However, parents aren’t the only people feeling ‘September Stress’. In fact, a 2014 article on Ingram’s Misery Index claimed that summer was the happiest season, with autumn being the most stressful. Findings in the Index are correlated through user search data, and identical search terms from 2019 found similar trends to 2014, with depression related terms being significantly higher than in the past. In other words, its likely a portion of your workforce may be struggling to cope with the return to business as usual, following the quieter summer period.
So how can employers aim to keep these negative feelings at bay in the workplace?
Get on their Wavelength
As an employer, it’s easy to take some time over the summer to reflect on future goals for your business. It’s only natural that you will see September as the time to go in all guns blazing, initiating plans to make THIS quarter the best yet…however not everyone will be on the same page as you.
Remember that, whilst your business is your baby, your employees have their own private issues. Perhaps someone’s child has started school and has been anxious with the change. Equally, a lack of enthusiasm from an employee to ramp up their work again after summer might indicate a drop in motivation about their role.
Take this time to check-in with your employees. Ask them about home life, what might have changed over summer and what THEIR goals are for the remainder of the year so you can help them be more productive and engaged. Regular meetings and check-ins build open relationships, which in turn increase employee engagement and commitment.
Be Open to Flexibility
I have touched on this topic numerous times in the past, and flexibility in the workplace is slowly starting to become the norm, which is an invaluable asset to a business.
Flexible work patterns are life savers to some: parents who have to pick up children from school, staff members who may be carers, or even employees who work better early morning than mid-afternoon.
Companies can implement a number of flexible working options, such as job sharing, reduced working hours, altered start/stop times, compressed hours and working from home. All these opportunities can result in increased job satisfaction, employee loyalty, productivity and profitability, as employees feel less stressed with managing their work/home responsibilities.
Understandably this doesn’t work for every business model, however don’t rule out change – ask your employees for ideas and feedback on what might help increase their productivity.
Encourage Better Sleep and Mindfulness
Quite often we think that a nice, relaxing holiday will have us feeling 100% refreshed and spritely when we get back to work. This isn’t always the case. Sleep patterns are vastly different in the summer, whether it’s because of increased socialising or due to longer evenings and brighter mornings.
Research shows that returning to work after a holiday can be more tiring than initially expected, with the brain having to “switch back on” and become more stimulated again. When tasked with problem solving or innovative thinking, the brain may not be as responsive for the first few days back to work.
A simple way of stimulating healthy brain activity is doodling. Leaving pads and colouring pencils on your employees’ desks will help them focus, ease impatience and generate new ideas. In fact, a study in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology found that people encouraged to doodle whilst listening to people’s names being read out, were able to remember 29% more data in a surprise test conducted a few hours later.
Along with doodling, an increasingly popular means to help employees focus is mindfulness. Implementing mindfulness eases stress and anxiety and encouraging staff members to practice mindfulness at certain times of the day will have a positive impact on mental well-being and their tasks in hand.
Implanting changes in the workplace shouldn’t just be considered after holiday periods. Small updates and changes every few months are important for ensuring your employees are motivated throughout the year.
Ask staff to create individual and team goals each month/quarter to encourage personal improvement along with team morale. Meet with your employees on a regular basis to let them share their successes or get advice on how they can overcome certain hurdles.
Keep enthusiasm at an all-time high by organising team building games, training courses, or interesting speakers to engage with your employees. By investing in employee satisfaction, you are investing in your business.