South Africa’s high stress levels mean employees are already in “holiday mode”

With holidays fast approaching, it may feel like the majority of South Africa’s workforce has checked out for the year. This is due to the fact that many of these workers are feelings the effects of fatigue.

“Many of us begin to feel more tired, stressed and fatigued than usual at the end of the year,” said ManpowerGroup South Africa’s MD, Lyndy van den Barselaar.

“Some of the negative effects of fatigue include loss of focus, decreased productivity and a lower quality of work overall. It is important to recognise the negative effect this can have, not only in the workplace but also in one’s personal life,” she said.

Van den Barselaar cited a 2016 Bloomberg study which found South Africa to be the second most-stressed country in the world – determined from an analysis of various economic, social, and political factors.

“Higher stress levels sustained over a long enough period can lead to, and worsen the effects of fatigue,” said van den Barselaar.

“The end of the year is often the time when we begin to feel most stressed and fatigued, even though, for many of us, it is the time leading up to the holidays. Often we feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, in our work and personal life, before the holidays can begin,” she said.

Van den Barselaar provided the following tips for safeguarding against festive season fatigue:

Evaluate expectations and plan accordingly
“Should you be taking a break over the festive season, be sure to have a plan in place that details all the work that needs to be complete before you go on leave and the deadlines for each task.

Then, try to plan as much as you can around what will need to be done when you return to work, to ensure that you know what to expect and are able to hit the ground running in the new year without feeling overwhelmed,” said van den Barselaar.

“We suggest setting up a meeting with your manager or supervisor, to ensure that expectations are aligned across the board in terms of the work that needs to be done ahead of the end of the year, and what will be expected come the New Year.”

Focus on prioritising
As personal lives often begin to become busier toward the end of the year, prioritising your tasks at work becomes even more important. Van den Barselaar suggests putting together daily and weekly to-do lists in the run up to the end of the year.

“Careful planning and preparation will ensure that you are clear about what needs to be complete each day, week, or even month. Not only will this ensure that your stress levels remain low leading up to the end of the year, but will also ensure that you are able to go on leave and enjoy your holiday knowing that you have completed all your tasks and met your deadlines.”

Clear your workspace
“Having a clean and tidy workspace is important in terms of maintaining professionalism and organisation and in ensuring you are able to complete your tasks to the best of your ability.

The end of the year is a good time to give your workspace a good clean out, to ensure you are able to deliver your best work leading up to the end of the year and that you feel ready and organised for the New Year, instead of overwhelmed,” suggests van den Barselaar.

Digitally detox
Once your leave has commenced, it is important that you enjoy your down time as much as possible, says van den Barselaar.

“Since we live in the era of being ‘always on’, it can be hard for many of us to really switch off from our devices and just enjoy the time we have with our families, friends, etc.

It is important that you disconnect from your work related emails, messages and phone calls as much as possible, to ensure that you are able to truly lower your stress levels and relax during your time off — warding off fatigue and stress,” she says.

Focus on overall wellbeing
The key to decreasing fatigue and stress levels is to focus on wellbeing. “Make time for exercise as often as possible, eat nutritious foods and spend time doing more of what you love in your time off.

Practices like meditation and deep breathing have also been proven to assist with combatting fatigue and stress,” says van den Barselaar.

“While all these tips are particularly useful during this stressful time of the year, they can all be implemented at any time as a means to assist with lowering stress levels and fighting fatigue. While some stress is normal in the workplace, do not become accustomed to high stress levels and consider these to be ‘normal’ — stress can be extremely detrimental to one’s health,” she concludes.

Read: South African fathers set to get new paternity leave rights

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South Africa’s high stress levels mean employees are already in “holiday mode”