Ask Kate: my employee’s unmotivated after their holiday. Help!

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A woman confidently poses - caption above her says 'Ask Kate'
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

Whenever a staff issue comes up, Peninsula advisers are on hand to help. There’s no query too big, too small, or too bizarre for our experts to unpack.

So, if you’re sitting on a query, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s what keeps our Peninsula clients safe and successful all year round and gives them the peace of mind to focus on their business.

This caller was worried about their employee struggling with the post-holiday blues. So, they asked Kate Palmer, Peninsula’s HR Advice and Consultancy Director, for expert advice.

Here’s what they had to say…

Hi Kate,

September’s definitely one of the worst months in my office. Most of my staff have just got off their holidays and I think they need a bit of a boost to get back into the swing of things.

One of my employees has just got back after two weeks on a cruise. I can see they’re struggling to get back into the routine. Is there anything I can do to help them get motivated? I work in sales, so I need everyone’s head in the game!


Kate’s reply was…

Hi Anon,

The post-holiday blues hit a lot of people around this time of year and work tends to be where people struggle the most. It’s a harsh reality check coming back into the office after weeks of sunbathing and exotic cuisine.

“One of my employees has just got back after two weeks on a cruise. I can see they’re struggling to get back into the routine.”

It’s important to manage your expectations when your employee returns from a holiday. Whilst of course you have every right to expect them to be ready to get back into work, try not to expect too much of them initially.

I’d be surprised if your employee was 100% on it in their first few days back. I’d expect there to be a little transition period where they need to ease back into their routine.

It might be best to clear their schedule of meetings in those first couple of days, so they can catch up.

Although, it would help to arrange an informal meeting with your employee to touch base with them. In this meeting, you can give them a roundup of everything they’ve missed while they’ve been off. It’s likely they’ll be feeling a bit out of the loop, so this can help them organise their to-do list.

You may want to do this one-to-one or invite colleagues to join and contribute. This might be useful if there’s a project that requires your employee to collaborate with a few members of the team.

This may also be a good time to reevaluate your employee’s workload. Your employee may struggle to get back into a work routine if they feel overwhelmed. And coming back to an overflowing inbox of unread emails and a flood of requests to deal with on their first day back is less than ideal.

If your employee feels under pressure to get everything ticked off straight away, they’ll probably be more likely to break down with stress than get motivated. So, it’s important to make sure your employee knows which tasks to prioritise and which can wait.

“Is there anything I can do to help them get motivated?”

Once your employee is all caught up and knows what they need to be getting on with, you may want to remind all your staff about any rewards you have to offer.

Do you have an employee of the month system? Bonuses? Retention schemes? Giving your employees goals to work towards with the promise of a reward at the end can really help to drive them.

And do you have any exciting company events coming up? Like a social activity for everyone? Give your employees something to look forward to, so they don’t have to think the fun times are behind them.

“I work in sales, so I need everyone’s head in the game!”

As you mention you work in sales, you may already have an incentive scheme set up which is likely to be commission-based. So, make sure to keep communicating with your employees and remind them to stay focussed on their goals.

If you do want to set up a new reward scheme you don’t currently have, you will need to have a think about how you’d like this to work. And when introducing a new scheme, don’t forget to update your staff contracts too.

If you have any other concerns about how to manage staff performance, you may find my response to this sender helpful.

I hope this has been useful to you but don’t hesitate to give us a call if you’d like to discuss this issue further. One of our advisers would be happy to help!

All the best,


P.S. Got a HR query or staff problem? Click below to get a free advice call today.

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