How to Start 2021 Without Workplace Stress

/ Christine Andrukonis

After a year packed with workplace stress, uncertainty, fast-changing rules and whiplash, many are hopeful for a next lap around the sun that’s better than the last. Even though, as we have all learned, we can’t predict the next course of the pandemic, we can take actionable steps to make 2021 as happy and healthy as possible. In addition to focusing on realistic career objectives and ensuring our team feels supported and heard, it’s also vital to take care of our personal needs.

Here, we explore different, practical ways to set yourself up for success and, some work-life balance in the next 12 months. From taking a real break before January 1 to communicating clearly and genuinely with your team, consider this your roadmap to a healthier 2021:

How to Start 2021 Healthier in Your Personal Life

The demands of home and the office have always been blurred, but in 2020, they were nearly indistinguishable from one another. We watched as colleagues balanced a baby in one hand and shared a presentation in another. We negotiated time blocks with our partners, as we both tried to exceed at our jobs while also keeping our families sane. Every person has been stretched to their emotional and physical maximum during the pandemic, making a case for self-care that much more important. As you begin to set objectives and think about resolutions, consider these ideas that will benefit your energy levels, your productivity and your spirit:

Take a real break before January 1. 

And by a real break, we genuinely mean it: no checking email, no ‘touching base’ in the afternoon, no work whatsoever. Many professionals have struggled to step away from their laptops — particularly if they can see it when they’re cooking dinner — resulting in heightened workplace stress, anxiety and burnout. Before you ring in the New Year, block your calendar so you can take a meaningful, 100-percent disconnected break from your job demands.

Whether it’s a long weekend or a single day off, do activities that fulfill you, like sleeping in, reading, taking a bath, going for a long walk, or even binge-watching the latest on Netflix. The goal is to give yourself the TLC you’ve earned.

Set realistic goals.

If you scroll back to those resolutions you made for 2020, you may chuckle at what you thought was in store for you. Now, since you have a better grasp of the current landscape and understand the realities of the pandemic, you can create realistic goals for yourself. It’s better to err on the side of realism rather than going for bodacious aspirations.

If we make goals reachable and check them off, it improves our self-esteem and keeps us motivated. When you think of the personal things you want to accomplish in 2021, consider what you know you can achieve. It can be as simple as ‘going on four, hour-long walks a week’ or ‘Not checking email past 9 p.m. three out of five days a week.’

Book a vacation and paid time off, even if you aren’t traveling.

If you can’t hop a flight to the Caribbean or venture through the cobblestone streets in Europe, then why waste the vacation days? Because research has shown that R&R is beneficial, even if you don’t go anywhere. Speak with your family or look at your calendar and think about the days in 2021 that you would hope to be away from work. Maybe it’s an extra day around Memorial Day or a two-week road trip through the national parks in the summer. Or, it could even be a week off in spring when your kids are on break, so you can spend quality time with them. Book the days now, and hold yourself accountable to them.

Develop and commit to healthy boundaries and goals. 

This one is likely the hardest of all of the personal goals — but also the most important. As our professional and home lives have been intertwined more than ever, many have lost track of where work ends and home begins. This leaves us feeling exhausted, frustrated, and unable to produce high-quality work. As you go into the New Year, consider making a list — on an old-fashioned notepad, your notes section or a document on your computer — of the limitations you’d like to set for yourself.

In addition to work-life balance, think about your diet and your exercise routine, which contribute to our mental state. Are you drinking enough water? Do you have time for a 30-minute bike ride — and will you block your calendar, so you complete it? Ask yourself these types of questions to start developing routines you can stick to.

How to Start 2021 With Less Workplace Stress

We can’t erase all workplace stress, but we can try our best to manage the symptoms of it by being proactive, honest and communicative with our team. As leaders, we set the tone of every project, every meeting and every year, and 2021 is an opportunity to try to get it right from the start. Here, some ideas:

Thank your team. 

We have explored gratitude in the past, but we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to thank your team. Over the past year, they have shown commitment and perseverance through all of the challenges of COVID. If you can swing it, take time to send them a hand-written holiday or New Year card, listing specific reasons why they’ve gone above and beyond in 2020. If your team is too large for that type of personal attention, consider sending a gift they’ll actually use — like a bottle of wine, a comfy blanket, or a subscription to Audible — as a token of appreciation.

Set a vision for your team, then build an action plan.

As you look ahead to your team’s corporate goals, what vision would you like to guide them? As you head into 2021, decide on the primary markers you want to meet and then create an action plan. By having a clear, easy-to-understand outline of what they can expect, you build employee engagement and workplace trust.

Communicate your personal promise to your team.

When you think of your closest friends, it may not be the ones you see face-to-face all the time, but it’s the ones who are there when you need them, no matter what. While you don’t need to be overly chummy with your team, an empathic leader who holds true to their promises is an effective one. Consider sending out a personal message detailing your commitment to your team, including your promise to show up and support them, regardless of what 2021 brings.

Categories: Culture, Culture Change