23 December 2019

The Working Dread

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


Holiday season is fast approaching and I expect that I am feeling like a lot of people in the week before Xmas – frantically wanting to clear my desk/inbox, get the Xmas parties out of the way and enjoy an extended period of rest in order to recharge the batteries. It is vitally important to have that downtime to recharge – different people have varying tolerances but we owe it to ourselves (and our employer, or our direct reports) to recognise the signs of fatigue or burnout before it is too late.

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels
Recognise the signs of fatigue or burnout before it is too late

Working Time Directive

I would imagine most of you will be taking advantage of Xmas and New Year timings and opt to take 2 weeks off this year, with a planned return to work on Monday the 6th January 2020.  People are tending to work longer hours, driven by companies wanting more for their pound of flesh (or pound of salary). Increasingly common redundancies reduce headcount (and costs) but usually increases the workload for the colleagues that remain.  Over my 25 years in industry I have experienced a range of attitudes to ‘normal’ working hours. One hiring manager I know questioned a new hire’s commitment when they were arriving and leaving on time (according to their contract) and not working the obligatory overtime that, in the hiring manager’s eyes, demonstrated a clear lack of commitment to the cause.  Another hiring manager was very clear to candidates in that they positively encourage their team to work the contracted hours and enjoy their downtime.  It would only be on rare occasions that they would be expected to work longer hours.  This expectation on hours is usually driven from the line manager or heads of department. 

I am very fortunate in that I am doing a job that I like (most of the time!) and get to work with people I enjoy engaging with on a regular basis (most of the time!).  In our recruitment activity we come across lots of people in the same boat, who really enjoy their roles, feel engaged and proud to be working for the business they are in.  We also come across people who don’t necessarily enjoy their current work environment.  It’s natural to feel less engaged about our work on occasions – the critical thing is that this feeling should be the exception rather than the norm. 

Working Dread: The realisation that work is just around the corner…

The Working Dread 

This is where the ‘working dread’ comes in, which is the realisation that a return to work is around the corner. For me, I predict that it kicks in on the 2nd January 2020. Up to that point I will have successfully managed to block out work related stuff (to the extent that you can having your own business) and around that time, the realisation dawns that the holiday is nearly over. Personally, mini ‘working dreads’ kick in outside holiday periods at around 4pm every Sunday. Generally, the longer the break, the deeper the working dread tends to be. What we have to watch is the depth of dread and how quickly it dissipates.

It is certainly worth using the downtime to try to classify why you are experiencing the ‘working dread’, it could be for a number of reasons:

  • Your much needed, extended period of time off, with family and friends, without the stresses of work, is nearly over 
  • It’s more a dread about getting back into a work frame of mind after having a period enjoying the holidays and thinking about different ‘stuff’ 
  • There is a nagging project, piece of work, or issue, that you have to address when you get back 
  • An individual at work is causing unnecessary stress 
  • A fear of the unknown future outcome for yourself due to a period of uncertainly, possibly brought on by a re-organisation at work
  • It may be that you hate your job but don’t know what to do about it 

Some of the reasons above that cause longer term ‘working dread’ will be a significant contributor to Red Tiger Talent workload in the New Year.   We anticipate an increase in inbound contact from candidates as they follow up on their New Years’ resolutions to explore a change in their work situation.   Our work doesn’t always involve us helping the candidate find a new role.  Sometimes exploring the root cause of the dread can help in its dissipation. I often feel like a counsellor; talking to us can provide an opportunity for candidates to ‘offload’ their feelings to a third party and then allow us to offer practical advice on a solution. 

Whatever the reason for your particular ‘working dread’, you owe it to yourself and your family, friends and coworkers to take a good hard look at the root cause. Is it out of your control? or can you make smart steps towards a happier working environment?

Remember a problem shared is a problem halved so talk to someone you trust , who will listen and give constructive suggestions, or give us a call to talk through your options.

2020 could be the year to find enjoyment in your job and we’re only a phone call away. Call us on +44(0)7979 756 257 for a chat anytime.

Photo 1 by Andrew Neel from Pexels
Photo 2 by Kat Jayne from Pexels

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Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.


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