Stress is a problem that can affect anyone, in any industry, at any time but most employees do tend to experience elevated symptoms of tiredness and stress towards the end of the working year. The adverse effects of stress usually build up over time whilst manifesting itself in different ways with different people.
“The festive season definitely adds an additional dimension of pressure and stress amongst South African employees and, if left unchecked can lead to significant psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and burnout,” says Juanita Simpson, Sales and Marketing Director at ICAS Southern Africa.
“Dealing with heavier workloads to cover for colleagues who are away on leave, supporting children who are taking exams, and making arrangements for one’s own holiday can all take their toll and lead to sleepless nights for employees who continue working throughout the festive season,” continued Simpson.
Although stress is very common, research shows that over 60% of senior managers say they feel stressed all or most of the time.2 Intense and persistent pressure is not good for physical or mental health and can adversely affect performance. For example, stress can affect ones mood and a stressed manager may not even realise that being in a foul mood, impatient or unduly demanding can demotivate junior colleagues and have a knock on effect on their wellbeing and productivity.
Although making do with a reduced workforce can be challenging, holidays are vital for employees to recharge their batteries and, if they don’t – for example, by keeping on working during their holiday – they run the risk of burnout, with potentially serious long-term implications for their health. Indeed, to recover they may need to take even more time off work to recover than they would have taken had they had a proper break.
If you are worried about workforce planning, there are steps you can take to ease the pressure on employees such as hiring temporary workers to provide cover during the festive season. You should also encourage employees who remain at work not to overlook their own wellbeing by taking time to relax outside of working hours.
- Work smarter, not harder
- When you are an employee or three down, the work still has to be done. However, it may be unrealistic to expect those who remain in the office to cover the hours and workload of those away on holiday. Do what you can to discourage unnecessary overtime, however, and encourage staff to take regular breaks. Taking a pause is better for productivity and working smarter, not longer, can help those still at work to deal more effectively with the workload of absent workmates.
- Employers should also think about staff absence with regard to what skills will be missing, when. If possible, identify two or three people who can deputise when a key worker is away on holiday to ensure business continuity. And, when planning annual leave, it is important to ensure that these key workers do not all take their holiday all at the same time.
- Make sure everyone knows their role
- The festive season providers a great opportunity for junior team members to step up and show what they can do. However, this requires a thorough handover so everyone knows what is expected of them. This is worth its weight in gold as it saves time searching for answers. If an employee is going on holiday, make sure that tasks are assigned to other ‘owners’ for the duration of their leave and appoint a designated email checker to make sure nothing falls through the net whilst they’re away.
- Take the time
- Investing time in employees is good for morale and offers an opportunity to check how they’re coping. Ask your employees how they’re feeling and ascertain what pressures they are under, both at and away from work. Having a good appreciation of workload strain and how employees are feeling should make it easier to allocate tasks and maintain productivity.
- Measures such as flexible working can also help to avoid a stressful commute and accommodating family or other personal commitments should help to build goodwill and loyalty.
“Stress associated with the festive season is not unusual and employers would be wise to undertake an employee health check at this time – from hay fever to stress. Businesses rely on their workforce and a happy, healthy team should be more productive. And, by taking simple steps such as those outlined above, you can make a big difference both to your workforce’s wellbeing and to your business’ balance sheet,” Simpson concludes.