Survey: ‘Tis the Season for Workplace Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year-but it can also be the most stressful. While 16% of business leaders and 30% of workers say they “love the holiday season at work,” the rest report a range of seasonal stressors in a new survey released by Express Employment Professionals.

Express asked both business leaders and workers, “What stresses you out the most during the holidays?”

Among business leaders, last minute projects was the top response:

  • 20%: Last minute projects or requests
  • 17%: Juggling employee/co-worker time off requests
  • 16%: I don’t have any issues! I love the holiday season at work!
  • 12%: Taking personal time off
  • 12%: Other
  • 11%: Buying gifts for co-workers
  • 10%: The company holiday party
  • 2%: Organizing client or vendor gifts

Workers were slightly more positive about the holiday season:

  • 30%: I don’t have any issues! I love the holiday season at work!
  • 22%: Requesting time off
  • 10%: Buying gifts for coworkers
  • 9%: The company holiday party
  • 8%: Last minute projects or requests
  • 8%: Other
  • 6%: Finding seasonal work to earn extra money
  • 6%: Juggling co-worker time off requests

The holidays bring a range of challenges for companies and their employees, and they affect each company differently, explains Lorraine Medici, the director of training and development at the Express Employment Professionals Grand Rapids, Michigan, office.

“The holiday season can bring a change to the normal pace and workload typically seen in the rest of the year,” Medici said. “For some companies it means a slowdown, which in turn means fewer hours and mandatory time off for employees. Fewer hours could impact the ‘buying power’ for employees and their families. For other companies, it means hours are ramped up to complete final orders and projects before year end. The impact for those employees can mean working more, which affects family time during the holidays.”

What can employers do to deliver some stress relief during the holiday?

Yvonne Rockwell, an Express franchise owner in Santa Clarita, California, offers these recommendations:

“Pay out bonuses and commissions early in the month of December,” she said. “That way employees are better able to plan for themselves and their families. Host holiday parties early in the month, not at the end. Give a few extended lunch times.”

Terri Greeno, Crystal Lake, Illinois, Express franchise owner, suggests wrapping up the year calmly.

“Do 2020 planning early and roll it out to the team so that they have input and ideas for how to reach goals,” she said.

In Edmonton, Alberta, franchise owner Jessica Culo said the biggest stressor she sees is the amount of time off people take during the holiday season.

“Employers can really help alleviate stress by planning ahead for periods when staff are off and where necessary, bring in temporary help,” Culo said. “It’s also important to take the time to have some fun. Aside from Christmas parties, simple things like bringing in breakfasts or potluck lunches can be great for team morale.”

Daniel Morgan, an Express franchise owner in North Birmingham, Alabama, also encourages employers to be “flexible with PTO and hours” and to “give your team the freedom to work out the holiday schedule themselves.”

Medici suggests a proactive approach.

“Ask employees what their greatest stressors are during the holidays,” she said. “We can certainly make educated guesses, but asking will not only give employees a voice, but build trust that companies truly care.”

Transparency should also go hand-in-hand with flexibility, she notes.

“I think it’s very important for employers to be transparent about what employees can expect in regard to working hours far in advance of the holiday season,” she said.

“Remember,” Rockwell added. “A small gesture goes a very long way.”

12-11-2019 Holiday Stress US Graph 1-SM
12-11-2019 Holiday Stress US Graph 2-SM

The holidays should be time for celebration and family, not stress and anxiety, said Express CEO Bill Stoller.

“By identifying the typical stressors and taking a thoughtful approach, employers and employees alike can take some of the worry out of the holidays and inject a little more joy into the season,” he said.

The survey of 361 business leaders was conducted in November 2019 through the Express Refresh Leadership blog. The survey of 108 workers and job seekers was conducted in November 2019 on the Express Job Journey site.

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