• Leah Norman

How to recognise "Holiday Burnout" in employees, and beat it!

Ah December, the time of the year that leads to so many feeling like they have not achieved enough throughout the year, financial pressure from overspending, as well as frequent end-year meetings and drinking sessions.


The holidays are fast approaching and between the myriad of holiday activities and those end-of-year deadlines, it can be easy for your employees (and yourself) to feel burnt out. However, keeping up with all the demands doesn’t have to drain everyone of their holiday cheer – and if it does, there are steps you can take to help others, and yourself, to breathe a little.


There could be a number of reasons why a season known for merriment, which should indicate a winding-down of the year could make people feel even more stressed. The holidays certainly have the potential to help us reconnect with people and traditions that play an important part in our lives, however, the festivities related to the holiday season also brings a myriad of potential logistical and interpersonal difficulties such as;

  • Conflicting events and obligations around both work and family

  • The need or desire to bake, cook or give gifts which can be time consuming

  • Social disconnectedness – or a feeling of isolation – is felt more acutely

  • Strained relationships may become more problematic

  • An increase in work load at the end of the year

In addition, most people expectations of the holidays are often much brighter and festive than the reality of the season as it unfolds and all of these factors can produce additional stress and can provide a sense of disappointment, loss or a feeling of unmet expectations which will tend to lean toward burnout.


How to spot signs of trouble

During this time it is thus crucial to pay attention to the general well-being of your team and not get complacent even during the holiday season.


Here are Yellow's top tips for recognising holiday burnout:

  1. Feelings of being overextended - Notice if employees are feeling drained, overwhelmed and exhausted by the mix of work and familial obligations. This may present with them being just as tired in the morning as they were at the completion of the previous days work.

  2. Having a distant or cold outlook towards activities - Employees can feel distant or cold towards their family and friends. You may notice that they feel it is safer to be indifferent about the season and develop an extreme cynicism.

  3. Feeling ineffective while at parties - You may notice that some employees have somehow lost confidence at parties or events. They may feel inadequate. It has become difficult to think positively about the holidays. These employees may also not feel a sense of personal accomplishment in their work.

  4. An erosion of emotions - Some employees may develop a tendency to blame others for problems or difficulties and react to situations and individuals with anger or even rage.

  5. Engaging in unusual or high-risk behaviour - These behaviours may result in disciplinary procedures inside, but also outside of work such as DIC, an arrest or even suicidal ideation. Illicit drug use, alcoholism, a suicide attempt or an episode of depression or anxiety can be a sign of burnout, as well as significant health and safety risks in the workplace.

You also need to be aware that approaching a supervisor or employer with issues regarding work-related stress can be stress-inducing itself, which is why you need to approach them with an openness and acceptance, advising that you are here to help in some way. If you have to approach an employee, do so in a spirit of cooperation and with a sense of humility, and be frank about your perception of the problem as well how it may be affecting others as well.


How to help employees "bounce-back"

After recognising burnout, it is important to look into ways to reduce work-related stress and increase all-round resilience of your team where possible.


It is imperative that the employee is able to identify the origin of the [work-related] stress so that you can work together to develop ideas regarding potential solutions. Do they need a break from a particular aspect of their work? Do they need to just take time off? Is developing a mindfulness practice of benefit? Each of these problems would require a different solution.


I once heard burnout described as ‘an erosion of the soul’. Which seems quite accurate as many symptoms include of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and loss of a sense of accomplishment, all which can be treated, but, at its root, burnout reveals a soul in search of itself. Hence, often one of the first things to do is to look help pluck the employee out of a state of “busyness”. Being or acting constantly busy is often a subconscious attempt at distracting oneself from being present.


There are also opportunities to then adopt techniques or practices to allow your team to develop presence in a way that can promote healing, reduce any feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as promote a sense of acceptance in their surroundings.


Disclaimer This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.