More customers, longer hours and an increased workload can add up to festive fatigue for your team. Here’s your guide to looking after your staff members to help avoid burnout over the Christmas and New Year rush.

While the Christmas carols tell us our days should be merry and bright, the reality can look very different for small business owners and their staff.

We asked our business adviser Ali Richards to share her top tips for business owners to help their teams avoid burnout this Christmas.

Why do you need to mind your team’s energy at the end of the year?

“The festive season can be a busy time for employees at work, and in their personal lives,” says Ali.

“Customers may also be under increased pressures during the festive season, which can impact customer-facing staff. Many businesses may also suffer from the shortage of additional workers during peak periods – so it’s important to watch for signs of fatigue.”

The causes and signs of fatigue

“Your employees are important to your business, and you have a duty of care to them, including managing any health and safety issues arising from your business.” says Ali. “Some of the causes of fatigue can include prolonged physical or mental activity, long periods of anxiety and also boring or repetitive tasks.”

According to Ali, signs of burnout or fatigue can include changes in behaviour such as:

  • Arriving late for work or increased absence
  • Difficulty concentrating or learning
  • Seeming irritable, bored or yawning often
  • Memory problems, a reduced capacity to communicate or slowed response times
  • An increase in errors, incidents or even injuries

“Fatigue often leaves a person feeling sluggish, drained of energy and exhausted,” says Ali.

“This can reduce a team member’s ability to work safely and effectively, with the potential to impact on safety for themselves and others at work. Continued fatigue may also affect a person’s long-term health and welfare.”

Under new Work Health and Safety Laws, it’s even more important to take action to eliminate risks to health and safety, such as excessive fatigue, which may harm the individual, their teammates or customers. If it is not reasonably practicable to completely remove the risk, you need to make sure it needs to be minimised as far as is reasonably practicable.

Photo of SBDC Business Adviser Ali Richards sitting at her desk in the SBDC's office in the Perth CBD.
SBDC Business Adviser Ali Richards.

Respond to the signs of fatigue

If you see signs of fatigue in your team, Ali recommends beginning with a conversation.

“Talk to the person, without judgement, to try to find out what they need and assess how you can help. You could consider changing the work environment, if it’s likely to help, and perhaps schedule extra breaks during the workday.”

In some cases, you may need to encourage your staff member to speak to a health professional about their physical or mental healthcare.

Have fatigue management strategies in place

Ali recommends encouraging your employees to communicate and let you (or their supervisor) know if they feel fatigued.

“You could provide your staff with fruit and other healthy snacks, schedule breaks periodically and perhaps encourage mild exercise,” says Ali. “Monitor shift times and rosters to ensure there’s enough time between shifts for the employee to have at least 8 hours of undisturbed sleep.”

It’s important to look after yourself too. Learn about managing your wellbeing as a business owner.

Make your staff members feel valued and appreciated

While a lavish end-of-year party is not always an option and Secret Santa can sometimes create issues at work, it’s worth making your team feel appreciated as part of getting through the tiring Christmas period.

“Thanking the team which helped your business achieve business results is important – but how to thank them will depend on many factors,” Ali notes.

“In many situations a simple handshake or a heartfelt “thank you” may be enough to allow staff to feel appreciated. Other ideas may include something meaningful to each employee such as a gift card, extra paid time off or perhaps flexible hours during a quieter period in the future.”

More information

  • The Federal Government funded Ahead for Business program has free resources and online training you can use to help create and support a healthy workplace.
  • Need a break from your own business? Find out how to take a holiday to recharge.
  • If you’d like to discuss an issue facing your business or how to support your employees, book an appointment with our free business advisory service.
13 December 2023