Mental Health

Defeating End-of-Year Workplace Stress

Defeating End-of-Year Workplace Stress

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But it comes with so many demands and deadlines, in both one’s personal and work life, that it could often end up bringing more pressure than joy.

When an increasing number of employees find themselves less productive during the holiday season, companies may find themselves in trouble.

Employee burnout and the resulting consequences are already a problem throughout the year, but the holidays tend to amplify these risks, unless you prepare yourself, and don’t leave presents buying to the 24th of December!

Personal experience has led me to understand that the best way to rest, recharge, and prepare for a productive new year after an intense twelve months of work is to make the most of the holidays instead of falling prey to the season’s stress.

How You Can Help Your Employees...

Employee mindset is deeply affected by the attitude of business executives and managers. This is especially true when it comes to holidays and taking time off. Employees will mimic executives’ and managers approaches to work-life balance, so if you’re in a position to make adjustments to the way your place of work functions during the holidays, here are some suggestions to help your employees recharge and stay healthy.

Offer flexible schedules. Attending dinners with friends, spending time with family and buying gifts are just some of the many activities we commit ourselves to during this period. Especially parents, find themselves having their children at home during the Christmas holidays, without being able to spend quality time with them.

Offering employees the possibility to work around their schedules by working flexible hours or from home, can make it all more enjoyable; and it shows them you value their time and effort during the year.

Budget for extra paid time off. Closing the year, especially when you work in a startup, might mean shipping features with a tough deadline, closing the last few clients to end the quarter well, closing the YE accounts and so on. I bet that more than a few of you have avoided taking a holiday due to lack of time, and perhaps lack of PTO. Closing the office for a few extra days over Christmas (if the business model allows), as well as ensuring deadlines are reasonable, can alleviate this year end rush and stress.

Host a holiday party. Help your employees to unwind and find a moment of relaxation by hosting a holiday party. If business allows, offer them a whole day of team building and entertainment; hosting events during the day will allow employees to unwind and not give up precious time with their families. If taking off a whole day is not feasible, a team dinner will be equally enjoyable!

If a party is not in the budget, or if something else precludes you from a full-scale celebration, consider hosting an ugly holiday sweater competition, or have branch managers organise a gift exchange.

Organise non-work related initiatives. The smallest gestures mean a lot when holiday stress is high, so set an example for your employees by hosting wellness initiatives during the holidays. This activities can include anything from good nutrition habits to stress relief to how being more physically active. It’s easy to fall for the Christmas treats under the tree; but being mindful and considering your employee’s wellbeing could also mean offering healthier treats during the season.

Giving back to the community also means a lot to people, and especially during the Christmas season they might want to volunteer at a shelter, spend time reading stories to children or drinking some tea at an elderly home. So why not incentivise and foster these acts of kindness by offering some volunteering time off?

Listen to feedback. There’s no better time to take employee feedback to heart than the end of the year. Be open about your desire to create a more positive environment, and ask your employees how you can be more wellness-friendly in the upcoming year.

Think of this feedback as an opportunity to make some ultra-important New Year’s resolutions!

...Without Forgetting to Help Yourself, Too

Focusing on others and not yourself is part of the spirit of Christmas, but this can create further stress and concerns which you will tend not to address, taken by your enthusiasm of making everyone happy.

Taking care of yourself is crucial, if you want to take care of others. Here are some high level suggestions on how to self-care 😌

Use technology intentionally. Tech has revolutionised the way we spend our holidays. By all means, use it to keep in touch with long-distance family members and to watch your favourite holiday films, but avoid falling prey to work-related temptations such as answering business emails from home.

Having a smartphone means you can fulfill this urge of checking work emails or Slack on the go - this is not something to condemn, but it is important to be intentional about the way you use it.

Practice mindfulness. We’ve all tried meditating at least one, some more successfully than others. I will not go through lengths around the benefits of taking some time to meditate, or even just taking some me-time, if meditating is not your thing. But the holidays give us some extra free time during which we can experiment with a variety of resources which we would normally not have the headspace for, such as guided videos, books and apps to find something that suits, then carry these mindfulness habits with us into the following work year.

Form new habits. The stresses of work are often demanding enough throughout the year that it can be difficult to put forth the added effort to make changes that would benefit your lifestyle. It takes time to form new habits (2 months on average) but there is no better time to think about it than toward the end of the year and experiment with something new as soon as the new year kicks in. Start small, keep consistency, and you can get a big pay off that will last.

Have a back to work plan. What stresses us? What is to come, the uncertainty, the dreaded backlog. Not having a clear plan of how to tackle work loads in January does not allow you and your company to truly enjoy the festivities. Be prepared; set up some high level milestones for you to focus on the new year before you’re off. This will alleviate some of the post-holiday stress.

Create your own holiday retreat. Finally, create a relaxing atmosphere for yourself by working with your schedule rather than against it. Even if you don’t use your time off to organise an elaborate holiday, plan a “staycation” instead! Step away from technology and plan refreshing time for yourself to focus on what you love most from the comfort of your own home.

People Ops teams, people managers, team leads and executives have the ability to not only create a more positive workplace environment for themselves but also for their employees. By putting small adjustments in place, it’s possible to truly allow employees to take a break and return to work refreshed and with a more positive attitude towards the new year and the new challenges and projects this entails!

Wellbeing is important year-round, but there’s no better time to make that little extra effort than during the holiday season. If done right, we might be able to defeat that back to work January Blues

Keep busy, but don’t be overwhelmed. 💆‍♀️

Have thoughts to share around holidays stress and how to overcome it? Drop me a note on Twitter @Lauren31v or share it with the folks @HumaansHQ.

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