As the year draws to a close, we’re hearing that many people are feeling tired and worn out. This is not a new phenomenon— we see it every year when November and December roll around. By this point in the year, many people have not taken a decent break for several months, and yet at the same time, there’s a mounting pressure to deliver those last projects, and meet final deadlines before the summer holidays can start.

Add to this the personal life events and associated stress at this time of year (Christmas to-do lists, social end-of-year gatherings, school events etc.) and the general instability that has been felt in our communities this year (flooding disasters, rising costs, and worry about the state of the world), and it’s no wonder people are feeling exhausted and mentally overloaded.

If you are a people leader, it can be a struggle to motivate your team when you’re suffering from end-of-year fatigue yourself.

We have compiled seven steps that you as a manager, can take to support yourself, and your team:

1. Manage your own fatigue and stress

As the saying goes, put your own oxygen mask on first, before assisting others. Your team will look to you for how they are expected to act, so set a good example; leave on time, take regular breaks, exercise, and get enough sleep. No doubt you’ve heard it before, but a reminder that meditation, mindfulness and yoga are excellent tools when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety. Take care of yourself, and you will be in a much better position to lead your team through the next few weeks.

2. Acknowledge wellbeing

While it might feel counterintuitive, it’s super important to bring your team together during stressful periods. Implement 'micro-retreats' i.e. brief breaks that offer your people the chance to step away from their desks/workstations, recharge, and return with a fresh sense of focus. A brisk walk or a quick game can be just what you all need. Open up a conversation around stress, where you openly acknowledge and validate your team's feelings of exhaustion and pressure. Let this be the catalyst for you to together come up with ideas on how to address it. Follow through on your agreed actions.

3. Create psychological safety

Make it clear that it’s important to you as a leader to create a safe environment where your team not only feels comfortable discussing their challenges, but where they can ask for help when they need it. Not feeling supported, or feeling unable to ask for help is a key factor in burnout, so forming good relationships built on trust, with your team members and colleagues, is crucial. Lead by example; prioritise information sharing, spending time together, and getting to know each other to create this safe space.

4. Set realistic and clear expectations

Check that your own and your team members’ workloads are manageable, achievable and that what’s expected is clear. A lack of clear expectations is another reason why people burn out, as it can cause them to feel they need to overstretch themselves to prove they’re being productive. This is especially an issue when people work remotely. You can reduce this type of stress by being extra clear about what work needs to be delivered and by when, and fostering a shared sense of purpose. When a team shares the same values and a strong sense of connection, their motivation to complete tasks increases, driven by a deeper understanding of how their individual contributions fit into the bigger organisational picture.  

5. Help your team to prioritise

Feeling busy can create lots of unnecessary stress. If it’s not clear to a team what their priorities are, there’s a risk time will be spent on non-critical things, meaning you’re less likely to achieve what you need to by the end of the year. Work together to breakdown the contents of your team’s to-do lists, and outline and agree which projects to prioritise. This allows for more focused work. And a hot tip, this is not the best time to spring a new task or project on your team!

6. Be flexible

If there’s ever a time in the year when people have a lot on in life, it’s the next few weeks. Alleviate some of the stress your team may be feeling due to juggling competing professional and personal demands, by demonstrating that you’re flexible with them doing what they need to do to manage the juggle, and still deliver at work. There’s no one-size fits all of what works best when it comes to flexibility, so talk to your team members, and work out what can be done to take the pressure off without compromising on the outputs.  

7. Encourage time off and offer mental health support

If your people are feeling tired, make sure they take as much annual leave as possible over summer to properly relax and recharge. If you think someone in your team needs more support, promote mental health awareness and access to resources and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) confidential counselling support.

By taking these steps, you can maximise your own and your team’s wellbeing, as well as their output. This will allow you collectively to finish the year on a high, and set yourselves up to start the new year with renewed energy and motivation.

How are you feeling about being an effective people-leader, and looking after your own needs during this time? Please reach out should you need extra support. Call us on +64 9 300 7224 or email—we're here to help.