4 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress Among Your Lab Team
Some degree of holiday stress is a reality for most people every year, but as the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched on, that stress has been compounded by emotional fatigue and uncertainty as to how people should celebrate the holidays.
You've been working with your staff since the pandemic began to ensure that they are able to take the paid time off they may need to care either for themselves or loved ones who have fallen ill or been otherwise affected. Those opportunities are still important, but there are ways you can help your staff manage stressors as they try to balance their work responsibilities with a potentially hectic home life through the holidays.
1. Watch for Signs of Stress
While your staff's mental health is a priority to be considered at any time of the year, they may exhibit additional warning signs at the holidays that stress is catching up to them. Some signs include diminished interest in their responsibilities or general company activities, increased physical ailments such as headaches, panic attacks or complaints of sleeplessness or fatigue, or increased absenteeism or other changes in habits.
Acknowledge to your team that the additional mental weight of the holidays is understandable. Let them know they will not be penalized for expressing they are under added strains and ensure they know your door is always open to talk.
2. Be Proactively Supportive
A survey published this fall in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the prevalence of depression symptoms was three-fold higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than in prior surveys. When combined with typical holiday pressures, the need for extra support this year becomes clear.
Encourage your team members to bring any added strains to your attention so that you can develop plans together to alleviate the impact on them and their work/life balance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an array of tips and links to resources designed to help people manage the stress of the pandemic, and many of them could be useful to share with staffers who may be struggling with the added weight of the holidays. The CDC recommends:
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.
- Carving out time in your day for non-work-related activities you enjoy.
- Taking breaks from the news and social media.
Finally, be particularly mindful of those staff members who have suffered personal loss or extra challenges due to the pandemic this year. The holidays are often difficult for people who have recently lost loved ones or who have undergone a major life change, and this year could be especially difficult for members of your team, whether you know about their personal circumstances or not.
3. Take and Give Generous PTO
One of the best ways to combat holiday stress is to encourage your staff to take time off. Set an example for them by taking PTO yourself. Talk about your plans as a way to get them to look forward to their own time off.
Whatever additional scheduling flexibility you can offer with PTO is likely to be helpful and appreciated. If possible, occasionally shorten the work day for all your staff, from time to time, so they can run errands or have time to help friends or family prepare for the holidays.
4. Make Time to Connect
Your team is likely feeling some level of isolation due to either working remotely or social distancing in the name of combating the spread of COVID-19. Where possible, schedule work-based holiday events during normal business hours both to enjoy some downtime as a team and connect on a personal level. Your holiday party might not look like it usually does, but you can still host a virtual or socially distant event to bring your staff together and celebrate what you've accomplished this year despite the hardships of 2020.