Weekly Wrap: Coping With the Most Stressful Time of the Year

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Editor’s note: This is the last Weekly Wrap for this year. We’ll return again in January 2015. 

Everyone knows that the end of the year holidays are the most stressful time of the year, and that makes for the most stressful season at work as well.

But, just how stressful is it? A new survey from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Pulse tried to find out.

According to the recently released report Tis the Season For Stress: The Holiday’s Impact on Employees’ Health & Happiness (& What It Means For Employers), here is how stressful it seems to be:

7 out of 10 workers are significantly stressed

  • Some 70 percent of employees say they are significantly more stressed during the holidays;
  • In addition, more than 10 percent of those respondents said they’re between a whopping 60 and 100 percent more stressed than usual;
  • 64 percent of respondents say holiday-related stress causes them to be distracted at work
  • Two-thirds of respondents admit to using up to 60 percent of their work day to complete holiday prep work — like shopping, running errands and having conversations with family or friends.
  • Eating healthy is the hardest aspect of well-being to maintain during the holidays, according to 62 percent of respondents. Half of the respondents (51 percent) reported exercise and 46 percent said sleep were the hardest areas of well-being to maintain. 

$153 billion in lost productivity annually

As is normal for reports like this, the most interesting information was in the analysis. For example, here’s how Virgin Pulse described the scope (and impact) of the holiday stress problem:

The most wonderful time of the year, the holidays provide the perfect excuse for delicious dinners and desserts, sharing special gifts with loved ones, and planning parties that bring everyone together. But if employees spend the whole season indulging,  reaching for candy canes in favor of fruit, blowing their budget on extravagant gift lists, or losing sleep over the holidays’ hectic pace, it can directly impact their physical energy, mental focus and emotional drive – and wreak havoc on your business. In fact, unhealthy habits like poor nutrition from eating too many sugars, fats and carbs can cause cognitive impairment, and unhealthy workers cost businesses $153 billion in lost productivity annually.

Fortunately, the perks of supporting employees’ well being extend far beyond the holiday season. With stress accounting for up to 90 percent of doctor visits supporting your peoples’ health and happiness can help companies tackle the $300 billion price tag tied to stressed out employees. And with 70 percent of employees’ saying their healthy habits impact their ability to focus at work investing in well-being can drive more focused, productive people – and better business results.”

3 tips to cope with holiday stress

Of course, a survey wouldn’t be a survey without some detail on how to solve (or at least, diminish) the holiday stress problem. Here are three (3) tips from Virgin Pulse:

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  1. Pick a priority –– When employees’ attention is on their holiday to-do list rather than their work, help them get back on track by encouraging them to highlight their most important task for the day. Making progress on meaningful work is one of the biggest motivators for employees, and pinpointing one top priority each day can help them make headway on what matters most.
  2. Crank up the competition. If employees’ health has flown right out the window this season, encourage them to pay their well-being some attention. Educate them on the importance of getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising – and then show that you practice what you preach. Consider a friendly company-wide competition to see who can take the stairs every day or log the most sleep through the week.
  3. Take time to reboot. With hectic holiday schedules, it’s all too easy to neglect the need for downtime. Be sure your workforce unplugs this season – and all throughout the year. Encourage employees to submit and plan for vacation days well in advance, and make it clear that you support their time away from work by keeping emails and other messages mum, if possible.

For my money, Tip No. 3 — take time to reboot — is the most critical and important one for both employers and their staffs to focus on. Yes, it’s amazing what a little time off can do to help relive the stress of the holiday season.

How to manage bad bosses

Of course, there’s more than just coping with holiday workplace stress in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • How to manage bad bosses. The Harvard Business Review recently gave some tips on how to manage the three types of bad bosses. It’s a big challenge to undertake, but as HBR notes, “Many of us may feel that it’s not our job to mend flawed supervisors and that top management needs to intervene. In reality, you have only two choices: Keep waiting for the organization to fix your flawed leader — or find ways of doing so yourself. If you take matters into your own hands even in small ways, you will be able to ensure that you get past the inertia of your boss.”
  • The art of swearing at work. Does it ever make sense to swear on the job? Yes it does, according to this story from TheStreet.com. Here’s why: “Sometimes, you just need to know when to drop the right F-bomb to make a point at the office. … (T-Mobile CEO John) Legere says he curses to appeal to his workers and customers — in effect, it removes the ceremonial dressings of elite business speak some higher-ups use. Legere, it seems, believes swearing makes him appear more personable. … (And) researchers out of Northern Illinois University studied the influence swearing had on a persuasive speaker. They stated their results “demonstrated that swearing at the beginning and at the end of the speech led to more positive attitudes about the topic and greater perceptions of speaker intensity.”
  • Will we really all be getting raises next year? I don’t read a lot of “influencer” content on LinkedIn, because LinkedIn sets a pretty low bar for what qualifies as “expert” analysis. Yes, lots of influencers on LinkedIn are really just self-proclaimed  experts, so take what they say with a grain of salt — like this commentary that we’re all going to get raises next year. Yes, the monthly trend looks promising, but I’m not sure anyone else’s crystal ball is quite as clear as the one Daniel Gross is peering into. 
  • Yes, holiday parties ARE awkward. News flash — The Washington Post just discovered that holiday office parties are awkward. As writer Ellen McCarthy notes — and where have I heard a version of this somewhere before? — “It’s not enough to spend five days a week with your dear colleagues; you must put in a few extra off-hours of chitchat and merry-making for good show. Of course, the office holiday party is always fun and festive. Except when it’s awkward and uncomfortable. … But above all, it’s obligatory.”
  • Does the boss really make THAT much? This goes back to November, but a new regulation the SEC is considering, would, according to The Wall Street Journal, require “most public U.S. companies to disclose the ratio of pay between their chief executive and their typical employee. At a time when pay disparities are a hot political and business issue, the coming rule may put businesses in the sticky spot of having to explain why the highest executive is rewarded so richly while regular workers make comparatively little.”  And, wouldn’t that add a little more HO-HO-HO to the holiday season?