The main holiday season is over, the last Bank Holiday weekend of the year has come and gone, leaving us with post-holiday back to work blues. This usually passes after a couple of weeks, but there are five stress triggers for your employees at this time of year that affect mental health and wellbeing, performance and productivity, and they’re the five main reasons people come to me for life coaching during September.
Forward-thinking employers can reduce the impact and losses significantly if they acknowledge these problems and get the right support in place for their employees early. If you can stop someone from falling into a hole in the first place, it’s much easier than trying to pull them out of the hole once they’ve fallen in.
Back to work and nothing has changed
This isn’t a problem if your employees are generally happy at work, they’ll soon settle back into it. But if they are feeling unfulfilled, under-valued, pressurised, or the team relationships are bad, then the return to work will be more than just back-to-work blues, and more a feeling of dread, frustration and even hopelessness if they feel stuck in their current situation. Their summer holiday may have been the only respite from an unhappy work life, and their lunchbreaks are likely to be spent job hunting online.
The holiday was ‘make or break’
A solicitor once told me that the divorce rate increases after the summer holidays. I haven’t checked the statistics, but I definitely see this in my clients. If a relationship isn’t working then taking a holiday together, some time to reconnect and rebuild bridges, there is a hope that romance can be rekindled. Sometimes this works, but sadly spending two whole weeks with someone when the relationship has gone too far beyond repair can make things worse.
If one of your employees is in this situation right now, they might be coming to terms with the loss of their relationship, or worrying about the practical side of things. How will the kids cope? Will they have to sell the house? How will they manage financially? Will they lose all their friends? What if they never meet anyone else and end up alone? With all this going on, no wonder work performance is affected.
Their suntan looks healthy but their bank balance doesn’t
Holidays are expensive, especially if you are taking them during peak season. Many summer holidaymakers are using loans or credit cards to pay for their travel and accommodation, in debt before the holiday even starts. Once you arrive the temptation to spend more is everywhere, and the holiday spending money budget is blown. Even a ‘staycation’ with kids can end up costing a fortune trying to keep the family entertained while battling the British weather. It’s back down to earth with a bump after the holiday when the credit card statement arrives and Christmas, the other most expensive time of year, is looming.
The impact of debt is often increased by the unhealthy coping methods people use to deal with it (or avoid it). The debt itself can often be a symptom of something else going on.
The Academic New Year
September is a time of family changes. Young children starting school can be a stressful time for parents. It can mean that balancing family life and work gets easier, but it can make things more complicated too. Childcare arrangements might have to change, contingency plans for sick children, and managing children who might be in different schools.
Then there’s the emotional impact. The youngest child starting school marks the end of an era, a shift in family dynamics. The guilt experienced by many working parents, the pressure they put upon themselves trying to be everywhere for everyone. It’s a period of adjustment that even the strongest families can struggle with. Mums especially can find themselves disconnected from their friends and support network once children start secondary school and travel independently. The connection with other parents can be lost.
Many parents experience emotions similar to grief when their older children leave home for university. Separation anxiety, worrying for their child’s safety and wellbeing so far from home, added to their own sense of loss as family life changes and children grow up. Don’t underestimate the impact this can have on a parent.
Winter is Coming (and not just in the North)
Weather gets colder and gloomier, days get shorter, the holiday they’ve waited for all year has been and gone. Soon they’ll be travelling to work in the dark, and going home in the dark too. There’s less chance to enjoy the outside, often that means less exercise, when it’s cold, wet and windy.
For those affected by the changing seasons, this is going to be the most difficult time of the year. Employees affected by SAD may not tell you about it, struggling through the winter in silence, or they may find themselves unable to cope, and end up taking sick leave. Even without this condition, morale can still take a hit as Autumn and Winter approach.
Are You Doing Enough?
Just one employee going through any of these challenges can affect the whole team, and addressing it from a performance perspective won’t help. If someone is already struggling with life issues (we’ve not even considered work-related stress in this) is called into meetings or put on a performance improvement plan this could be the thing that sends them into a period of long-term sickness. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent this? Remember the hole that we want to stop people falling into?
As a manager or business owner, this might be outside of your skill set, or perhaps you just don’t have the time or resources. HR Departments have more than enough on their plates already, employee assistance programs often cover counselling, but not everyone needs or wants counselling so don’t think that by having an EA plan in place you have everything covered.
The JFK quote ‘The best time to fix the roof is while the sun is shining,’ might refer to economics, but it’s just as true when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of your employees too. If you want some help with this, please get in touch. You can contact me here.