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Help Employees Get a Fresh Start in the New Year... And Beyond

Natural Disaster Response: Stepping Up, Giving Back and Leading Forward

With the New Year fast approaching, the chances are high that you and many of your employees are making resolutions to improve your lives in 2018. And while we know that our motivation to reach our goals tends to be high on January 1st, what’s less widely recognized is that motivation is elevated on other new beginnings as well. The start of a new week or month, and even birthdays, provides an opportunity for people to leave past failures behind and start with a clean slate. This is why Dr. Katherine Milkman and colleagues have dubbed our enhanced drive to reach our goals after these days as “the fresh start effect.”

Examples of how our motivation increases at the start of a new cycle are numerous:

  • Google searches for the term “diet” are most frequent at the beginning of the week, month, year, and after Federal holidays.
  • Gym attendance among undergraduates is also higher on those days, as well as after birthdays.
  • The creation of commitment contracts - where people set a goal and agree to accomplish it by a certain date - follows the same pattern, and this holds true for health and non-health related goals.

The so-called “fresh start effect” has practical implications for employers and their efforts to help employees meet their goals:

  • Roll-out health and well-being initiatives on days that signify new beginnings. The New Year is an obvious – and good – choice since many employees are already motivated to change their behavior. However, fresh starts don’t always need to be so significant. The first day of spring, the beginning of a new quarter at work, or even a Monday morning may provide a similar trigger.
  • Re-communicate about programs or benefits, or touch base with employees about their progress in meeting their goals, when you sense that employees’ motivation is beginning on lag. Think strategically about the days you might use throughout the year (Hint: Birthdays are excellent opportunities to check-in with employees!).
  • Frame your messages as fresh starts to inspire employees to re-commit to their goals.

Taken together, the above strategies may help keep employees on track throughout the year.  


For more information on behavior change, visit:

Behavior Change that Lasts: Institute Learnings