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How to Handle Employee Burnout During the Holidays

Published November 27, 2023 - Head of Health and Safety
Employee burnout

68% of New Zealand employees suffering from burnout are dreading the Christmas season. The challenges of skyrocketing expenses, inflation, and labour shortages indicate that we are not approaching the usually festive season full of cheer. This festive season is a time of significant uncertainty for businesses and business owners. How are your employees coping with the stress? And how can you help them avoid employee burnout?

Burnout

The World Health Organisation classifies burn-out as an occupational phenomenon. It defines burnout as a ‘syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ It has three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy

Warning signs may include feelings of dread, irritation, fatigue, distraction, isolation, and apathy. Burnout can often go unrecognized because it has a gradual onset and feels like exhaustion. People avoid acknowledging it since it can make them feel incapable or weak.

Did You Know?

76% of employees experience burnout at least sometimes.

Employee burnout and the holidays

Employee burnout becomes common around the holiday season when workloads increase and deadlines become shorter. Studies have shown that the number of hours people work each week does matter, with burnout risk increasing significantly when work exceeds 50 hours and climbing even higher after 60 hours. Employees who frequently experience burnout are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a new job.

Employees who frequently experience work burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room. Employees suffering from burnout are more likely to seriously consider quitting their job and are also more likely to have a poor work ethic.

Several employees dread the build-up to Christmas because it is busy, stressful, and even traumatic. Many employees are dealing with additional expenses, handling childcare, or struggling to manage family expectations. 43% of retail workers are at risk around the holidays due to increased demand, longer hours, stressful workloads, and increased customer expectations.

The festive season is a bad time to let your employees fall victim to burnout. It can have severe implications for their long-term well-being.

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The impact of employee burnout

Burnout costs Australian and New Zealand organisations almost $11 billion a year. Employee burnout accounts for lost productivity and opportunity. On average, 3.2 days per worker are lost annually through workplace stress and related issues. This does not include the cost of presenteeism.

Employee burnout also has other effects:

  • Negatively impacts team morale
  • Reduces employee satisfaction
  • Reduces work quality
  • Loss of talent

Factors co-relating to employee burnout

  • Unfair treatment at work
  • Unreasonable deadlines
  • Unmanageable workloads
  • Challenging management (micromanagement, poor communication)
  • Lack of support

Ways to avoid employee burnout

There is a misconception that holiday time or taking a break can be the cure for burnout. But it isn’t that simple. Burnout is not just caused by over-work but by employee engagement and management. You dismiss their valid concerns by assuming employees will come back refreshed or completely stress-free after a break.

Burnout should not be mistaken for stress, though they are connected. Experiencing excess stress or unmanaged stress for extended periods can cause burnout. The significant difference is that stress can be reduced, but burnout is trickier to resolve because of the overall symptoms and effects.

You can’t necessarily prevent employee burnout, but you can find ways to avoid it by supporting them.

Plan and prepare

Prepare for all contingencies if the holidays are a busy period for your business:

  • Create a realistic timeline of projects and share it with employees
  • Hire extra staff when necessary
  • Push back projects that may not be urgent
  • Have a set cut-off date for orders or deliveries before the holidays

Promote mental and physical well-being

The hustle culture makes having a sensible work-life balance difficult. However, lack of sleep and rest is associated with health disorders, stress, and obesity. Create an environment that supports work-life balance and encourages your employees to recognize the value of rest.

Schedule workloads realistically and constantly communicate expectations to employees.

Encourage flexibility

It’s natural for employees to run out of steam towards the end of the year. The traditional nine-to-five model can also restrict employees from making the most of their personal lives.

Give employees the flexibility to build their working hours and day. It displays your trust and belief in them, encourages autonomy, and improves employee morale.

You can offer employees options such as:

  • Alternative start and end times
  • Flexible working options
  • Remote working
  • No emails or work phone calls after working hours

Inclusivity in the workplace

Christmas can be a festive time, full of cheer. However, people experience this season differently, and not all employees may celebrate Christmas. Be inclusive and mindful of your employees and their values. The holiday season can cause additional emotional and financial stress for employees. Pay attention to all employees and reach out to anyone struggling to cope with this period.

Motivate your employees

It can be hard to muster up motivation at the end of the year. Employees look forward to their holidays or breaks, and the festivities make it tricky to focus. Integrate meaningful motivation and rewards for your employees. An inclusive and supportive recognition program can boost your employees’ motivation and push them to perform better.

Remember your legal obligations

Employers have a legal obligation to protect the physical and emotional well-being of their employees. Employers who fail to address occupational stress and other psychological health risks could be in jeopardy of their legal obligations.

If you fail to take employee burnout and stress seriously, you are at risk of legal action.

Grow with Employsure

Employsure has worked with 30,000 businesses across Australia and New Zealand by supporting them in employment relations and health and safety. Call our 24/7 Advice Line today to get all your tricky questions answered.

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