meeting Rules You’ll Actually Want to Adopt.

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Are meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren’t meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?

Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.

Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it’s inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.

Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together.

1. Start With An Agenda

No, you shouldn’t begin with ‘What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?’, because if that’s your first thought then you’re already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you’re leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda.

2. Plan for Takeaways 

Consider the consensus that you’re attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn’t have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.

3. Keep Time Sacred 

Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time — perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list.

4. Consider a Drive-By 

Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you’ve made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile.

5. Keep it Moving

Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you’re heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly — the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused.

The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn’t a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity.

 


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4 Ways to Incorporate Humor at Work.

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Nothing is more embarrassing than telling a joke and having it fall flat at work, but don’t let that stop you from adding appropriate humor to the workplace, as it can be a great way to reduce tension and improve overall relations.

Having fun with the people you spend at least 40 hours per week with can raise your mood and boost camaraderie throughout your office. Here are some of the top ways you can incorporate humor at work:

1. Hire for Personality and Cultural Fit

When you’re the hiring manager or simply someone able to have input into hiring processes, try to look for someone to join the team who approaches work seriously, and themselves lightly. This could come in the form of an easy smile, a little self-deprecating humor, or the ability to find the amusing side in everyday situations that others may consider stressful. When you have someone on your team who can inject some fun into the workplace, it gives others permission to crack a smile as well.

2. Encourage Silliness

Sure, you don’t want to be silly all the time as you’d get nothing done, but a little wackiness once in a while can break up an otherwise boring or tedious day. Send a cute animal meme or 30-second video to a small group of work friends and enjoy the smile on their face when they view it. If it’s not against your rules, post a humorous cartoon that has a positive message. It is important to be careful, however, as longer videos beyond two minutes or so sent to a large list of people can effectively kill productivity (which won’t make your boss happy at all!)

3. Keep it Professional

A great rule of thumb is that if you would be embarrassed having whatever you want to say plastered on a billboard — don’t say it! Same goes for the grandmother test. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear what you’ve been saying, you probably should abstain. Don’t make fun of others even when it’s “just for fun,” and keep teasing to a minimum. This especially holds true if you’re a supervisor or in another position of power. You may not realize that your good-natured poking fun at others can be taken much more seriously when there’s an imbalance of power.

4. Inspiring Others

You’re more approachable to others when you’re smiling, which may be one of the reasons that many leaders work hard on keeping a pleasant look on their face. When you work hard to uplift others with a pleasant word, even sharing amusing inspirational videos can provide you with some personal collateral to be used at a later time. It’s important to note that individuals who appropriately use humor at work are likely to be promoted more quickly and make more money, so there are definite reasons to putting some fun-loving vibes into the air!

Using humor appropriately at work can tighten the bond between co-workers, keep those creative juices flowing, and make the days fly by! However, you always have to balance the good times with ensuring you’re being as productive as possible on the job. Jokes and effective banter can improve your standing within the organization specifically because it is assumed that you are mature enough to understand the proper use of humor and that you’re relaxed and confident enough to call attention to yourself.

 


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Healthy Employees Are Productive Employees: Why to Incentivize Health at Work.

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Productivity really is the secret to everything in terms of your business’ success. Happier employees tend to be more productive, which is why it is essential that you focus on things like corporate culture and team-building exercises whenever the opportunity arises.

Many people don’t realize, however, that this is only one small part of a much larger story. It isn’t enough for your employees to be happy – healthy employees are also significantly more productive than those who are not, which is why if you’re not already making health and wellness top priorities within your organization now would be an excellent time to start.

Healthy Employees and Productivity: Facts and Figures

According to a series of studies that were recently conducted on the subject, healthy employees may be a whole lot more valuable than you’ve even realized:

  • On average, employees who eat healthy foods (or who at least make an effort to do so) tend to be about 25% more productive than those who do not.
  • Employees that exercise for at least a half hour each week are an impressive 15% more likely to have higher job performance than those who do not.
  • Healthy employees also take fewer sick days, which is not surprising. The true revelation, however, is just how far this benefit goes: absenteeism is a massive 27% lower in employees who A) eat healthy, and B) exercise regularly.
  • The most important statistic of all is the fact that overweight and generally unhealthy employees cost employers in the United States an astounding $73.1 billion collectively per year, part of which has to do with the fact that they tend to file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims than those who do not.

At this point, the answer to the question “how important are healthy employees?” becomes resoundingly clear: very, very important. But saying that you value your employee’s health is one thing. Actually taking steps to show that this is true is something else entirely.

How to Value Health at Work

Luckily, valuing healthy employees is simply a matter of a series of small choices. You can begin by making sure that healthy snacks are available for employees in the office who may be “burning the midnight oil,” for example. If you’re one of the many workplaces around the country that has a vending machine on-site, consider restocking that vending machine with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional potato chips and sweets. People will absolutely start to eat them, especially if they don’t really have an alternative.

