By Daniel Rabbie, CEO of GetBusy
“For millions of us the world over, Christmas is not the relaxing time it once was. The demands of home and work can have a huge impact on our festive build up; whether it be dashing through crowds to pick up the most wanted gift of the year, packing the freezer ready for Christmas dinner, completing end of year reviews, or squashing a month’s worth of work into just a couple of weeks. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that this time of year can be incredibly stressful for everyone.
“A study by the Institute of Leadership & Management found that 64% of full-time workers read and respond to emails when on holiday, while 73% of respondents said they feel more stressed than usual in the run-up to annual leave. And with Christmas added into the mix, come January, when we’re supposed to be feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, we can often be left feeling more burnt out than ever before.
“Although we’ll never be able to remove the stress completely, there are steps we can take to reduce the pressure of the season from a work perspective. And it all starts now!
Plan ahead and be prepared
“Although the Christmas shut down is welcome, it can cause added stress for all professions. But there are ways to help take some pressure off. Planning ahead and preparing well in advance is the key to making sure you reduce as much stress as possible.
“If you know you have a big project to complete before Christmas, start it and delegate out as necessary at the beginning of December – not during the last week before Christmas. That way, you can chip away at it bit by bit, then come the final week, you’ll have a head start, rather than beginning from scratch.
“Similarly, if you’re aware of potential challenges ahead, anticipate them. All too often, the final week of Christmas is the week loose ends are tied up for the year, and emails and queries from teams, bosses, and clients come flooding in. So, by making sure you’re organised and can find information quickly, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.
Be clear in your communication
“Set up a to do list for everyone in good time, highlighting what is expected before they finish for Christmas, who is assigned to each project, and who will be working which days and times.
“This gives everyone the opportunity to ask questions, set themselves up, and manage their own time effectively – reducing the chances of last-minute panics during the last few days.
Have regular updates with your team
“This is always important, but more so at busy periods. Regular catch ups with your team ensures you all know who is working on what project, and where support can be given. It’s also the perfect opportunity to flag any concerns or issues – and vice versa – in good time.
“While it’s often best to have team meetings weekly or bi-weekly, and quick daily stand ups, during December, you’ll want to schedule extra time for catch ups and 121s. Mid-December is a good point to work towards, as it will give you plenty of time to clear backlogs and solve problems before they become a bigger issue, but also builds the trust in your team and gives them the space to solve problems and take on tasks on their own.
“It’s imperative, that as a leader, you create an open space to discuss pressure points and issues, as well as clearly communicate what is expected of everyone in plenty of time. not only does this reduce pressure on the team, but also on you.
Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise
“Sometimes, there are tasks we just can’t get done. And although it may not feel like it, it’s not always an issue.
“If you or your team is struggling, make a priority list; what must be done this side of Christmas, and what can wait until the new year? Once you have sorted out your to-dos, communicate these to ensure expectations are met. After all, it’s always best to flag what cannot be done in good time, rather than on the day – or just not deliver. And you never know, it might be something that someone else can take on.
Practice what you preach
“If you’re always telling your team to log off on time, take regular breaks, get some exercise during the day, and switch off at evenings, weekends, and during their leave, don’t let it just be words.
“Your team often looks to you to lead and guide them, so lead by example and switch off completely during the holidays. No emails should be sent during leave – yours or anyone else’s. Not only will you find you’re more productive when you come back, but you’ll often find your team is, too.
Utilise task management
“There’s no need to make life more difficult; technology is there to help you, so make use of it. Task management systems are one of the easiest changes to implement and introduce but can overhaul the way teams and businesses operate.
“Not only can tasks management tools save you and your team time, but they can also aid in productivity, helping everyone understand priorities, have view of outstanding work, and delegate to other members with ease – perfect for peak holiday times when rota systems may be in place for cover.
“Those who use task management the most effectively keep everything organised, altogether, and updated daily.”