‘Tis the season to be slack – and stressed
CHRISTMAS cheer aside, December is officially the slackest yet most stressful month of the year at work.
Adelaide wellness and resilience expert Gina Brooks said productivity levels dropped by almost 40 per cent in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“At the same time, workers report an increase in stress levels of 66 per cent,” she said.
Ms Brooks, who runs training provider Training x Design, said workplace studies consistently showed productivity dipped as stress levels increased.
“As Christmas approaches, it is not just work that people have to worry about but all the personal stuff as well – getting gifts bought, preparing for Christmas Day,” she said.
“Often, there are (fewer) people in the office doing the work as many people take early holidays to coincide with the end of school.
“(And) amid all the busyness and Christmas parties, people tend not to eat as well or exercise as much as they normally do, so this doesn’t help either.”
Workskil Australia’s Liana Reinhardt agreed the festive season could be an unusually stressful time in the workplace.
“Workloads can increase significantly as key customer orders or urgent requirements need to be finalised before the Christmas break (and) this can add significant additional stress,” said the national people manager of the not-forprofit employment service.
“This is also a time when many people are facing additional pressures in their personal lives around Christmas planning and end-of-school activities.
“It can be very hard to leave these personal life pressures at the work door and anxiety and depression are common during the festive season.”
According to the South Australian Mental Health Commission, the equivalent of 19,000 weeks are lost every year in this state because of mental health-related compensation claims.
Last year’s State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia study found one in five Australians took time off work in the previous 12 months because they felt mentally unwell, and only 52 per cent of workers believed their workplace was mentally healthy.
Ms Brooks, who works with local business to boost performance, said the key to improving output in December was increasing workplace flexibility.
“If people are physically and mentally well at work, they will perform at their best – (and are) 30 per cent more productive,” she said. Planning is also important. “The core thing is for the team to get together from December 1 and plan – who is going to be away, what events have (team members) got coming up, what are our priorities?” she said. Ms Brooks suggested setting synchronised “block-out times” during the day where the focus is on getting a priority task finished.
“These periods, lasting between 50 and 60 minutes, should be about focusing on a single thing … without the disruption of meetings, phone calls or emails,” she said.
“Above all, be kind to your work colleagues and try to be as understanding as you can of other people’s situations. You never know what personal issues they are dealing with outside of work at this busy time of year.”