Christmas is a time of joviality – of warmth and goodwill to all. It brings family and friends together and gives us a reason to take a break from work, all before we round off the year and prepare for the new one ahead. Some people love it, relishing in the excitement of the countdown to the big day or preparing for the religious aspect of the celebration. But others fear its arrival, and no – it isn’t just Scrooge. In a recent study by YouGov₁, a whopping 15% of Brits said they didn’t like Christmas, whilst a further 16% just didn’t care for the season.
The Christmas season may not top everyone’s list of favourite times of the year. It can unearth personal or family challenges and put a strain on the wallet. One significant factor contributing to this sentiment is the heightened stress levels it brings. The festive period tends to overload our already bustling social lives and intensify workloads as we rush to complete tasks and check off everything on our to-do lists before the last window on our advent calendars is revealed.
Here are a few reasons why Christmas can be an especially stressful time at work alongside some suggestions as to how you can best support your team through the festive period.
Pinpointing the Causes of Christmas Stress
Many of us experience feelings of stress and worry day-to-day, and it’s normal to have periods where we feel more overwhelmed than usual. But when Christmas arrives, we can often feel swamped by the additional pressures which come with it. In 2022, a survey found that 36% of Brits were more stressed about the festive period than in 2021₂. Why? Just two of the reasons for this increased level of stress included:
- The cost-of-living crisis: From food and drink to fuel costs and present buying, 79% of respondents cited the rise in prices across all industries as the reason behind their Christmas stress, especially when it comes to buying gifts and travelling to visit friends or family.
- New year redundancies: 18% of respondents cited the fear of redundancy following the holidays as contributing towards their stress levels.
Understanding What Else Might Cause Employees to Experience Christmas Stress
As an employer, it’s vital to keep a close eye on your employees’ wellbeing, especially during the Christmas season, where your team will be preparing to round off the year. Understanding why a team member might be feeling overwhelmed or stressed means you can respond to their needs and help them stay calm and productive during these busy times. Here are some reasons why you or your employees might be feeling the heat at work this winter:
- The pressure to tie up work in a bow: For many, Christmas means finishing work commitments and tying up projects in order to have a relaxing break. Whilst the pay-off might be a Christmas free of work worries, the journey to get there might be more laborious and time-consuming, leaving little spare time for social events or self-care.
- All those social commitments: It’s always nice to have the calendar filled with exciting social occasions, whether that be a Christmas get-together with your friends or a mince pie-fuelled family reunion, but during the festive season, they can come all at once, leaving little time to breathe. With most people working until Christmas itself, achieving the healthy work/life balance you aim for during other months of the year can be a challenge.
- A time for goodwill – and germs? It’s winter, and unfortunately, the bugs are flying around. If you’re struck down by a winter virus, taking time off during such a busy period can increase your workload later in the run-up to Christmas and make you feel even more stressed about fitting in all your tasks before you set your out of office.
- Family woes: Not everyone has a healthy relationship with their families, and it’s normal to stress about, or even dread, seeing certain people over the Christmas holidays. This can affect an individual’s mental health, with these worries impacting their work and productivity levels.
- Social pressure: Social media means we can see what almost everyone we know is up to at all times. Yes, it’s a great way to send well wishes to friends and family during Christmas, but it also compels us to compare how well we’re doing at Christmas. The pressure to buy people the best presents, go to that Christmas event everyone’s been talking about, and see the most friends and family can often be exhausting, especially when juggling work and other personal commitments.
- Money, money, money!: One study even showed that 47% of us are worried about debt₃, meaning we might turn to overtime to cover the costs of the festive season or get increasingly anxious over how we’re going to afford to pay for festive expenses, including food, presents, and outings.
- Pre-existing mental health conditions: 1 in 6 people – that’s approximately 45.8 million adults – report experiencing symptoms of common mental health problems ₄, and Christmas may exacerbate these challenges. A National Alliance on Mental Illness ₅ study found that 64% of people living with a mental illness felt their condition worsened during the festive season. This can cause tasks to seem more daunting than they usually would and even lead to a complete mental block when it comes to finishing work commitments before the big day.
Line Management Training – Managing Stress and Mental Health: If you or line managers at your organisation are wondering how to best support your team’s wellbeing over the festive period (and the rest of the year!), Thrive4Life’s 90-minute Line Management Training course could be an indispensable tool in helping you do just that. This course gives line managers the skills and understanding to manage employee stress levels and boost their mental well-being. The course content not only equips line managers with the knowledge needed to identify common symptoms and warning signs of poor mental health but also to take active measures to support and improve their team’s emotional well-being.
