Festive burnout: Taking time out from work over Christmas

Published: 25 December 2017 By Olive Keogh

Festive burnout: Taking time out from work over Christmas

Whether your business revs up or winds down, it’s important to find time to relax

 

Olive Keogh

Ideas flow faster with a lighter mind and in theory everyone should come back after the break brimming with ways to solve pre-Christmas problems and fired with enthusiasm for the projects that lie ahead. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Ideas flow faster with a lighter mind and in theory everyone should come back after the break brimming with ways to solve pre-Christmas problems and fired with enthusiasm for the projects that lie ahead. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

 

 

With Christmas on the doorstep, there’s often a frantic rush to get tasks done and projects signed off before the holiday break. It can push already jaded employees to the limit, leaving them heading into the festive season feeling more like the Grinch than Santa Claus.

David Price, wellness expert and managing director of Health Assured, says it is really important to encourage employees to switch off over the Christmas period.

“As with other key times of year including summer holidays, it becomes easy to fall into the trap of allowing work to creep into our personal lives and not taking the time we need to restore our batteries,” he says.

“Employers should be encouraging employees to take time away from work both for the good of their health and to maintain their levels of productivity.

“The first step is to diarise projects and work schedules in order to address which projects need to be completed before the Christmas break and which ones can be left for the new year. Don’t be overly ambitious in trying to get things done: not only could it result in employee burnout, it could also lead to a sub-par finished product, which could ultimately reflect poorly on your company’s reputation.”

The pace of life in the workplace has never been faster and people need their switch off time to regenerate more than ever.

Lighter mind

Ideas flow faster with a lighter mind and in theory everyone should come back after the break brimming with ways to solve pre-Christmas problems and fired with enthusiasm for the projects that lie ahead. Taking a break is a good remedy for regaining perspective and even a short time out can be enough for employees and managers alike to see things in a different light.

One of the things that stops people taking their allocated time off is the subtle pressure of workplace culture. If the practice of “presenteeism” is rife or team members try to appear “macho” by not taking their days off, this needs to be addressed. Some employees may be able to run on empty, but most cannot and taking a break should be encouraged and not allowed to become something for “wusses”.

Time out has nothing to do with poor commitment or a poor work ethic. It’s about getting a balance and feeling re-energised and therefore more productive. Rested employees are more creative and people can’t work with great intensity for prolonged periods.

In the overall scheme of things, not taking holidays may seem pretty inconsequential and some may assume it will advance their careers if they are seen to be made of strong stuff. In fact, people’s productivity drops without proper breaks and the same goes for constantly working very long hours.

Price to pay

There is also a price to be paid for neglecting your family, your friends and yourself. Stress, depression, health issues and family problems all go hand in hand with overwork.  

“Whilst no business ever comes to a complete stop, understanding the importance of enabling your employees and management team to have a much needed break will help reduce the risk of stress levels increasing, of people’s health deteriorating and the business suffering from low productivity as a consequence,” Price says.

Most companies have the yearly ritual of the office party where people often say and do silly things that are best forgotten. What some companies have found a lot more successful is to have smaller team or departmental gatherings very early in the new year while people are still full of goodwill toward men. These events are part business, part social and usually take place around lunchtime.

The initial part of the event is a presentation by the team leader of the goals and vision for the year ahead and people are asked for their input. This is limited to one to two hours maximum and is followed by lunch where employees can circulate and chat.

One of the problems of the digital age is that people are more likely to email a colleague in another office rather than get up and go and talk to them. This may save time, but it kills the possibility of enriched conversations where people bounce ideas, pass on wisdom or ask each other for help or advice.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ETIQUETTE

*Encourage people to take their time off. Time out reduces stress, improves concentration and is good for people’s health. 

*Respect employees’ annual leave and only send crucial emails during the break. Anything that can wait should wait.

*Set up an auto-response for email and work phones letting people know you’re away and won’t respond until after a given date. If it puts your mind at rest, leave the name of a colleague they can contact if a matter is urgent.

*Try to turn your mobile phone off at some point during the break.

*Disable work-related notifications. 

*Nobody said switching off was easy. You have to be disciplined and resist the urge to “do a little bit of work” during your down time.

*It may feel like it’s easier to go to work than take a day off and the more you apply this logic the more real it will become.

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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