By Kimberly Martin, LMFT, Assistant Vice President, Child & Family Services, Riverside Community Care
The holidays are often thought of as an exultant time during which friends and family gather to celebrate. We sometimes forget that for many, the holidays are laden with melancholy, anxiety, and grief. The holiday season may compound these feelings or highlight financial struggles, creating further anxiety. Regardless of circumstance, the holidays may be marked by moments of stress and fatigue.
Keeping this at the forefront of our minds is critical for managers and team leaders. There may be tasks, priorities, and deadlines that are out of our control, but keeping a pulse on how your employees are doing and supporting them in managing their workload is vital.
It is important to recognize signs of stress in your staff throughout the year but it’s critical to pay particular attention during this holiday season. We have collectively experienced an extraordinary two years. Employees continue to work amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while taking on more responsibility during an unprecedented workforce crisis.
Some signs can indicate your team may be experiencing higher-than-normal stress or anxiety, especially during this busy time of year, and may include:
- Behavior changes, such as becoming uncharacteristically irritable or withdrawn
- Decreased frustration tolerance or atypical reactions to new information, directives, or requests
- Changes in appearance or general hygiene
- Being unusually vocal (more or less) in meetings
- Lack of focus or concentration, appearing tired
- Increased tension between team members
- Missing key meetings or supervision (unexplained absenteeism)
- Change in quality of work or reduction in productivity
These signs can indicate that staff is struggling and checking in as soon as possible will make a difference. There are some basic things managers can do to help boost morale and reduce stress among their teams including:
- Recognize stress in yourself and model self-care. How are you showing up for your team? Are you present and continuing to hold yourself accountable to team values? Are you easily frustrated? Your team will notice.
- Don’t send emails to staff after hours unless it is critical. Members of your team may feel pressure to continue to read and respond to non-urgent emails off hours, making it difficult to step away from work and decompress. If you are working late, draft non-urgent emails ahead of time and send them out in the morning.
- Brainstorm with staff around how to incorporate wellness breaks into the day which may give staff a chance to refocus. Wellness breaks can include walks outside, quick yoga/mindfulness sessions, listening to music/brief podcasts, or grabbing a healthy snack.
- Talk to teams about the importance of self-care and encourage staff to consider different wellness activities.
- Create a list of supportive wellness/mindfulness/meditation apps to share with your team.
- Facilitate a brainstorming session with your team, focusing on time management. Shared, creative ideas may help staff plan, schedule, and prioritize tasks.
- Encourage employees to take time off as needed. Taking an occasional wellness day to recharge might just be the key to pushing through.
- Motivate teams to work together in balancing workloads. There may be situations in which team members can split up/share tasks such as paperwork or making phone calls.
- As always, celebrate successes and recognize employees for accomplishments.
- Gather staff to mark heading into a new year together in whatever forum is comfortable (in-person/virtually) and incorporate fun team-building activities. Recognize that it may be helpful to hold off getting together until after the holidays.
- Familiarize yourself with what is offered through your organization’s EAP Program and refer employees when appropriate.
- If you see that a staff member is continuing to struggle, never sit alone with worry. Reach out to your supervisor or HR representative to express concerns and get support.
- Practice self-care. Recognize when you are feeling stressed and take necessary breaks.
Staying attuned and practicing these tips should help you and your team successfully manage this busy time of year while allowing and creating space to celebrate individual traditions.