How to protect your employees from the winter blues
Work-induced fatigue, otherwise known as ‘burnout’, can take hold any time of year.
However, staff burnout is becoming increasingly common around the holiday season—where workloads typically expand and longer hours are required to meet those end-of-year deadlines.
But employers are not entirely powerless to stop it. Let’s take a look at what you can do to prevent your staff from suffering with burnout over the festive season.
Occupational burnout is not ‘just’ fatigue: emotional and physical exhaustion, irritability, a lack of concentration, anxiety, insomnia and depression can also play a part—all of which are exacerbated during the cold, dark winter months.
In retail, as high as 43% of workers are at risk around the holidays, typically due to increased demand, longer hours and larger crowds of shoppers that flock around Christmas and Black Friday sales.
When employees are unwell, your business will pay the price: burnout causes work absences, lateness, a drop in productivity, a decrease in the overall standard of work and, in some cases, a high staff turnover.
In fact, the Health and Safety Executive calculated 54% of working days were lost due to burnout in 2018/19, while last year during the peak of the coronavirus crisis, an estimated 75% of workers in Britain suffered.
Fortunately, burnout can be avoided by teaching managers the signs, symptoms and its causes which vary from hefty workloads and unrealistic deadlines to unclear responsibilities and a breakdown in communication.
Focus on wellness
Wellbeing is a focal point of national conversation these days, yet many UK companies fall short when it comes to subscribing to wellness programmes.
The good news is that promoting pragmatic physical and mental health practices in the workplace is simple.
You can remind staff to take their lunch breaks and regular mini break intervals throughout the day, or schedule a one-to-one meeting to see how they are coping with the job.
Ultimately, employers should be reminding staff that support is available to them and how that assistance can be obtained.
An unmanageable workload with multiple deadlines can be a recipe for burnout.
It can be tempting to want to wrap everything up before the end of the year and to tie up loose ends, but managers should be mindful of their own overly ambitious expectations of staff.
In reality, the bulk of tasks can be postponed or prioritised into what can be achieved pre and post New Year—and the standard of work will improve as staff won’t be frantically cramming the work in to meet an arbitrary deadline.
Honour time off
Christmas is the busiest time of year in the UK, and your staff will more than likely have their own errands and commitments outside of work to attend to. ‘tis the season for Christmas shopping, visiting family and friends and celebrating, after all.
Annual leave is important for staff during this time, but the chance to unwind is also advantageous work-wise, too. A good break away from the office is a great refresher before business resumes as normal.
When it’s not feasible to honour everyone’s annual leave requests, managers can instead offer earlier finishes or extended lunch breaks. A team lunch or staff party is always popular, too.
In our constantly connected world, staff continue to take their work home with them. Research conducted over the Christmas period in 2018 found that over half of UK workers checked their emails over the holidays, while nearly a third logged on during Christmas day.
Not being able to disconnect is having a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of the UK workforce. Employers should remind their team to turn off when they are resting, and should equally respect employees’ personal boundaries by not contacting them on their day off.
Celebrate the season
Finally, one small initiative to boost morale is to ensure the season is being celebrated. Decorate the office, pool in for a ‘secret Santa’ gift exchange, host a staff awards ceremony or relax the dress code—anything to add a bit of fun to an otherwise stressful work period.
But ultimately, the key to avoiding employee burnout over the holidays is to listen to staff concerns and to promote a healthy work-life balance.