How to painlessly return your team to productive work, after a holiday break

January 10, 2024
Reading time: 3 min

As we all settle in after our well-deserved break, it's natural to feel a bit out of sync with our work rhythm. Many teams experience a steep drop in productivity and a slow return to full work capacity.

Over the years, at Smartexe we've developed a few effective strategies to shorten and smoothen the transition from holidays. Here they are:

Start with an intro meeting

Host a casual "welcome back" meeting on the first or the second day. This meeting should have two goals:

  • Reigniting the team spirit.
  • Reminding of all the tasks and priorities.

Start casually with a light-hearted catch-up session. Encourage your team to share their holiday experiences. Start by sharing your own experiences and then go around the table to make sure everybody takes part in the conversation. This creates a relaxed atmosphere and helps reestablish personal bonds.

In the second half of the meeting talk about the tasks ahead. Start with a high-level perspective on mission and goals, and drop down to the more specific assignments.

Set clear short-term goals: prioritize and organize or offer flexibility

Setting attainable, short-term goals provides immediate focus and a sense of achievement. This helps in regaining momentum and builds up to tackling large projects. With a backlog of tasks awaiting, it's easy to feel swamped. Help your team prioritize their tasks and use tools like Trello or Asana for task management.

If possible, offer some flexibility in work hours or the option to work from home for the first few days. This can ease the transition for those who might need a bit more time to adjust.

Don’t push it!

It's important to understand that jumping straight into intensive work can be overwhelming. A study by the American Psychological Association shows that 67% of employees experience higher stress levels when they have a backlog of work.

Start with a light workload and gradually increase the pace. This gives everyone a chance to readjust and catch up.

Encourage your people to use the Pomodoro technique in the first couple of days (Take a 5-minute break from work after 25 minutes of work. Take a longer break of 15-30 minutes after 3-4 work sessions). This helps maintain focus and prevent burnout.

Re-establish team rituals

Regular team rituals can create a sense of normality and help people reestablish habitual behavior. Humans are all about habits:

  • team launch on Mondays;
  • group workout on Tuesdays;
  • learning circle on Wednesdays;
  • darts tournament on Thursday,
  • happy hour on Fridays…
  • delivering strong work performance — every day!

Rituals remind people they are a part of a team and that they have mutual obligations. And bonus — it can be a lot of fun.

Lead by example

Employees are more engaged and motivated when their leaders demonstrate commitment and enthusiasm. Your attitude can have a profound impact on the team’s morale and productivity.

Without you participating in rituals, without you setting goals for yourself and delivering on them, you cannot expect your team to do the same.

This is what we attempt to do with our developers' teams. What about you? Share your experience with us.