Take the holiday, leave the stress


With Easter falling close to Anzac Day this year, some Australians are taking advantage by booking longer breaks that don’t put much of a dent in their annual leave. Holidays may have a positive effect on health and wellbeing for some workers, and can potentially boost productivity overall. But sometimes they can create stress due to time pressure and an increased workload, while people scramble to compensate for lost time and ensure obligations are met when they’re away. And for those who aren’t taking time off around Easter, there may be extra work to cover for employees who are away.

A little stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in fact, some can be motivating. However, when stress is prolonged it can take a toll on physical and mental health, which isn’t exactly ideal if you’re aiming to have a thriving workforce. Stress might seem inevitable when there is so much work to do in a short space of time. So while it may be unrealistic to remove short-term high-pressure situations, you can help ensure your employees are equipped to deal with the stress as best they can.

Managing work expectations

  • Check in with your employees and look for signs of exhaustion. Watch for signs of stress, which may include mood swings, being withdrawn, a lack of motivation, commitment and/or confidence, or an increase in sensitivity or aggression.
  • If an employee is feeling overwhelmed, it might be a good idea to assess whether the goals they’ve set themselves before they clock out are achievable or not. Review their workload and, where possible, extend project deadlines or redistribute the workload among team members to try and alleviate some of the pressure. This can not only support your employees’ wellbeing, it could help increase their commitment to the job in the long-term.
  • Encourage your staff to continue healthy habits, including getting enough exercise and sleep. During times of busy-ness these wellness strategies may help them cope better.
  • Suggest staff put their out-of-office message on the day before they actually go on leave, then they’ll be able to focus on the most urgent tasks to finish up with fewer distractions.


Helping staff get the most from holidays

Recommend that your employees set clear expectations about who in the team will make manage their projects while they’re away, so they don’t need to be contacted (unless there are specific reasons to do so). Helping your employees to ensure their time off really is time off, shows you’re considering their wellbeing and they’re more likely to come back to work feeling refreshed.

Discourage your staff from working while on holidays, such as taking conference calls, so they can switch off as much as possible. Unless there is a specific reason for them to be contacted on holiday, make it clear you expect your staff to refrain from checking or responding to emails.   Worrying about inboxes and taking calls from colleagues can prevent employees from taking a proper break, which can contribute to burnout in the long-term.

And when your staff return to work, encourage them to use the first day back to get their heads back into ‘work mode’ and get on top of their inboxes before scheduling meetings.


Be the example

Lead by example by staying off email and not phoning the office while you are on holiday as much as possible. A US survey suggested that just 14 percent of managers fully unplugged from emails while on holiday, and only 7 percent of bosses at the most senior levels. As a manager you have a huge influence on your employees’ time, so the onus is on you to be a role model and demonstrate the value of fully switching off from work when taking leave.

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