Workplace Stress at Christmas

Dylan Loughlin

Christmas is supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ however, for many employees the Christmas run up can feel like a mad rush as many tasks need completed before the office closes over the holiday.

Christmas Deadlines

Workplace stress can increase as there are many tight deadlines and employees may feel they cannot complete everything on time. As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of employees while at work which includes protecting employees’ wellbeing from issues such as stress.

Communicate with staff about deadlines to ensure employees are aware they can bring any concerns to management about not being able to meet the deadline. Work could also be shared out among staff or teams to relieve the pressure from individuals. If workload increases greatly in December, it may be appropriate to consider hiring additional seasonal staff who can help relieve the pressure from current employees.

Christmas Money Worries

Christmas is an expensive time of year and according to new research by relationships charity Relate NI, money worries is the second highest reason people are worried about Christmas, with 36% of people worried about this in the run up to the festive season.

A year-end bonus can be a great way to show your appreciation to employees and is likely to improve motivation as employees feel valued. If you are not in a financial position to offer bonuses, alternatives such as small gifts or supermarket vouchers which could be used to help with the food shop, can also help relieve financial pressures at Christmas.

If you decide to make use of a Christmas bonus, it is important you check the HMRC website as tax must often be paid on benefits and staff entertaining.

Work-life Balance at Christmas

Christmas is a busy period in both work and personal life therefore, employees may find it difficult to balance their work life as they shop for gifts, prepare food, buy a last-minute Christmas jumper and attend social events.

Employees being unable to balance their time can lead to increased unapproved absence and sick days at Christmas. If possible, it may be appropriate to introduce flexible working or working from home to combat staff absence. Allowing staff to start earlier may also make it easier for them to attend events such as a child’s school play or complete their Christmas shopping.

Signs of Workplace Stress

Employers, and particularly managers, can benefit from recognising the signs of workplace stress as early intervention prevents the situation worsening to where employees may be off on long term sick due to stress.

Signs of work-related stress are often shown as changes in an employee’s mood or behaviour:

  • Increased absence or lateness to work
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced performance and loss of motivation
  • Being withdrawn from colleagues

Relate NI Tips and Resources

This year, Relate NI have put together a campaign to help reduce stress this holiday season by encouraging individuals to step back and ‘take a breath.’

The campaign provides a range of free self-help resources such as counsellor videos and downloadable tips to help get through the festive period which can be accessed here:

Relate NI Tips & Ideas To Relieve The Pressure

These tips could be transferred to the workplace through training where managers explain 7-11 breathing and 5,4,3,2,1 grounding techniques to help ease employee stress during busy periods.

Employees should also be encouraged to take short regular breaks throughout the workday, preferably outside and away from screens, as a few minutes of fresh air can greatly improve your mood and self-esteem.