How to combat increased stress in the workplace during the festive period
Workplace stress is a problem all year round. More recently it’s started to become a huge problem for employees across the UK and is now one of the leading causes of absence in the workplace.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2018/19, 600,000 people reported experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This amounted to 44% of all work-related illnesses and 12.8 million working days were lost due to this.
The Christmas period is supposed to be a time of festive joy and celebration, but for many it’s a time of ill health and increased pressure on finances and time. Research has found that the Christmas period is the most stressful time for employees, a 2016 survey by Sodexo found that 23% of UK employees feel more stressed in the run up to Christmas.
To prevent increased staff absence during the Christmas period and to ensure you end the year on a positive note, so your staff come back to work refreshed and motivated for the new year, you need to combat Christmas stress. Below we are going to look at the most common causes of stress during the festive period and how you can support your employees through them.
It’s well known that money can be tighter around Christmas. The added cost of presents, food, nights out, parties, travelling and all the little extras really add up. It is reported that the average household spends an extra £800 at Christmas, which is a significant amount of money and a large portion of a person’s monthly wage. In one survey 52% of consumers said they feared they’d still be paying off Christmas debt from the year before by the time this Christmas rolls around.
Alleviating financial pressures for your staff can be difficult. Providing your staff with an end of year bonus can really give them a boost, but sometimes this can push them over a tax threshold meaning they won’t see as much of their bonus as they hoped. Providing your staff with vouchers and gift cards can be great alternative rewards at the end of the year as they can be used to buy Christmas presents, help with the Christmas food shop or treat themselves and the family.
16% of UK employees cited ill health as a cause of stress in one survey. Almost a third of the 141.4 million working days lost to illness last year, were caused by coughs, colds and the flu. These illnesses are particularly common in the winter. The festive period is the peak of flu season, and the flu can spread rapidly around a workplace where a lot of people are in close contact with each other every day. Stress can also make people more susceptible to catching illness and stress can increase when a large proportion of the workforce is off sick as there is added pressure on other members of staff to pick up the slack. Many who are ill feel the pressure to perform and their workload is too much to take time off, so continue to come to work instead of staying home to recover. This not only leads in increased levels of presenteeism, but increases the chances of illness spreading to other workers.
To prevent mass breakout of flu in your workplace you can offer your staff flu vaccinations. The influenza vaccine is the best defence we have against the flu and people should be vaccinated every year to help protect them from illness. Kays Medical offer a flu vaccination service for your workplace, where we can arrange to come to your site to provide your staff with flu jabs at a time that’s convenient for you. You can also encourage your employees to fight off germs by regularly washing their hands and providing hand sanitiser in strategic locations. For more tips read our blog on managing staff absences in winter.
We all know British weather is disappointing and people love a good moan about it. However, at this time of the year the weather can seriously affect people in many ways. People’s homes can be at risk of flooding, or the low temperatures and snow fall can affect people travelling to work. The lack of light in winter can also affect a person’s mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognised illness that leaves people depressed and can be extremely debilitating. It is more than just feeling down, is causes depression, increased fatigue and irritability. SAD seriously affects around 3% of the population and a further 20% experience milder symptoms.
So, how do you deal with this? It’s obviously impossible to control the weather, of course, but there are a few things you can do as an employer to help combat its effects. Keep the blinds open to maximise as much natural light as possible. There are also specialist lightbulbs you can buy called ‘daylight bulbs’ which provide a light source that simulates natural light. Daylight bulbs also have a higher Colour Rendering Index rating which removes the headache inducing effect you get from fluorescent lighting.
When staff have to battle the elements to get to work it’s important to be kind and lenient to them. Remember it isn’t their fault – they can’t control the weather much like you can’t. Delays on public transport are much more common in the winter, as are car troubles and childcare commitments may mean it’s difficult for some to leave earlier to compensate. The increased levels of illness and possible school closures due to weather may also mean those with children may need to take time off to look after them. In these instances, maybe you could allow them to work from home, if this is possible. Be understanding to your employees and their struggles due to the weather at this time of year and you’re sure to see a reduction in their stress levels.
A poor work-life balance was cited at the biggest cause of stress in the lead up to Christmas by UK employees, with 34% of people claiming balancing work and family life at Christmas was stressful in the Sodexo survey. There is increased pressure at work to get everything done before Christmas, where many businesses shut down for a length of time. The Christmas period always tends to be busier in work and tight deadlines increase stress. Outside of work there is the pressure to buy everyone’s presents, decorate the house, get the Christmas food shopping done, get involved in festive activities and nights out, help kids with festive school functions and plan all the celebrations.
Help to combat this stress by looking at deadlines and sharing the workload between people to ensure everything gets done and the pressure isn’t just on certain employees, if you can maybe look at hiring extra staff for the festive period to help out. Allow staff to receive deliveries at work so they aren’t stressing about when they can get their Christmas present orders. You could also introduce more flexible working hours for December, allowing staff to start earlier so they can finish earlier to make it to a child’s school play or festive night out, or implement longer lunches so people can do some shopping during this time.
How can Kays Medical help?
The festive period will always bring it’s added stresses but you can still help relieve some of this for your employees so when they are in work, they are motivated and remain working to the best of their ability. Kays Medical can offer a range of services which can help you deal with stress in the workplace including Stress Risk Assessments which can help you to pinpoint origins of employee stress and implement controls to manage it effectively, and Resilience Training which can help staff to deal with stress better themselves. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you and your employees beat the stress this festive period.