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How to Help Employees Deal with Holiday Stress and Distractions

Patrick Ball on December 11, 2015 01:53 PM

Holidays? More like holi-daze.

From year-end deadlines and office holiday parties to family gatherings and shopping for gifts, the holidays aren’t always merry and bright for employees. That can result in stress levels rising and productivity dropping, turning the most wonderful time of the year into one that’s more hectic than holly-jolly.  

A new member survey found employees are more stressed, more distracted and more likely to be shopping from their desks during the winter holiday season. Many employees also struggle to balance enjoying their time off with meeting work responsibilities, the survey revealed.

Here, we’ll look at the causes and effects of holiday stress and distractions in the workplace, and some strategies to help employees who are stressing out during the holidays.

The Most Stressful Time of the Year?

Among employed members, 64 percent said their stress level increases, and 68 percent went so far as saying they’re overwhelmed during the holiday season.  What are sources of holiday stress? From crowded parking lots and endless errands to office meetings and year-end deadlines, the stressors stack up at work and at home. Add to that the challenges of coordinating PTO among your team and figuring out who’s where when, it’s a lot to stay on top of.

RELATED: 4 Steps to Limiting Employees Stress during the Holidays

Distractions Abound

Forty-five percent of respondents reported feeling less focused on their jobs during the holidays. Planning time off, family flying into town, school vacations and, of course, holiday shopping are among the many distractions. Shopping is a big one – 59 percent of respondents copped to shopping online while at work … and 31 percent admitted to doing it several times a week!

RELATED: Why Helping Employees Do Chores at Work Is Smart Business  

Struggling with Work-Life Balance

What do employees like least about working during the holiday season? Work interfering with family time.

That was the top answer given in the member survey. It’s not just that 62 percent of survey respondents said they’re unhappy with the amount of holiday time off their company provides, but more than half of respondents said they’re continuing to work while they’re off during the holidays.

A total of 53 percent of employed respondents reported doing some work while they’re out of the office. Forty-one percent said they check email or voicemail daily, 40 percent checking email or voicemail several times daily and 20 percent said they work so much that the holidays are just like a regular work week.

RELATED: 10 Things You Should NEVER Do at Your Company Holiday Party

To Give, or Not to Give

Another thing employees don’t love about the holiday season? Buying gifts for co-workers. That was the third-most common response given by survey respondents.

While 41 percent of respondents reported they don’t feel pressured to buy a gift for co-workers, 24 percent said they feel pressure to buy a gift for their boss and 16 percent said feel pressure to buy gifts for people who work for them. And then there are those office swaps…

RELATED: 18 Holiday Office Swap Gifts … And What They Really Mean

So What Can You Do To Help?

  1. Set Clear Expectations
    Be proactive with your team. Get a shared holiday calendar established early, so everyone knows who’s in the office when. At minimum, this should help your team sort out deadlines and coverage plans. Also make clear what your expectations are for employees when they’re out of the office. Time off should be just that – time off. But, at a potentially busy time of the year, when many folks are out at once, sometimes there will be issues that arise and need attention. Checking email once or twice a day, and responding to anything that’s urgent might be appropriate depending on an employee’s role in the organization.

  2. Be Flexible and Respectful of Traditions
    The winter holiday season is a busy time of year for everyone, regardless of family traditions or religious affiliations. The flexibility to work remotely so someone can fly to be with family, or to help working parents manage last-minute shopping with school vacations can go a long way to helping reduce employees’ holiday stress.

  3. Lend a Hand
    Your employees are already doing their holiday shopping during the workday, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Research from the Captivate Network says 93 percent of all employees admit to taking time out of the workday to schedule doctor’s appointments, do their banking or shop online. Why not make it easier for them to hire a housekeeper or book a babysitter the same way? Leading employers are acting as a conduit to on-demand services by offering as an employee benefit. Services like’s Workplace Solutions can help reduce some of the friction in employees’ lives during highly stressful times, like the holiday season.

    LEARN MORE: About how Workplace Solutions can help employees with work-life integration during the holidays and the rest of the year 

Employee Benefits Communication