Stress and the Holidays: How the Season Impacts Employee Health

holiday stress As a freelancer and telecommuter, the holidays are pretty stress-free for me. Thanks to the fact that I don't work in an office or a 9-5, I am able to manage my time in a way that ensures I spend the holiday season exactly the way I want to. This means I have ample time to spend with my family (which I actually enjoy), I get to bake dozens of cookies for my friends and family and play hostess on Christmas day to cousins and siblings. In the days following, I'll celebrate family birthdays, aid in cooking a big Turkey dinner with my best friends, and ensure my New Year's Eve plans are fun and spent with people I love. In case you couldn't tell, I LOVE the holidays! This, however, is not the cause for everyone.

For many, the holidays are simply a super stressful time of year that many would rather skip over altogether. Between shopping for last-minute gifts, a full social calendar of holiday parties, and spending time with people you'd rather not see, the holidays can actually become a bit of a health concern.

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As a recent report from Virgin Pulse called "'Tis the Season for Stress" points out, employers should feel inclined to invest in the well-being of employees all year round, since stress results in up to 90% of doctor's visits. The report also cites that unhealthy workers cost businesses $153 billion in lost productivity every year. By simply investing in employee health and happiness, companies can start to decrease the $300 billion tied to overly stressed workers. Interestingly enough, 70% of employees said healthy habits help them focus at work.

But why are the holidays so stressful? Let's take a look at some stats:

  • 70% of survey respondents said they are 21% more stressed out during the holiday season
    • 10% of these respondents said they are 60-100% more stressed out
  • 34% feel they will be more stressed out this year versus previous years
  • 1 in 5 people start worrying about the holidays in October, and a third start worrying in mid- to late-November

The biggest drivers of stress during the holidays include shopping for gifts and events (65%), maintaining finances (60%), dealing with crowded stores (44%), family dynamics (43%), and balancing the holidays with work (43%).

How does this impact work and productivity?

  • 64% said holiday-related stress causes them to be distracted at work
  • Two-thirds say they use up to 60% of the workday to complete holiday prep, like gift shopping and other errands
  • 45% will shop online during the workday
  • 27% will leave the workplace to complete holiday-related errands
  • 20% will plan holiday menus while at work by researching recipes online
  • 80% said they would be interested if employers offered free tools, resources, or programs on managing stress, productivity and overall well-being. 

Employers can help alleviate some of this stress, thus helping to increase productivity, by being a bit more flexible when the holidays start to roll around. Try a flex-work policy in which employees can choose their own hours, which allows employees to complete errands without stressing about getting caught by management. For those worried about finances, set up a program, workshop or even just an office group that shares resources with employees on how to stick to their holiday budget. Lastly, be more proactive when dealing with deadlines and deliverables. Work closely with employees and teams to manage projects around this time of year, and take into account that most will likely already be feeling the stress of the season. When you see that employees are more focused on their holiday tasks than their work to-do list, encourage them to focus on the most important 1-3 tasks they want to complete that day.

How do you manage your stress during the holiday season? Let us know on Twitter @efficient!