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Five ways to beat the workplace summer blues

09-05-2013

picture of  jet leaving with holiday makersThe summer season is fast approaching. The nation's sun-seeking employees are already eager to wrap up their tasks and handover over to colleagues for anything up to three weeks. 

For those left behind, these departures signal additional workloads. Staff who remain in the office or on site will be acutely conscious that every project and every task will need double the attention and double the effort. 

With numerous absences, and temperatures also set to rise, here are five ways for hard-working staff who experience the summer workplace blues to stay safe, productive and minimise stress levels:

1. Inform contacts - work contacts can take years to nurture and sometimes just weeks to lose.  Staff preparing for their vacations can help maintain these critical relationships by notifying their contact base of their plans and the new point for project enquiries, and also brief cover staff on the nature and expectations of their key contacts. Cover staff can then pick up the load with confidence. They can keep projects moving along smoothly and professionally without having to overly stress about which contacts do what and where, and how best to manage them.

2. Share the load - it's obvious, yet wherever possible staff who are asked to cover for vacationing colleagues should be given tasks which are geared to their skillset and aptitudes. By sharing the workloads this way the extra work gets done properly, and avoids unnecessary stress. This strategy is also designed to prevent staff from staying late on site or at the office which, if it happens, can lead to tiredness and anxiety, and as a result potentially expose staff to unforeseen risks. It may even push conscientious or stressed staff to take work tasks home to perform in between hurried meals and kids' bedtime routines as a method to complete a seemingly endless 'To Do' list.

3. Provide access to project notes - this is important for those staff who may be new or unfamiliar with particular projects who are suddenly required to handle extra duties. Getting to grips with both a new workload and a totally new set of projects may seem straightforward for some, though can as easily cause undue concern and more worry for high performing or stretched workers already juggling a number of deadlines and demands. It may also cause them to feel unprepared, unprofessional, and most of all lacking in the right information which allows them to adapt and perform to adequate standards. Full access to project databases and case history notes minimises these issues from the start.

4. Cap hours - extra workloads in periods when several members of staff take holiday time around the same period can end up meaning many more hours are spent at the work site, or cut into valuable personal time. It makes better sense during this time to hire temporary staff, to reallocate hours, rather than push existing staff faster and harder, and potentially risk the consequences from ill or under-performing employees

5. Realise it is short term – it's well documented that jobs can take a toll on people's mental and physical health. Work undertaken during holiday cover must be viewed as just that: holiday cover, and not then creep into the everyday role and function. That way jobs can still be enjoyed, and the extra tasks viewed as additional achievements.

By Laura Sans, blogger and writer on occupational health working alongside Corporate Health

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