It’s a sad fact that the holidays, which should be among the happiest times of the year, often bring with them a lot of stress, at least for some of us.  Part of the stress comes from huge demand on our time. In addition to day-to-day responsibilities, holiday shopping, getting the house ready for guests and entertaining add pressure. If out-of-town travel is on your agenda, the stress-o-meter may move up a notch or two.

stressed businesswomanAll that said, most of us survive the holidays and undoubtedly wait in anticipation for them to roll around again. But the stress may linger and it has nothing to do with mistletoe and holly. It seems that more and more employees– of both small businesses and large — are stressed out.  Some of this has to do with staffing uncertainties as companies wait for the economy to sufficiently rebound. As a result, among employees who have taken on more work, stress and fatigue are taking their toll.

The recent StressPulse survey conducted by ComPsych Corp of 1880 employees nationwide indicated that 63 percent have high levels of stress and extreme fatigue. A significant number of them – 22 percent – see just being present as the top priority, a figure which has risen in year-to-year comparisons. Among the rest, 59 percent see accomplishing basic responsibilities as most important; only 19 percent see performance improvement as most important.

Other findings of the study indicate that 36 percent of respondents lose an hour or more per day due to stress.  Also stress and personal relationships are outpacing personal illness and care giving as the most common reasons for missing work.

What to do about employee stress

CommPsych advises that you assess workloads and employee stress regularly. Be willing to make changes – adjust or juggle the load – to give your employees a break. Here are some other things you want to do:

  • Help employees boost productivity:  It may help to reduce employees’ stress level if you enable them to work at home or some other convenient remote location if you aren’t already doing so.  It will cut their commute time and eliminate the stress of sitting in rush hour traffic; and most important, they will have more time to do the work at hand. Sharing documents in the cloud enables everyone to have access to needed company information. If there’s a need to conference, you can conduct a web or video meeting over a computer or tablet or smartphone. When there’s a need for high quality audio, just add a headset.
  • Set goals: Under stress, an employee may have trouble staying focused on key tasks or assignments. You may find they are creating unnecessary work for themselves. Make sure your employees understand their goals to help them determine what work is the most meaningful and eliminate what is redundant or busywork.
  • Acknowledge achievement: Your positive reinforcement can go a long way toward alleviating someone’s stress. Show you appreciate what your team is doing both in your words and your actions. Possibly, give someone a gift card for a meal or a movie.
  • Ensure employees take breaks:  With a growing sense that being present is the number one priority, employees may be hesitant to take vacations or even get away from their desks for lunch. Set an example by taking time off and encouraging employees to take earned vacation or a mental health day and to get out of the office for lunch or a cup coffee.

Above all, watch for signs of stress among your team and talk about it. Your team is your most valuable company asset.  Don’t let employee stress get your business down.