Addressing Your Employees’ Holiday Stress

It’s that time of year again: Fourth quarter results are almost finalized, companies are wrapping up contracts, evaluating the successes of the past year, and developing strategic plans for the coming year. This means it’s a busy time for your employees. When you add to the equation busy social calendars, kids getting out of school for holidays (and working parents scrambling as a result), along with holiday financial commitments—stress levels for your employees inevitably rise. What can you do as an employer, a manager, or even an HR pro, to help ease that holiday stress?

Let’s discuss.

One study in the UK found that nearly three quarters (73 percent) of people are more stressed ahead of the holidays—but the stress doesn’t end there. Nearly one in five workers (18 percent) actually returns to work more stressed than when they left. For most of us, this isn’t exactly news. The holidays are generally jam packed with engagements and massive to-do lists. The thing about stress, though, is that it can have a serious impact on our health, as well as overall productivity at work; it’s actually easy to spend more time stressing out than actually getting things done.

So, how can senior leaders help reduce stress and keep everyone’s momentum going? The answer is a combination of smart technology use, and making sure employees have time for things like fitness, yoga, or even meditation. Here are some ways you can help your employees handle holiday stress.

Give Them Ideas: Help Your Employees See Possibilities

“Take a break” means different things to different people, so keep that in mind as you toss out ideas that might be potential stress relievers. For some exercise is key, and getting out of the office for a walk may work. But for another, leaving their desk for 10 minutes will only escalate their worries over whether tasks will get done. For some, a quick game of ping pong or shooting hoops outside for twenty minutes will be a perfect release, so think about that as you design work spaces and encourage regular breaks.

Humor and creativity also activate the brain and release endorphins. Think about designating one afternoon a week for a “creative” session and let employees paint on canvases, color, design their own holiday cards using supplies you provide, or some other creative task that will let their brains relax. Bring in a local comedian during lunch or knock off early one day, and let your team enjoy some laughs together. Encourage them to do a holiday play or work in teams to create a holiday video and make it into a contest. These are all things that don’t have to cost a fortune, but the benefits they can deliver in terms of not only team-building, but also in terms of stress reduction, are huge.

Even better? The best ideas and sense of well-being often happen when individuals are in a state of creativity, feeling relaxed and comfortable. Your employees will likely return to work after a creative break feeling happy and energized and that will no doubt result in not only less stress, but also greater productivity. A win-win for all.

Focus on Health and Make it Fun

Anyone who’s ever tried to eat healthier or exercise more knows from experience that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Especially during the holiday season, which is fraught with land mines in the form of parties, tins of popcorn, and too many sugary snacks just begging to be sampled. All these things are a source of stress for employees, and striving to stay fit and healthy is typically an ongoing challenge. This is a perfect time to perhaps bring people together by way of a fitness or healthy eating challenge. Using a combination of wearable devices, smart phones, and apps, it is easy to track progress, encourage one another, or even compete if desired. The great thing about wearables is that they often have functionality that nudges you to stand up regularly, measure and evaluate your sleep habits, and track your fitness. Many apps allow you to connect teams and to be motivated by others as part of the fitness process. Helping your team stay fit with fun fitness challenges and rewards for progress keeps them feeling good about themselves, less stressed about work, and less frazzled about fitness and weight management.

Measuring Progress: Ask for Feedback

Don’t assume that what you’re doing in terms of working to reduce stress during the holidays is helping. Ask your team for their ideas and feedback about your stress-reduction experiments. Encourage them to put forth their own ideas as well, and make them part of the process. Programs, even fun ones, are only as successful as your team thinks they are, so make sure you’re soliciting feedback about the programs you put into place, as well as encouraging your team as a whole to come up with their own suggestions and ideas. An empowered, engaged team is a powerful thing; you might be amazed at some of the cool ideas that come up as a result of involving them. Make sure that beyond simply asking for feedback, endeavor to use that feedback to measure and evaluate the impact your stress-reduction programs are having on your team.

Whatever you do, make sure your employees are aware that you understand the pressures they’re under, and that you are committed to making stress reduction, fitness, fun, and relaxation priorities. Doing so will help them take the actions they need to remain productive and happy through the holiday season and into the New Year.

Photo Credit: HoursDeOuvre via Compfight cc

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