How to battle employee burnout in the run-up to Christmas

Between looming deadlines to hit at work by the end of the year, the colder and darker days, and the stress of the Christmas season creeping in, employees can find themselves struggling with widespread mental and physical fatigue at this time of year, leaving many suffering from burnout.

In fact, of the 2,100 managers and employees interviewed by Hack Future Lab, 73% described themselves as being at ‘breaking point’ and 53% welcomed a “festive lockdown” to improve their overall wellbeing. But employers take action to help their teams at this time of year. Employee benefits expert Sodexo Engage shares three steps employers can take to combat Christmas burnout in the workplace:

Why not trial a 4-day work week?

Flexible working is undoubtedly growing in value, given that  9 in 10 employees consider flexible working a key motivator to their productivity at work. The traditional nine to five model isn’t always the most convenient solution for a business or its people so this Christmas, why not trial a more flexible schedule? Not only is it a chance to review the usefulness of flexibility, but an opportunity for employers to put their people first.

Above all it can offer employees some respite from mounting pressures at home and at work. Switching to a flexitime style of work, where possible, or implementing compressed hours to allow for a longer weekend, can go a long way in helping them cope with the heightened demands of family and work life, and, in turn, help alleviate burnout.

Offer a comprehensive support system

Following a turbulent two years, the role of managers in supporting their staff has never been more important. Managers are responsible for ensuring employees have regular opportunities to voice concerns and that their team aren’t drowning under a mountain of work. As the festivities kick-off, managers must continue to check-in with employees to help them manage their workloads and also remind them of how much the team has achieved over the year.

Employees can benefit from further support offered by having an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). in place which allows employees to reach out for professional support with issues including physical, mental and financial health worries. An EAP can offer external support and advice where HR may not be able to assist. Ideally, the manager should be able to identify the signs of an employee on their way to burning out and help prevent employees reaching crisis point.

Encourage rest

With to the return of the work from home order, striking a balance between ‘on and off time’ isn’t always easy, and often contributes to the initial signs of burnout. Research from Cendex found that over half of UK employers say their staff work additional unpaid hours every day. Of this a quarter said that this was down to the pandemic and its increase in remote working, which blurred the line between work life and home life. A return to home working against the backdrop of a busy festive season, may mean many workers will struggle to switch off, and find it harder to justify taking leave amidst the Christmas rush.

Employees should be encouraged to take their annual leave, with managers at every level leading by example. Whether it entails travelling, or spending time with friends and family, employees should take a well-earned break when possible to enjoy Christmas with their loved ones.

Jamie Mackenize, Director at Sodexo Engage comments: “It continues to be a difficult time for everyone and during times of change and uncertainty, it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed and let our anxieties take over. Against a backdrop of a busy festive period, and the fallout of the Great Resignation, employers have a duty of care and the responsibility to provide support to their staff. It’s not just employers who have this duty of care, but managers too. It’s important that everyone works to look after their people, be it colleagues, a team they lead, or a direct report.

“High staff absences and employer expectations are placing a great strain on many employees, making burnout rife this winter. Taking the right steps, from implementing support mechanisms, to considering flexible working perks, can help staff prioritise their wellbeing, and provide them with the tools required to abate signs of burnout.”