According to a survey conducted by Virgin Pulse, starting as early as October, 64% of survey respondents say holiday-related stress causes them to be distracted at work. This stress causes 30% more anxiety than usual and diminishes their quality of work by about the same amount.
Two-thirds of survey respondents admit to using up to 60% of their workday to complete holiday prep work such as shopping, running errands, and having conversations with family or friends about holiday plans.
What causes holiday stress?
- Shopping – 65% of the respondents say shopping for gifts and event necessities causes much of their anxiety. They have to figure out what people want and then go out in high traffic times to shop, which causes a lot of stress especially after working all day.
- Money – Advertisements start airing on the radio and TV and family members start talking about what they want for Christmas. If a family member has had a major change in income, they may not be able to pay for what they did in the past. They get easily stressed about all the presents they have to buy or their inability to buy.
- Exceeding others’ expectations – Alex Mackenzie, a behavioral therapist and stress management coach suggests that people feel an obligation to others and they forget what makes them happy during the holidays. They plan food and try to cook everyone’s favorite dishes, they try to ensure they give gifts that make everyone happy, and they have to coordinate the activities of the holidays to ensure everyone has a good time.
- Too many or not enough people – Family members get together who may not have seen each other in a while and that can cause stress. They may be planning on a large crowd and those with social anxiety may get stressed about it. On the other hand, someone may not have family left and can get stressed about suffering through the holidays alone.
- Time – People feel like there is not enough time in the day to work, cook, plan, spend, and attend holiday events. It is overwhelming and they become exhausted.
They focus on shopping for others, entertaining, traveling, etc. instead of realizing that the most important part is simply enjoying the holidays. If people are thinking about all of these things during November and December, how does this affect your business?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), workplace stress can easily overwhelm employees with their constant worry about promotions, business changes, or work problems. With stress, your body reacts and you may experience health problems, burnout, and depression as a result.
If you add the additional holiday stress to the regular workplace stress, your business is affected. If employees are stressing about finances, gift shopping, cooking, traveling, and seeing family how are they functioning in the office? Managers need to be aware of these stressors in the office as they may see increased absenteeism, lower performance, and decreased morale.
Make sure you set clear expectations for your employees to understand the company’s expectations. They should know when they are expected to work. Create a holiday calendar so they will know when everyone will be off work.
Ways your company can help reduce stress in the office during the holidays
- Avoid additional stressors – Try to prevent adding on any additional stressors like conducting performance reviews, making big management changes, or layoffs and restructuring during the holiday season. If employees are already stressed from their job and holidays, these type of job activities may be too overwhelming and they may think about making some job changes after the holidays. Also, don’t avoid hiring much needed help during December. Go ahead and hire those people so your current employees don’t feel additional stress by trying to do additional work.
- Offer incentives – Does your company give annual bonuses? Could you give them out in November instead of May? A survey completed by Healthline revealed that the biggest stressor during the holiday season for people is finances. If you are unable to give out bonuses, could your company give a paid afternoon or day off as an incentive for performance?
- Make work fun – During this time, host some work events to make the workplace fun. There are some low budget options like hosting a potluck lunch, decorating contests, and photo booth props and pictures to put on the company’s social media pages. Encourage volunteers to write gift ideas on the company intranet page or in a newsletter. Support departmental Secret Santa gift exchange and allow time for employees to laugh and enjoy each other. Allowing 15-20 minutes per day to have fun will not hurt your business. If anything, workplace fun can help decrease turnover and absenteeism. People don’t want to miss fun activities. Your business could even come up with a holiday calendar of events for the month of December. Be careful though. Sometimes doing too many activities adds on to the holiday stress because it can add more to the list of things to do for your employees.
- Throw a big party – Host a big holiday party and invite your employees to have a night of fun. Plan a budget, select a venue and food, and make a memorable night. Hire a DJ and enjoy a night of dancing. Your company could incorporate employee recognition awards during this party and also have drawings. Give them an opportunity to relax and have fun in a no-pressure environment with the added promise of winning something for themselves or something they could re-gift.
- Community Service – Host community service events like bringing in canned foods for someone to take to the food bank, create your own angel tree, or work with a local foster program to buy gifts for foster kids. Sometimes shifting the focus to others in need is a good distraction. It can help your employees see they are improving other people’s lives, which makes them feel good.
- Be flexible – The American Management Association states that 54% of the surveyed workers report that flexible hours during the holidays would help alleviate workplace stress, while 26% want to telecommute, at least once in a while, until the seasonal rush passes. If your small business can’t support this type of flexibility, allow some additional personal time at work to shop online. Also, because school is not in session, your employees will have to figure out child care. A flexible work schedule can help alleviate some stress associated with those child care needs during this time.
- Holiday Health and Wellness – Exercise is a great stress reliever to help your employees during the season and can help reduce exhaustion. Offer gym memberships or exercise classes to help. If your company doesn’t have the budget, offer exercise and wellness tips in your company communications. Also, you could bring in a massage therapist to do chair massages or a nutrition expert to discuss low calorie and tasty recipes. Bring in experts to discuss stress and give ideas of how your employees can reduce their holiday anxiety.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – EAP is defined as an employee benefit program that assists employees with personal problems and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. Sometimes your employees need a professional who they can talk to about personal or professional problems when they are feeling overwhelmed. Your business can also bring in a psychologist for a lunch and learn session or just be on hand in case employees need help. The holiday season might be a good time to remind your staff about this benefit and how easy it is to take advantage of the help it provides. By giving out this type of information, you are showing your employees you care about their emotional health.
- Casual Dress – Offer casual dress down days during certain days or during the month of December. This makes them feel relaxed and offers them a relief from having to go home and change before they run out to shop.
How do these things help your company?
Try to implement some of the recommended tips which fits best with your company culture and budget. Your company has no obligation to do any of these things, but why not? If you give your employees a few things to help relieve their stress, won’t they work harder for a company that cares and works hard for them? These are the kinds of things that employees brag about to others as well and that kind of publicity could help in your recruiting efforts. Become the company where everyone wants to work. Show your employees you care about them and they will work harder for you.
Author: Kimberley Kay Travis
Kim Travis, co-owner of Travis and Adams Consulting Group, has over 20 years’ experience in human resources and leadership roles.
She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, leadership development, manufacturing safety programs, and writing business articles and blogs.