Ah, the festive season. A joyous time of year. But coming at the end of 12 long months, it can also be a challenging time for hard-working team members who may have one eye on taking a well-earned rest – and another eye, anxiously, on everything that still needs to be completed before they do it.
Even if your company itself isn’t closing down over the Christmas and New Year period, many of your clients and suppliers may well be, which can cause a knock-on effect of super-tight deadlines, disjointed staff availability and any number of other seasonal complications. It’s a potentially stressful mix that can quickly result in employee burnout if you’re not careful.
What is ‘burnout’?
Burnout describes a situation when team members have exhausted their physical, mental or emotional reserves in the performing of their job role. It can be caused by many factors including stressful projects or clients, a lack of support and resources (real or perceived), tight impending deadlines, or even just plain old exhaustion. It’s also commonly seen in the type of employees who tend to set unrealistically high expectations on themselves.
How do you beat burnout?
Every workplace and team is different. That said, here are a few important things we’d recommend you keep an eye on to help ensure this year’s festive cheer doesn’t lead to festive ‘tears’. (In truth most of these can be applied to any time of the year.)
1. Know the warning signs
Surveying the office and seeing a hard-working team can be hugely satisfying for a senior manager or business owner. But is end-of-year burnout or exhaustion lurking just beneath the surface? Warning signs include uncharacteristic quality lapses, increased irritability with colleagues (or, even worse, with clients), missed deadlines, changes in time management, a deterioration in grooming standards and possibly a rise in the number of sick days being taken. The other big thing to watch for is team members who’ve accumulated large amounts of annual leave over the course of the year/s, but never seem to use it.
2. Burning too many candles
Candles are great when you’re singing Christmas carols in the local park. But if your team members are burning the candle at both ends, with constantly early starts and late finishes, it’s a good idea to find simple ways to release the pressure valve a little. Maybe suggest they start a little later some days, or work from home? Give them a fun ‘social’ project to help provide a distraction? Or even reward them with a surprise paid day off, or a professional development day, at short notice?
3. It’s okay to switch off
Even if you’ve managed to get everyone out of the office at a reasonable hour, what about those who continue to work from home, or work remotely? Not all staff are good at switching off and may end up working well into the night to get pre-Christmas projects completed. The key here is to lead by example, both in what you say, but also what you do. Make it clear that it’s not simply okay to switch off – mentally, physically and digitally (stop checking emails at midnight and on weekends!) – it’s actively encouraged.
4. Protecting staff from themselves
Sometimes even the best team members need a gentle reminder it’s in their own interests to recharge their batteries a little, especially when the pressure is on. Determined not to stop until every project has been completed perfectly – an almost impossible task – it can reach a stage where they’re personally taking on so much responsibility it’s almost inevitable burnout will take hold. Remind them that, while their commitment is admirable, running themselves into the ground is no good for them or your business in the longer term.
5. Open doors
In today’s modern, highly mobile workforces, it can be difficult to gauge just how busy your team members actually are. For this reason, it’s a great idea to have an open door policy where employees know they’re always welcome to raise potential workload issues about current or looming projects – well before they become fully-blown problems. Listen to their concerns. Explore the alternatives. Then work together to implement a workable solution. Or, at the very least, help them see that the light at the end the approaching tunnel isn’t a train!
Ultimately, frequent and honest communication is the key to solving many of the issues that can lead to burnout, so be sure to keep talking and listening.
Need strategies for beating employee burnout?
Contact ELR Executive today.