Help your team fight year-end fatigue

Updated on 4 November 2016

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The end of a long and hectic year often comes with an increased work load and more social events – and while it may be a good sign of a well functioning and growing business, it can also give rise to exhaustion and increased stress levels. This can result in your employees finding it increasingly difficult to operate at their maximum productivity.

Once year-end fatigue sets in everyday tasks and activities will require more effort than usual, your employees will experience a lack of motivation, performance and engagement levels will drop, and they can even become more irritable. This is according to Klara Michal, Chief Learning Officer of African Management Initiative (AMI), a company that operates across Africa helping businesses build more productive and effective staff.

Michal says while it may not be feasible for your team to take time off, there are ways to counter the decreasing levels of motivation and energy.

Here are her five ways to make it through the end-of-year period with minimal stress and dips in productivity:


If there is too much work on everyone’s plate, it’s time to review priorities. People often feel burnt out because there’s always something urgent they need to deal with, which never gives them time to focus on the important things – after a while, they may lose sight of what the important things are.

Have your team track what they do in a given day or week, and then review it together to see what’s important and what can be eliminated (or streamlined). By helping people prioritise, you can often take away the meaningless time wasters that can wear people down.

“There is always that one thing that drives everyone crazy or makes life harder – if you can change or eliminate it, you can boost morale significantly”


There is always that one thing that drives everyone crazy or makes life harder – if you can change or eliminate it, you can boost morale significantly. For example, it could be getting computer software that simplifies a cumbersome process, or changing work hours to avoid peak traffic.

Sit down with your team and find out what frustrates them most in their day, and then see if there is something that can be done to deal with it. If you do this regularly, you’ll start to see both improvements in your business and your people’s motivation.


Research has shown that one of the best ways to motivate someone is to tap into something meaningful to them. If people are engaged in something that matters to them, they feel more energised and engaged. The challenge is that entrepreneurs often feel that everyone on their team should be passionate about the same things that drive them – this isn’t always the case, nor should it be (as different perspectives and passions can bring new ideas to the team).

Start by finding out what’s important for each person on your team, and then try to tie the work they do to that source of meaning. Maybe someone on your team is passionate about helping others or giving back to their community – how can you help them feel that with their work? Are there opportunities for them to spend more time on the things that matter to them?

“Research has shown that one of the best ways to motivate someone is to tap into something meaningful to them”


Another finding from the latest research on motivation is that autonomy – giving people the ability to decide things for themselves – is a critical ingredient. Although what people need to do is often decided for them by senior management, how they do it (or even when they do it) is something that’s good to leave to them.

People feel more ownership for things that they decide on or have been involved in developing – giving them the freedom and space to make some of the decisions about how they structure their work and their day will help them feel more in charge and motivated.

It also can let new ideas and ways of doing things emerge, builds thinking and problem-solving skills, and sends a signal that you trust them (which builds loyalty and engagement).


Teams in small enterprises often work very hard with few perks. They typically do it because they care (and some part of it is meaningful to them), but if you want your team to stay motivated long-term, they need to feel that they’re appreciated and get a lot out of the experience.

This doesn’t have to be in the form of more money, a fancy coffee machine or an expensive offsite – it just needs to feel meaningful and heartfelt. Sometimes a simple thank you is enough. Asking about someone’s kids or hobbies is also really powerful.

Whatever it is, make sure you take the time to get to know your team as individuals and what matters to them. If people feel that people at work care about them, they’ll feel more part of the team and more motivated to help the team succeed.

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