The pre-holiday rush can bump up stress levels in a workplace. Here are some ideas to help colleagues make the most of the season.
The lead-up to the summer holiday is a time when managers and HR professionals tend to notice an increase in employee complaints, performance issues, absenteeism and team conflict.
In the counselling and psychology professions, the festive season is when we see a sharp increase in the number of people reaching out for help.
It’s timely to explore some of the common challenges your staff may be facing during this time and how, as leaders, you can support them, help them enjoy their break and welcome them back refreshed in 2015.
For people who barely keep their head above water during the year, living with a maxed-out credit card, Christmas can be an anxious time. They’ll worry about how to give their family a nice Christmas experience with the associated cost of food, drinks and gifts.
Extended families coming together can be a source of stress and conflict. People can feel dragged back into old family roles and dynamics they have worked hard to distance themselves from, and this can be very frustrating.
On the other hand, absence of family and friends is also an issue. Employees who are estranged from their family or have few friends outside work can feel isolated and despondent over the Christmas break as they’re left with their own thoughts and without their usual routines to distract them.
When clients, project managers and senior managers are all requesting a pre-Christmas deadline, it can put the crunch on employees who need to put in extra hours to deliver.
With the pace and intensity of work these days, getting to the end of the year can feel like crawling across the finish line of an iron man competition. The realisation that, after a week or so of rest, a person must begin doing it all over again can be overwhelming.
3 ways to help colleagues deal with pre-holiday stress
1. Look out for warning signs
While some level of stress is normal, and actually desirable for high performance, there’s a point where it stops being ‘just stress’ and becomes something more. Symptoms like irritability, conflict with colleagues, angry outbursts, avoiding people or difficulty completing tasks, where these symptoms present for an extended period and are out of character, can indicate a mental illness.
2. Review workloads
Under-resourcing is a fundamental contributor to chronic stress and burn-out, especially in organisations with fast-paced, ‘just get it done’ cultures. Leaders who experience patterns of stress claims and absenteeism in parts of their business should look closer to see if the workloads and resourcing are appropriate in those areas.
3. Say thanks
Send a personal email or, better yet, sidle up to the person and let them know you appreciated their help this year and that you’re looking forward to working with them next year. Whether you’re a leader acknowledging a team member or a team member saying thanks to a colleague in a support department, it shows that we respect that person’s abilities and their contribution to the team. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation or elaborate awards night. Sometimes a quiet, genuine and personal thanks works better.
3 ways to help yourself
As a leader, if you stay calm and unflappable when the pressure is on, your staff will follow your lead. The things you can do at the end of the year to restore yourself are the same things you can do throughout the year to remain resilient to the challenges that crop up.
1. Do what restores you
Is it reading a book? Listening to music? Throwing a party? As they say, all work and no play makes Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl. Try getting regular exercise and quality sleep. Both are proven ways to combat chronic stress and improve your mood.
2. See a counsellor or psychologist for some practical strategies
Say, you have a challenging relationship with a family member that you’ll be spending time with over the Christmas break. And say, you’re worried they might end up under the mango tree, in a shallow grave, by your hand. Well, a good counsellor or psychologist can help unravel the dynamic between you and give you some strategies to resolve the issues, or at least lessen the likelihood of them being triggered.
3. Do some structured life planning
New Year’s resolutions are a great idea, but many people go about them the wrong way. That’s why they’re in tatters by the second week of January. Instead, set a goal for each domain of your life: career, family, relationship, artistic, spiritual, etc. Consider involving your partner and family in the process. Set small, achievable, measurable goals that will help you build confidence and therefore momentum to tackle the bigger ones.