Quick Steps to Combat Christmas Workplace Stress
- Talk about it! Make your workplace one where you hold open conversations about stress – this will help employees open up if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Help set up a plan of action to help your team finish their work before Christmas and ensure any time frames you set are achievable.
- Delegate a team of employees to a particular task to reduce the time needed to finish it. This can help avoid fatigue and overwhelm and strengthen teamwork skills, cultivating a community approach to work.
- According to research by Benenden Health, 44% of the workforce have access to flexible working at Christmas to help cope with the pressure of the festive season.₆ If possible, be flexible! Let your employees work hours conducive to a healthy work/life balance – nobody wants to miss their child’s school nativity.
- Ensure that your team sets boundaries and doesn’t take on too much work over this period, e.g.; by helping a colleague finish their project while they’re still trying to finish their own deadlines.
Wellbeing Consultancy: Thrive4Life offers a dedicated wellbeing consultancy service to help businesses best identify, understand, and cater for the wellbeing needs of their employees. Our team of highly-experienced health professionals can help businesses assess their employees’ health needs, evaluate workplace health risks, and design a bespoke strategy that suits the requirements of their team. Helpful at any time of year, professional guidance in the run-up to winter can help businesses outline the most effective strategy for wellbeing promotion in their workplace at a time when our physical and mental health can be really put to the test. Interested? Click here to book your free strategy consultation.
7 Ways to Increase Employee Morale and Wellbeing This Christmas
Sticking on a Christmas tune and cracking open a box of chocolates might be an instant boost for some people. However, for others, more interventions might be needed to secure their Christmas wellbeing as the season rolls in and the tinsel is strewn over desks (although that can definitely help). Here are a few ideas on how you can set your staff up for success at Christmas:
- Give your employees a clear structure of the deliverables needed well in advance of the holiday period, ensuring adequate scheduling to enable a clearer calendar and a healthier working environment.
- Set up a budgeted Secret Santa. This avoids the costly and time-consuming stress of buying gifts for colleagues, while also wiping out worries about how much you should spend or what other people will buy. Sometimes, the smaller the price limit, the more fun you’ll have!
- Be realistic. Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. The year might nearly be over, but there’ll be time in January to finish any work which isn’t quite completed in the run-up to Christmas. It’s not the be-all and the end-all – it’s just another month of the year. Don’t let you or your team burn yourselves out before the year has even begun!
- Get festive! A Christmas tree and some fairy lights are the perfect way to inject the office with some festive feeling, giving it more of a homely feel in the lead up to Christmas.
- A Christmas bonus is a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ and reward your team for an outstanding year of hard work and dedication. It will also make your team feel appreciated and supported.
- Organise a Christmas party! A party is a great way for you and your employees to connect more personally, away from your computers. They also bring together people who might work from home more regularly, allowing the whole workforce to unite as one.
- Keep your focus on sustained workplace health and wellbeing. Thrive4Life’s seasonally-themed Staff Wellbeing Challenges are designed to motivate and empower employees with a focus on improving healthy eating and lifestyle habits, boosting energy levels throughout the day, and building resilience to home and work-related stress. This type of provision is perfect for looking after your team during this busy period.
DID YOU KNOW… In a study conducted by Peldon Rose, 69% of respondents said that office Christmas parties helped colleagues bond and build relationships with each other. Additionally, 33% said they enjoyed team outings during the season, and even 32% of employees noted an office Christmas tree and decorations boosted that festive feeling in the workplace ₇.
Christmas, In a Nutshell…
Christmas is a holiday of epic proportion, with 92% of Brits celebrating in 2022₈. With most people gearing up for those few days of festivities, balancing work commitments alongside everything else can inevitably be a bit hectic. From tying up loose work ends to ensuring you’re hitting your quotas for the quarter, there is more pressure to succeed during the winter months. Not only this but with New Year fast approaching, many workers are also focused on making sure their post-Christmas work is prepared as much as possible before they set their out-of-office messages.
Whether your employees struggle with personal issues during this season or are feeling anxious about managing their busy calendars throughout December, understanding how you can help them succeed is imperative to creating a healthy working environment. Effective time management, clear communication, and cultivating a sense of fun in the workplace are all essential to making sure Christmas is a happy and healthy time for everyone.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and cheers to good health this festive season!
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