Holiday Stress

By Tammy Shaw

Shopping, parties, wish lists­, end-of-year projects and double duty to cover other employee time off—holiday-induced stress can wreak havoc on employees, and employers have an important role in keeping up spirits and productivity during the holiday season.

Stress costs employers an estimated $2,000 per employee per year.

Doing or avoiding the following policies may help keep employees and managers happy.

Asking employees to work overtime, holidays or weekends during the holidays adds stress. Think of a smarter, better way to get work done instead of piling onto your workers’ shoulders.

Corporate flexibility is key to reduce employee stress.

Rushing projects to make end-of-year goals and compressed project deadlines increase stress. Even Secret Santa or gift exchanges can pressure an employee who already has too much to do.

Policies of take-it-or-lose-it vacation and personal hours pile on stress, especially if the employee has important year-end projects to work on. Vacations are meant to be stress-free days, not wondering and fretting whether their job is getting done in the worker’s absence.

As of 2015, used vacation days were at a record low, according to a GfK market survey, decreasing from 20.3 in 2000 to 16.2 days in 2015.

Over 60 percent of surveyed workers reported holiday times as somewhat or very stressful in a Heathline survey.

HR can help by making work-life balance a priority and conveying that to workers. Encourage employees to take time off.

Make it easy for employees to check PTO time through a portal or self-service app. Give them the tools at their fingertips to check their own time off instead of making calls or emailing HR to get the information.

Review employee off time and schedule or shift resources around to cover the jobs. This may prevent worry from vacationing workers, and comfort managers who just need the job done. If needed and feasible, hire seasonal workers to cover PTO.

According to a SHRM survey, respondents reported the following ways to reduce employee stress:

  • Schedule holiday events during work hours.
  • Remind workers of employee assistance benefits and programs.
  • Show workers appreciation, verbally and tangibly, for their hard work and for working on holidays and weekends.
  • Bring in food for the holidays. Free food can reduce stress by not going out for lunch on crowded, busy streets filled with holiday shoppers.
  • Give bonuses or incentives early to be used for holiday shopping.
  • Planning may reduce management and HR stress, and a stressed manager conveys that stress to the rest of the team.
  • Provide floating days in exchange for holidays worked.
  • Allow time off for charitable events or activities.
  • If you don’t allow telecommuting, bend the rule for holiday times.
  • Set realistic and reachable goals; take into account the time of year.
  • Think about the year and how employees have helped the company. Relay your thanks.
  • If possible, reduce or eliminate company travel around the holiday season. Crowded airports add to stress.

Setting the tone can boost morale and reduce stress, making happier employees, which travels straight to the bottom line.



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