Wednesday has the lowest absenteeism rate in America.
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From all of us at Astron Solutions, happy holidays to you and those dear to you! We wish you all the best this holiday season, and a healthy, productive, and prosperous 2011.
The months of November to January signal a busy time for holiday celebrations, family time, and other happy moments. It is also the time for what some call the “Holiday Blues” and high stress levels. For those who work in an office setting, trying to meet pressing deadlines before vacation time and simultaneously preparing for holiday family and office events can become a major contributing factor to this seasonal anxiety. Additional stress can come from semester end activities for those employees attending college school while working. There is also the seasonal headache of gift shopping. With all the different demands, it’s no surprise that some employees – and even employers – may become a bit more sluggish, uneasy, or utterly depressed at certain moments of the holiday season. This can present a problem for an organization when its culture genuinely depends on positive participation from
everyone. There is plenty that can be done, however, to combat this seasonal distress.
Why Is Holiday Stress an Important Issue to Examine?
Even though some of the stress can stem from an actual medical condition such as
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or clinical depression, the Holiday Blues can occur for a short time when an otherwise healthy, well-adjusted individual can feel extra anxiety due to the additional pressures the holiday season typically brings. There is certainly nothing wrong with feeling a little blue from time to time. When these feelings start to affect job performance, however, the matter can present a hindrance to an organization. One article from the American Management Association (AMA) drew attention to a study which projected that 44% of surveyed executives noticed that productivity dropped the closer the holidays approached. Some of the lower productivity could come from festive employees getting into the carefree spirit that the holidays tend to exude. Fun times aside, however, a larger portion of this lack of focus can stem from stress.
Absenteeism can also correlate with stress. Clearly, in order to avoid a possible empty office near the holiday time, more information should be shared with co-workers in regards to where stress comes from and what can be done to alleviate the pressure.
Where is The Pressure Coming From?
As mentioned, a lot of the holiday stresses stem from the traditional extra responsibilities that accompany holiday celebrations. For starters, with the economy coming out of recession, gift shopping may become a more
complicated task than in previous years. Also, on a personal level, some employees may be coping with depression due to memories of previous, more joyful festivities or losing a loved one. Overindulgence as a holiday diet can also attribute to a sense of low spirits. Even high expectations for one’s self, only to find shortcomings after attempting a year-long self reflection, can cause some sad feelings. There’s no one source for the holiday blues and stress. With this in mind, there are multiple ways an organization can try to mitigate these seasonal tensions.
Tips to Help Lighten Holiday Blues and Stress
Being creative in finding solutions to promote a joyful disposition within an organization will of course take some time and some brainstorming. Setting some time aside to brainstorm short-term and long-term solutions to help employees get over the Holiday Blues is a good start. Here are some other suggestions:
• Flexible Scheduling
During this busy time of year it can be helpful to promote flexible work scheduling. For instance, why not permit employees with the opportunity to work 4 ten hour work-days or allow employees to create their own work hours during the season. Making it clear that work must be completed should be highlighted if such an opportunity is made available. An article from
Allbusiness.com gives excellent tips on creating holiday schedules for the office. Ellen Galinsky, President and co-founder of the
Families and Work Institute, indicated in a
US News Article that many employers find it very fair to give employees scheduling flexibility when morale is low and payroll is tight. Some places of employment also engage in a “shopping day off.” This program allows employees to schedule one day off to use in preparing for the holidays. This day could be used to do shopping, organizing family events, or even catching up on some much needed rest. Another scheduling option includes
telecommuting on selected days when activities seem to be even busier for employees. If an employer chooses to make telecommuting an option, however, there should be precautions in order to steer clear of
possible legal ramifications.
• Dress Code, Decorations, and Diversity Awareness
While making sure not to exclude employees who may celebrate other holidays, or none at all, placing decorations or permitting a more festive dress code for even just one day can lift gloomy spirits. Permitting a more casual dress code for the entire season is also another possible option. In regards to other holiday celebrations centered near the same time, take a look at our previous
Astronology article on the topic. It can be used as a starting basis for considering holiday sensitivity.
• Seasonal Parties and Shopper’s Workshops
Keeping holiday sensitivity in mind, throwing a small party can become a positive element in promoting a more relaxed environment during this period of stressful activities. To keep costs down, make the celebration a potluck lunch or a snack party. Another welcome approach is providing stress-relief workshops. One fun and innovative lunchtime workshop can include a Shopper’s Workshop. Gathering the co-workers together to discuss where others have found great deals and suggestions for gifts can be an excellent way to break tension from holiday shopping stress.
• Special Office Newsletter Bulletins and Promoting Behavioral/Mental Health Benefits
Communicating with your employees through an organizational newsletter or e-mail bulletin can also convey to employees that their employers care for their well-being. Topics for such a newsletter / bulletin can range from a letter of encouraging words and appreciation, to tips on where to go for holiday shopping and how to purchase appropriate gifts for individuals. Use communication vehicles to compassionately and sensitively encourage employees to take advantage of any behavioral or mental health benefits an organization may offer.
The holiday season is undeniably a time for merriment and optimism for the New Year. Yet Holiday Blues and stress may also be aspects of the festivities. Even though both factors can slow productivity, there are measures an organization can take to prevent the holiday blues from taking over. Being aware of what factors can attribute to employee seasonal-related stress is the first step – either through past experience or a short employee survey. Address employees’ concerns in an innovative manner. However your organization decides to manage anxious employees, being sensitive and knowledgeable is always fundamental. Keeping that frame of reference will allow an employer and the HR team to properly handle the situation without causing further spread of the Holidays Blues.
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