How to strike a work-life balance this festive season

One needs to maintain a healthy work-life balance during the holidays. [iStockphoto]

Martha Mukundi, a health worker, has not celebrated Christmas for the last three years.

She loves her job all right and is lucky to be doing something she is deeply passionate about.

However, she is a tad unlucky in that sometimes when she would rather be spending time with family, she is stuck at work.

"I am in the service industry, and it feels good. But Christmas comes once a year, and I miss travelling when I was a bit younger," she says.

She is working on New Year 2023 as well.

In most workplaces, scheduling who takes time off during key holidays can be a taxing endeavour, with those on duty feeling disenfranchised and demotivated.

And even the self-employed are faced with the dilemma of whether to take time off and then enjoy the holidays or to continue working.

This raises the question of work-life balance.

During the festive season, nearly every Kenyan throngs to their ancestral home.

The temporary exodus to the countryside leaves the major urban areas, especially Nairobi, deserted.

Businesses close for a few days and pick up slowly as city folks gradually return.

But Christmas is more than just December 25. It stretches to nearly a fortnight.

WorldRemit ran a Cost of Christmas Study two years in a row. This year, they found that many families around the world would spend up to 156 per cent of their monthly income on Christmas.

Billions of people celebrate Christmas around the globe, with about 80 per cent of countries marking December 25 as a public holiday.

So how should the workplace navigate the holiday season so that no workers feel left out?

And how should employees and even the self-employed handle this period?

  1. Plan ahead

This applies to both the organisation and its employees. Christmas does not just pop out of nowhere; there is a whole year to prepare for the end-of-year festivities. As such, an employee should have a plan so that in case duty restricts them to the office during the festivities, they do not feel left out.

The employer, in pursuit of continuity of work, should also put in place a flexible work schedule that allows staff to have a break around the festivities.

Certain perks that show an employer's appreciation of the employee could also boost employees' morale and output.

"To avoid holiday burnout, it's best to start planning. Be clear on what is most important to you and then schedule activities and events around those priorities," notes Forbes.

  1. Have clear channels of communication

The employer needs to communicate clearly and in advance the work schedule around the festive season. In many companies, staff go on holiday in shifts. One group works half the duration of the festive season and the other for the remainder of the period.

This prevents unnecessary scuffles at work and makes operations seamless as every player knows when to do what.

For the self-employed, communication helps customers understand when it could the business will open, preventing a loss of clients.

  1. Be part of the employees' plans

They want to feel valued by the company so give them an ear. Instead of just making timetables and assigning roles, let them tell you what they would prefer.

Some may want to be away from the office at a certain time for valid reasons. Listen to them and be part of their plans without being too nosy. Where possible, be flexible enough to accommodate them as long as it doesn't affect the well-being of the company.

  1. Categorise your work in order of priorities

As an employer, this helps you know what must be done and what can be foregone in deciding when to give your employees time off. This helps in ensuring business continuity.

Such a plan ensures that one does not get overwhelmed or does not leave some important tasks unaccomplished during the festive season.

Forbes writes that "the holidays present a wonderful opportunity for practising ruthless prioritisation."

"If possible, begin to complete as many of those tasks before the holidays, so you don't find yourself sneaking back to the office or your computer to complete work. Also, consider pushing unimportant items to the beginning of the year or learn to delegate. Just remember to have fun!" Forbes quotes Michelle Weathersby of LENS Consulting Firm as saying.

  1. Strive to strike a work-life balance

One needs to maintain a healthy work-life balance during the holidays.

"Start by setting limits on the time spent on work. Of course, your employer mandates your work hours, but working overtime or taking work home during the holidays isn't healthy. Be careful to use your time at work efficiently, completing everything you need to do," writes a blog by Arrowhead General Insurance Agency.

"Once you've set your holiday work hours, stick to the plan. That means that while you're at work, use the time exclusively for work-related projects and meetings. Don't bring your holiday to-do list or personal activities into the office. Keep your mind focused on the tasks at hand."

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