You’ll also want to consider emphasizing health in terms of things like employee benefits packages. Consider throwing in a free gym membership to a local fitness club that employees can take advantage of after they’ve worked with your organization for X number of weeks or months. It may not be something that everyone uses, but those who do will benefit greatly. You’ll also benefit, too, as this is a clear sign that you actually care about the health and fitness of your employees – something that will make it easier to attract top talent in the future.

Also remember that according to one report by Quantum Workplace, employees tend to be 14% more engaged when they are provided some time off to “recharge their batteries,” so to speak. So the next time you think it’s a good idea to make people work incredibly long hours week after week, you may want to think again.

 


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Understanding Intent versus Impact in the World of Marketing

ThinkstockPhotos-667556640It is essential to understand as much about your audience as possible, especially the differences between “intent” and “impact” in the world of marketing. Intent is something that you have total control over – it’s what every font selection, every color choice, every turn of phrase and every piece of collateral is ultimately building towards. Impact, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Making an effort to understand the difference between these two concepts is the key to maximum success moving forward.

It All Comes Down to Perspective

The major difference between intent and impact ultimately comes down to a matter of perspective, or an acknowledgment that sometimes a statement (or in this case, a marketing message) isn’t necessarily as “black and white” as you may have thought it was. In addition to knowing who the people you’re marketing to actually are, it’s important to understand as much as you can about the way they think.

Before you send any marketing message out into the world, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How will this message play in different regions of the country? Are there certain terms that are used one way on the coasts and another way in middle America? What difference does that make, if any, in terms of how that message would be received?
  • How do pain points differ based on audience? Is a very specific problem that one portion of your audience has not an issue at all to others? How does something like economic status play into how a particular message might be received?
  • How will the culture change the way the impact of a message varies when compared to the original intent? Even if you’re not a global company, think about things from that perspective. You would probably have to make some adjustments to your messaging when marketing to customers in Europe versus those in the United States as you’re talking about two totally different cultures with different norms and taboos. Are there any cultural implications that might adjust the impact of your message in a way you’re unprepared for?

This approach will help give you as much insight as possible into the various perspectives of the people you’re trying to reach, which can not only make campaigns resonate more but it can also help avoid sticky issues like this one at the same time.

At the end of the day, the difference between intent and impact in the world of marketing can be summarized like this. “Intent” is the thing that you were trying to do – the message you were trying to convey or the goal you were trying to accomplish. “Impact” is what you actually did, which itself is influenced by a wide array of different factors. Sometimes a message that you had complete confidence in is received in a way that you could never have predicted and these are the types of moments you need to be ready for.

 

 


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Family Support is Key for Succession in a Family Business

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Running a successful family business inevitably comes to a critical decision – how to continue the business when the current business owner decides it is time to retire and step away? Some decide to shut the business down

Others sell it to an outsider. Still, others decide to groom a family member to take over, but this can be fraught with risk if the young person turns out to not be interested, prepared, or the right fit.

Ready for a Change

Virenda Gupta found himself in a critical decision place when he was ready to enjoy the rewards of his own hard work building his property tax consultancy. Founded in 1986, RETC was a well-run operation that had taken years and years of dedication, especially in the highly technical accounting world of tax advising. But it was time for Virenda to travel, see family, go back to his historical home in India for visits, and reap some rewards for a change. However, RETC needed to still be managed and directed.

Positioning for Success

Virenda’s son, Amish, had initially brought up the hard topic, but both men were engaged and ready to really address the matter on all the key topics of compensation, authority, and ownership. Because they were willing to take it seriously, Virenda and Amish were able to craft a functional and working succession plan, ensuring RETC was positioned to continue for decades to come. And this was a key shift that is essential for family transition; if the current owner cannot envision handing over the reins, the succession discussion with a family member almost always ends in frustration.

Virenda’s willingness to work towards succession is not common. In fact, only one out of three family businesses make it to a second owner generation, and only a little more than one out of ten make it to a third family generation. Beyond that, the figure gets down to a single percentage digit below 5 percent. However, some of the greatest resistance is manageable; owners have to get past their role of making all the decisions leading to success and let someone else step forward. And that includes making mistakes. Planning is a key aspect, and smart owners start well ahead of a succession date, grooming potential family replacements years before. There is no 24-hour decision-making in this approach.

Proof Beyond Just Being Family

Virenda is lucky; his son wants the leadership role and is qualified. In almost one out of two cases a non-family member is more qualified to take the leadership role instead. Virenda made a key step to ensure his family was prepared. He chose his son as a potential successor after Amish had proven himself capable doing the work. He then let Amish work elsewhere and earn his stripes versus being protected internally due to just being family. Virenda then had to convince Amish to come back and take the role versus staying on the lucrative path he was already on with big corporations. That meant providing a real path and share for Amish instead of just a figurehead position.

