Don’t crash on the way to the finish line

New year, same you

As another calendar year approaches, many will be finishing with a burn(out) rather than a ‘bang’.

It’s the time of year where many of us struggle to balance tying up our work responsibilities for the year, holiday celebrations, and the expectations of others in our lives.

Instead of charging towards the end of the year with packed schedules while simultaneously wanting to be more productive, social, and rested.

It’s time to re-think our productivity and wellbeing, so we don’t crash and burn(out) on the way to the finish of 2021.

Unmasking our wellbeing

It’s time to stop treating productivity and wellbeing at work as opposites.

You do not have to prioritise one at the cost of the other.

Increasing our work hours to ‘just get it done’ or to earn more is incredibly tempting at this time of year.

In fact, this approach works counterintuitively to our intention, making our health and wellbeing casualties.

This manifests at our social events, we can feel compelled to say we are feeling 'fine / okay / well / good', when we are not. This ‘masking’ has damaging effects on our wellbeing.

This is exacerbated by the holiday season celebrations happening too for our teams or businesses, we feel compelled to say differently or the opposite to what we might be feeling.

Elisa Walther, Principal Consultant Psychologist with workplace wellbeing experts, Communicorp, said: “It is not uncommon to see people being so focussed on putting one foot in front of the other just to get to the end of a deadline or ‘finish line’, that they haven’t paused to realise how they’re really faring.”

Reframing 'New year, new me'

This well-known mentality has loopholes.

Firstly, how we finish the year is as important as how we start it.

Our productivity doesn’t have to be at the cost of our wellbeing, and vice versa.

Elisa added: “It is not uncommon for people to look at the summer break as an opportunity to refresh and regain our health and wellbeing.”

What if our workplace was an environment which encouraged our productivity *and* our health all year?

Think about the culture at your workplace, and how it impacts people.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1.8 million Australians have left or lost a job in the last year. 21% of these, the largest cohort, were in professional careers/roles.

With this in mind, 'new year, new me' becomes 'new year, same me, same struggles, new job'.

Even during the end of the year, it is possible set up ourselves well for the new year:

How managers can support employees in the silly season

1. Empower people to say ‘no’

With so many work responsibilities and social work commitments, emphasise which activities are optional and which are required.

When we are empowered to say ‘no’ we can reclaim some valuable rest time.

Elisa adds: "Consider the ‘extra projects’ we load our team up with during the ‘quieter months’.

“Capitalise on a golden opportunity to decrease the load on our teams and allow opportunity to pause and recover which helps to increase capacity for the following months.”

2. Acknowledge the holiday season is not ‘merry’ for everyone

Stress, grief, feelings of homesickness are just some of the big emotions which have affected our wellbeing this year.

“Some have experienced these types of emotions for prolonged periods because of the disruption of COVID-19,” Elisa said.

Show an accepting attitude for those who many not be ‘party people’ or who may not feel inclined to celebrate.

3. Create safe spaces for your employees

It’s an ideal time to reach out personally to employees to talk about how they feel their year has been and celebrate their successes with them.

Remember not everyone will want to talk openly straight away, and you can provide access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

4. Make time to get feedback

When you check in with employees, encourage them to share their thoughts on their regular tasks, processes, their workload. Listen to what they found to be positive or effective and what their challenges were.

Tips for healthy celebration

  1. Make a budget – Avoid adding to financial stress. If you’re attending several events, set a budget and stick to it. If you’re organising an activity or event, be upfront about any cost involved and if attendance is optional or required.
  2. Moderation – Moderation is frequently discussed in relation to food and alcohol. While important, consider how you can moderate your time and energy when working and socialising – e.g., attending an event for an hour, or choosing one event to attend instead of both.
  3. Set aside ‘me time’ – When you schedule in time for yourself make it time where you do nothing that is essential, prioritising physical and mental rest.
  4. Have an outlet – Look after your physical health by having an outlet for your thoughts or emotions – e.g., physical exercise, chatting to a professional or a loved one or doing a hobby which aligns with your interests and personal values.