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Warning! Be alert for the dreaded ‘End of Year Fatigue Syndrome’ in your veterinary team

Posted in Our Community @ Nov 26th 2020 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
2020 Warning Be Alert For The Dreaded End Of Year Fatigue Syndrome In Your Veterinary Team 2

Are your veterinary team members tired, grumpy & looking a bit wild-eyed? This may be the reason....   

I've published a version of this post each year as things start looking a little hectic as Christmas is approaching but this year I think things are very, very different. 

I can't imagine what it would have been like to watch your Year 12 child graduate via live stream, whilst sitting in your lounge room rather than being there in person. I can't imagine what it must be like to not be able to walk your 6 year old out of school helping to carry all of their carefully made Christmas decorations or not be able to attend your Preppie's end of year concert. So although you may have team members who are looking wild eyed at the end of 2020 - it may be for very diffferent reasons than in the past!

So let's start with symptoms

Have you noticed any signs of fatigue, grumpiness, stress or a strange wild-eyed look in the eyes of any of your staff? Then they may already be suffering from the dreaded 'end of year fatigue syndrome'- a strange annually recurring condition that often appears from late November right through to December.

Now for the causes

1. If they have children, in 2020 - it may be because of the LACK of these many, many, many...end of year events

Depending on where you are in Australia, the school year is almost finished or it may be a few weeks away from finishing and NORMALLY the final two weeks of the term can be a challenging, energy-sapping marathon of:

  • end of year class parties that require party food to be prepared and taken to school - possibly still occuring;
  • end of year concerts at school with additional rehearsal time, not to mention costumes - sadly probably not this year;
  • shopping for packs of Christmas cards and the accompanying 'candy canes' - this one's still happening;
  • awards nights - possibly not this year;
  • final school music concerts - not this year;
  • shopping for gifts for class ‘Secret Santas’ (& sometimes multiple treats up until the actual gift giving) - yep, nothing stops a secret santa!;
  • end of year ballet concerts that require weeks of additional weekend rehearsals, on-stage rehearsals and extra hours devoted to hair and make-up - maybe still happening but in a reduced format with fewer people able to attend whcih doesn't decrease the stress levels!;
  • end of year breakups for cubs, scouts, etc - probably not;
  • shopping for gifts to thank class teachers & music teachers - well you can't forget this one!

This list is just the start and doesn’t include family Christmas shopping, work parties, etc.

2. End of year blues

For many of your team, and perhaps yourself, it's been a long and very, very challenging year. So it's not hard to feel the weight of (almost) a whole year on your shoulders, making it a challenge to reach the end. Especially when 2020 has felt like the longest year ever and often like ground-hog day.

Some of your staff may be looking forward to an extended break over Christmas while others who are working through, may find it even more challenging to find the enthusiasm and energy to keep going.

As a manager - what can you do?

Firstly you need to recognise that there is little you can do to stem the tide of the end of year fatigue syndrome’, but there are some things you can do to make it more bearable for all involved:

1. Remember it won't last forever

For those with children, juggling multiple end of year events can be intense, however these events usually happen within a very short period of time so after about two weeks it should all be over (if we all last that long). And if things go to plan and we all remember to keep washing our hands then 2021 will hopefully be a very different year.

2. Have a laugh - because really in 2020, what else can you do?

A good laugh is a great way to release the pressure and reinvigorate the brain, and this is backed up by science. According to an article from HRM (How to help your staff survive the November Blues) laughter “doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. It does this by:

  • Stimulating your organs by increasing your oxygen intake which, in turn, allows your brain to release more of those sweet, sweet endorphins.
  • Stimulating circulation which helps muscles to relax (it’s physically taking the stress out of your body).
  • Increasing and then decreasing your heart rate which leads to a relaxing feeling."

So how can you make your workplace funnier?

Apart from sharing the multiple cute, silly or goofy things your patients probably do everyday, you could start by sharing my favourite joke:

Q: What's brown & sticky?

A: A stick.

I know right? Hilarious! If you'd like more of these comedy gems, you could also follow the Vetanswers Community on Instagram as I regularly share #dadjokes. 

If telling jokes is not your thing, you could also encourage a culture where everyone in your team is comfortable to be themselves, and if that also involves laughing at silly jokes, or at the antics of the animals you're surrounded by, then that's all the better.

3. Be flexible

Children always want their parents to attend their concerts, and getting them to extra rehearsals can also mean coming and going at some strange times so some flexibility in work times around this time of the year would be a great help to those who need it.

4. Be understanding

It’s hard enough juggling work and family life at the best of times but at the end of the year, this stress can be tenfold. Children, not to mention parents, can start to get tired, niggly and more demanding.

Even those without children can still find this time of the year challenging. Small dramas at work suddenly become magnified and low energy levels also mean stress is harder to deal with. 

It would help all concerned if when times start to get tense – everyone stopped to take a deep breath.  It would also help if someone then went to buy a box of doughnuts.

5. Share your 2021 goals

This is probably not the time to introduce a big new project as any change is going to be a challenge for people if they're already exhausted. But this doesn't mean you can't start to talk about your plans for the coming year.

For many employees (especially those in the veterinary industry), their level of job satisfaction and engagement is strongly connected to how well the values of your practice is aligned to their own. So it makes sense that if your team has a clear idea as to where the practice is headed in the future and understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture, they're going to be much happier working together to achieve those goals. 

After the year that most of us have had, setting some postive goals for 2021 could make a big difference. It could also be the perfect time to start talking to your team members individually about setting some personal goals for 2021 - or at least starting to think about what they'd like to achieve.

6. Try out a summer schedule

For those who are lucky to have an extended break into the new year, the promise of that break may be enough to get them through the last few weeks. But what about the rest of the team working through with only a public holiday here and there to look forward to?

To lighten the load of those not taking a break, you could introduce a summer schedule throughout January. You could tweak hours here and there and allow team members to leave early on one afternoon a week to enjoy the warm summer evenings. 

If this isn't going to work, then maybe you could come up with alternative ideas as to how to make Friday's special over the summer period. For example, free lunch, bring in a masseuse or offer a longer lunch break. 

And remember it won't last forever...

Before we know it the end of 2020 will have come and gone and we'll be taking on the challenges of 2021.

So as long as everyone remembers to keep breathing and as a manager you take on the role of administering doughnuts as required your team should survive the ‘end of year fatigue syndrome’ for another year.

Finally, if you think you can do better than my favourite 'Stick' joke then please feel free to share your favourite joke in the comments section below as I know we could all do with a good laugh!

You could also share what your challenges are at this time of the year. What have I forgotten? Tell us in the comments section below.


Gillian Shippen @ Dec 1st 2017 8:06am
Thank you - yes every year at this time I can't wait for the break I get between Christmas & New Year. It just cannot come quick enough

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