How to Do it Right

Experts are in agreement on the key points of family success:

  • Don’t pressure kids to take on a role they are not prepared for.
  • Take on the tough conversation of succession and embrace it honestly with every detail.
  • Get children involved early, foster their interest and love for the business, and then make sure they have all the training needed.
  • Work as a team with everyone having a vested interested in the business’ success. Ownership is personal and drives people to commit.

Virenda is now enjoying travel and time to relax in his retirement, and Amish is fully-engaged in his role as RETC’s leader. Their story is both a case study of what’s done right in a family business succession as well what it takes to prepare for that moment.

 

 


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Motivation Matters

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Motivation matters. Why? Because without it we fail to thrive. Lack of motivation is linked to lethargy, depression, and higher employee turnover. In contrast, studies show goal setting (even goals WITHOUT attached financial incentives) improved worker performance by 12 to 15%.
How well you can motivate yourself or others can have a substantial effect on the pleasure and profit you experience.

Drive and Thrive: Kicking Motivation into High Gear

How do you increase motivation, especially for tasks that aren’t always fun? Dan Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says recognizing what types of motivation work in varying situations can be helpful. For example, while simple extrinsic motivators (bonuses, team incentives, public recognition) are often helpful for linear, task-oriented projects, these “carrot and stick,” conditions are not always best:

“The trouble is . . . that for work that is non-routine, for work that isn’t algorithmic but is more conceptual, that requires big-picture thinking, that requires a greater degree of creativity, that requires solving more complicated, complex challenges, the if-then motivators don’t work very well at all. And that’s not even a close call in the science. The behavioral science is very, very clear that– give people those kinds of motivators for creative, conceptual, complex tasks, and they will often underperform.”

Pink says it is an intrinsic motivation that prompts people to do a creative activity, working not for incentives but because something is interesting and worthwhile. In the long run, intrinsic inspiration produces greater positivity and more imaginative, enduring results. Researchers identify three keys for building intrinsic motivation:

  1. Autonomy. Autonomy is a sense of authority over our projects or time management. It may involve options like working remotely, flex scheduling, or creative workspaces. While autonomy allows greater independence, it can be guided in an accountable manner. For example, people are more successful in self-managing when they have goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relative, and time-bound).
  2. Mastery. We all desire to improve, and mastery equips people for continual development. Whether it’s on-going education, professional networking, or increased responsibility, we are typically happier when we are growing. How can we equip our team with fresh training or more challenging responsibilities? Is increased mastery giving way to bigger projects or the chance to teach others?
  3. Purpose. Often productivity stems from personal satisfaction; we work from the heart when we’re connected to a sense of community, impact, or big picture vision. While not all mundane tasks can infuse passion, typically we underestimate the power of celebrating small wins each day. Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School professor and author of The Progress Principle, found that the biggest motivator at work was the sense of measurable progress.3 When we believe we’re making a considerable contribution, it’s almost impossible NOT to be motivated.

What can you do to grow a sense of autonomy or mastery in your workplace? How can your public recognition or team incentives create a greater sense of passion at work? We have many creative ideas and visible tracking options to help you recognize, celebrate, and help your team stay on a path toward motivating fruitful progress. Give us a call to talk more!

 


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Keeping Employees Engaged During the Dreaded Month of January

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Returning to work after the fun and
exciting Christmas season can feel like
an uphill battle. If you really want to keep
your employees happy, healthy, and engaged during the dreaded month of January, there
are a number of essential things to keep in mind.

Encourage Your Employees to Spend Time Outside

Part of the reason why January is so terrible for so many people comes down to SAD, or “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” It’s a very specific type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons and is often brought about by how cold and dreary January has a tendency to be.

The key to combating this is, thankfully, a simple one – encourage your employees to get outdoors as much as possible. Take them out for lunch at that great new restaurant down the block and insist that you all walk there. Get as much natural light into your workplace as possible. Even getting just fifteen minutes of quality sunlight exposure every day can have a big impact on their mood and their productivity.

Along these same lines, consider starting an exercise program at your office in the new year. Not only will this play an important long-term role in keeping your workforce as healthy as possible, but this type of physical activity will also go a long way towards combating SAD head-on.

Encourage Frequent Breaks

It’s important to take an active role in the work/life balance of your employees during the Christmas season, particularly when their attention is being pulled in so many different directions at once. Guess what? This idea doesn’t stop being any more important just because the calendar now says “January 1.”

Look for any opportunity that you can find to give people a bit of a break from the important tasks at hand. People always need to recharge, but this will become especially important during January and the rest of the cold winter months of the year. Make sure that people are getting out of the office and home at a decent hour, too. Once again, you may think that pulling long hours will help productivity in the long run, but all you’re doing is compromising the quality of the work that people can provide you.

While it’s true that nobody (yourself likely included) likes to return to work after the fun of the Christmas and New Year season, it isn’t as bad as you probably think it is. Indeed, so much of keeping employees engaged during January comes down to a matter of perspective – one that you can fully control just by remembering tips and tricks like those outlined above.

 


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