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On a purely theoretical level, the holidays are the most joyous time of year: a six-week stretch of sugary treats, mouth-watering meals, garlanded hallways, gift exchanges, and time spent with family and friends. If you’re lucky, you might even witness the magic of snowfall.
But the reality of the holiday season looks a lot different. Stress and anxiety experienced during the months of November and December alone can bring even the most contented people loneliness, and a deep sense of unfulfillment. Financial pressures, family obligations, and demanding end-of-year work objectives further compound that stress and anxiety, making the holidays extra stressful, chaotic, or just plain old lonely.
“Working in and of itself can be stressful, but adding the holidays to the mix can leave us exhausted and overwhelmed,” says Dr. Marsha Brown, a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. “If workers are taking on too much during the holidays, it can ruin what many hope will be a wonderful time.”
“When we overshedule ourselves…or fail to set expectations, we are setting ourselves up for unnecessary stressors,” adds Linda Archibald, a clinical therapist and licensed master social worker.
And that’s not all. This year, holiday-associated work stresses are further exacerbated by The Great Resignation — a tidal wave of record-breaking resignations. Not only are employees facing the challenges of ever-changing work models, but they’re also taking on work that was once the responsibility of a departed coworker. This creates stressful situations, and dramatically affects employees who are already struggling to find a healthy work-life balance.
“The average person spends the majority of their life at work, and about half of the population cites work as their biggest stressor,” shares Dr. Ellie Cobb, a Manhattan-based holistic psychologist, researcher, and author.
Stress affects all areas of one’s life. Unchecked, it can cause a host of physical and mental issues that strain employees’ health and behaviors, including headaches, chest pain, fatigue, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, and of course, decreased productivity.
Research from Go Remotely indicates that 50% of employees miss one to five hours of work every week due to stress. Since most people spend the majority of their time at work, it makes sense that the first step in managing stress is to implement wellness programs at workplaces.
Promoting wellness can affect employee productivity. According to this February 2015 survey report, more than ninety percent of respondents claimed health had a very significant influence on their performance and business priorities, followed by employee engagement and morale.
Statistics on wellness in the workplace from an August 2017 study show that companies offering workplace wellness programs saw a significant increase in employee wellbeing and productivity. All participating employees improved productivity by a full workday per month.
Today, studies suggest the average worker is productive for only three hours a day. Understanding physical and emotional wellness in the workplace can help leaders introduce stress management techniques to improve wellness and productivity.
Company culture plays a non-negotiable role in employee well being and productivity. And it’s especially important to maintain a connection with your team if they’re working from home. To help your team thrive this holiday season, here are five helpful strategies for managing stress in the workplace.
According to Forbes, businesses that communicate the need (and benefits!) of mental wellbeing help their employees build resilience and feel more engaged. By providing literature and resources on mental health, employees can be introduced to stress management skills and other coping mechanisms that help them understand how to manage stress at work and in their homelife.
Since each individual has different coping strategies, employers or leaders can show support for their staff’s self-care choices — whether it’s meditating, playing music, or going on nature walks. Bringing in a professional to answer questions about stress management in the workplace (What are the five stress management techniques? Are there ways to manage stress in day-to-day life?) can also prove helpful.
“We all need to care for our mental health, just as we do our physical health […] this might mean access to therapy, building resilience, or learning how to manage stress,” shares Yu-lin Gardner, the Benefits Program Manager at Google. “We have many resources available to Googlers and their families. These resources include innovative training, peer-to-peer programs and grassroots communities to help Googlers be happy and healthy in their personal or professional lives.”
The holidays are often time for self-reflection — why not extend that practice as a team?
Creating a safe and positive environment can boost positive energy levels within teams. Additionally, science shows that connecting with people causes the brain to “light up,” and expressing thanks for a coworker’s contribution can help strengthen the brain against mental distress.
Encouraging team members to reflect and express grateful words about their coworkers can help them practice compassion, quieten their inner critics, and leave negative feelings behind before the holidays.
Setting aside time for reflection can also help leaders examine workplace issues through a different lens. They can then use their findings to examine new possibilities and better wellness strategies going forward. Remember: increasing employees’ sense of self-esteem and confidence helps them alleviate fatigue and boosts motivation.
Being “on” all the time can take a toll on employee health. Not only is overworking unproductive, but studies show that working over forty hours a week is a major source of stress, and makes employees twice as likely to encounter a depressive episode.
Downtime is critical for the brain’s subconscious process, especially during a time as hectic as the holidays. Rest helps the mind boost memory and problem-solving skills, making disconnecting from our devices and work all the more important. A 2019 study from the Netherlands found that employees who disconnected after work — physically, emotionally, and mentally — had improved energy levels, better sleep cycles, increased concentrations, and more positive moods.
But working from home has made it increasingly difficult to create physical and emotional distance from jobs. After all, how can employees leave the office when it’s on their laptop, and on the tip of their fingers at any given time? And how can they disengage from work mentally when they can feel deadlines breathing down your neck?
The answer is simple: setting boundaries. If leaders see an email coming in at five in the morning, or receive a work notification after hours, it’s best to encourage employees to set distinctions between office time and personal time. Seeing leaders practice those boundaries themselves can help workers follow suit.
While remote and hybrid work has granted employees more flexibility, it has also corroded the concept of a traditional schedule.
Scheduling time off for employees is crucial, and there are numbers to prove its benefits. An Ernst & Young study found that every extra ten hours of vacation helped improve an employee’s year-end performance ratings by eight percent.
Taking vacations can boost productivity and assist developing habits of disconnecting. Furthermore, a study by the US National Library of Medicine shows that a change of scenery can even improve creativity. Think of it as a form of professional development and encourage them to take some time off. Whether they spend it on a cross-country roadtrip, or on the couch watching cheesy holiday specials, it’ll help them recharge and perform better at work once they return.
According to a poll from TimeJobs, more than thirty-five percent of employees consider lack of recognition as the biggest impediment to their productivity.
“In today’s tough economic environment, it has become incredibly important for companies to recognize, reward and value their most valuable and difficult to source assets [...] by embracing ‘recognition culture’,” says Sakaar Anand, Vice President at HR CA Technologies.
“When the company thinks of the employee beyond a work horse, the employee is motivated to give more. This way they can create the difference between dangling a carrot and sincerely recognizing an employee’s talent, passion, risk-taking, and creativity,” he added.
While expressing thanks vocally (and frequently!) is the foremost way to show gratitude, there are other ways you thank employees for their hard work. “Financial motivators attract people to the front door of a company, but rewards and recognition keep them from going out the back door,” advises Anand.
At Hero, we innately understand the importance of recognizing employees and creating a fulfilling company culture — which is why we’ve leveraged innovative technology to build authentic relationships with employees through corporate gifting.
Our team has worked hard to create a simple, easy-to-use gifting platform so companies can deliver personalized and meaningful gift experiences to their employees without spending hours crafting individualized gift boxes.
Remember: demonstrating appreciation for employees’ work and dedication can help instill loyalty and foster a creative and positive working environment. And what better time to express gratitude than the holidays?
Together, let’s support employees and recognize tomorrow’s workforce.
SmartGift’s Corporate Gifting Series focuses on providing workplaces fun, inventive, and appropriate ways to celebrate all end-of-year holidays. Over the forthcoming weeks, we’ll be discussing ideas for corporate holiday parties, gifting etiquette, DE&I initiatives, gifting trends, and more.