Avoiding December slump at work

Avoiding the December Slump at Work

Everyone has had a work slump. The end of the year is prime time to bring on the mother of all slumps where we are dragging ourselves just to get through the day and getting sucked into distraction-land. But with a little strategy, planning, and mindfulness, you can avoid it.

The last month of the year marks the end of the fiscal year for many companies. We’ve worked really hard all year and we’re tired. We are wrapping up projects, social time picks up, and before we know it, we’re clinking glasses on New Year’s Eve, wondering what in the world have we been doing these last few weeks at work? It’s the December work slump. I’ve been there and so have you. But this December I’m determined to avoid it – mostly.

Hello darkness my old friend

Works slumps are common; most people have experienced them at one point or another in their careers. For some, the slump lingers on a long time, but they keep trudging through for financial or personal reasons. According to Career Builder, 3 in 10 workers tolerate or hate their job. More than half of workers feel they just have a job, not a career. For others, myself included, it is more of a temporary slump, right around the holidays. I enter a dark and familiar abyss filled with a dip in energy, a lack of motivation, and lower productivity until the new year rolls around. I know this permeates across organizations, and I am not the only one to experience this. In this regard, an article by The Muse cites that about one-third of senior managers feel that their employees are less productive before a major holiday. 

“It’s no wonder one of the biggest contributors to an end-of-year slump is burnout.”

An article in Fast Company shares the following executive leader anecdote: “Each year it’s the same story. After we recover from stuffing ourselves with Thanksgiving Day turkey, we line up  for the mad dash to the end of the year. Dead projects get resurrected. Clients want to spend their budgets, and everything is due yesterday. 

I call it “The Great Compression.” It’s no wonder that one of the biggest contributors to an end-of-year slump is burnout. Overextending ourselves beyond what is healthy can have us crying “uncle” or just plain avoiding the start of anything new put on our plates. We push things off because, frankly, we’re tapped out; our team is tapped out, and the sometimes unrelentless push from our organizations butts up against our ability to keep motivating ourselves to deliver. We ride down that slippery slope into a slump, and then it’s hard to get out of it. As Fast Company shares, motivation is a key factor in a slump because tackling the tasks needed to pull out is often difficult.

Move slump, get out the way

You may not be able to do a whole lot about the demands at work; however, there are other things you can do to quickly get out of a slump you have found yourself in – or even avoid it altogether.

Inspiration

Let’s start with inspiration. Being inspired is key to maintaining high energy at work. Maybe work variety is lacking at the end of the year, putting you into your slump. According to an article written by researchers from Wharton and Duke University, variety at work increases happiness. A little mixing it up might just be what you need! It could give you that energetic boost to get even more done, leaving you feeling great. A study from Harvard Business Review found that inspired employees were 250% more productive than their counterparts.

“A well-rounded focus on your overall health and well-being can truly help you avoid the December slump at work.”

A little inspiration can pay off huge dividends. But where do you find it? Well, follow the advice from the folks at Probono Australia who make suggestions for shaking things up to increase motivation during the holidays. Instead of the day-in and day-out work routine or run or attend a workshop. Invite a guest speaker to a team meeting to share info on a relevant topic (p.s. this could be free by inviting someone internal from another team).  Suggest that a group of coworkers read a short article or book on a topic that everyone could benefit from like resilience. Then discuss it over lunch or just independently focus on your own personal career and development. Meanwhile, dust off that development plan and jot down some fresh ideas.

Distractions

I don’t know about you, but during the holidays, I’m typically blasted by distractions from all directions. Working from home every day compounds those distractions if I’m not careful. According to Fast Company, in the last few weeks of the year, you’ll find many business leaders busy wrapping up year-end financials and assessing the status of goals, projects, and deliverables. Staff, on the other hand, are much less focused during this time. In fact, survey results show that 30 percent of workers are instead shopping online for gifts, while over 60 percent are using the web for non-work emails, research, and social networking.

Is there anything wrong with ripping open a package of pre-made cookie dough and tossing a batch of cookies in the oven between conference calls? No. But maybe you should plan the hours of baking needed to make your favorite homemade goodies for the cookie exchange for a time outside your traditional work hours.

Health and Well-Being

It’s no doubt that we all feel slumpy in December because the treats and indulgences are everywhere. Holiday shindigs with co-workers, friends, or family could be happening. We are satisfying our urges to enjoy holiday delicacies at home. This deliciousness comes at a price of sluggishness from too much sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. They all contribute to a slump.

Balancing out treats with lots of water and some healthier meals and snacks is certainly a good idea. The folks at Healthline mention simple add-ins such as protein-based smoothies, eggs, grilled chicken with salads, sandwiches, fruits and veggies. Don’t go to an event starving – it’ll ensure over-indulgence. Lastly, don’t forget to move a little; brisk short walks and light stretching can keep you stay feeling good.

It’s also true that winter sicknesses usually kick into high gear come December. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers with absences due to illnesses begin to spike every year starting in December. Going to work when you are not feeling well, even if working remotely, does not ease the chance of a slump. Practicing good hand hygiene and distancing yourself from those who are ill is smart.

“Most of me believes that the slump is no good, but there is this small part that also believes we should embrace the slump.”

Mental health is also critically important at this time but is often overlooked by many. According to Healthline, while the holidays incite joy, they also can bring great feelings of sadness or despair. Social isolation and grief are quite common. In addition to higher occurrences of depression during the holidays, according to Culture IQ, up to 20% of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can really contribute to a slump.

So, take it easy on yourself and those around you who may be suffering. Use that paid-time-off to restore yourself to good physical and mental health. A well-rounded focus on your overall health and well-being can truly help you avoid the December slump at work.

Could a little slump be good?

You may be wondering why I want to mostly avoid the December slump this year. Most of me believes that this slump is no good, but a small part also believes we should embrace it. Downtime is essential. Giving ourselves a break is needed. Coming back rejuvenated in the new year is a good thing. When you’ve been working full steam for months on end, it can be really draining. Use some of your December days to reorganize, reevaluate, and refresh. Stop skipping breaks and working unnecessary overtime; and stop believing that working harder is better than working smarter.

According to a study by Stanford University, there is a significant decrease in employee productivity after working 50 hours a week, and it drops again after 55 hours a week. As the saying goes, the work will still be there tomorrow.

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Julie Brendich
Julie is the owner of Harmony & Success Personal Coaching, LLC. She’s a long-time leadership development expert having spent over 20 years working in multiple industries, helping leaders become more effective and successful. She works with clients on the wisdom of the “Midlife Awakening” and how it can be the catalyst for massive, positive life transformation in not just their careers but also in their most precious relationships, self-care, and spirituality. She holds advanced degrees in psychology and is credentialed as a Master Spirit Life Coach and Certified Professional Coach through the International Coaching Federation. A midwestern native from the suburbs of Chicago, Julie approaches the coaching process with her clients in a down-to-earth way where each client can be their true selves. It is her life’s purpose and biggest joy to help midlife women achieve their goals.
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