Wednesday, November 26, 2014 · 6:10 a.m.

Holiday season increases workplace stress

Leaders suggest coping methods

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The holidays can increase workplace stress, according to a recent survey. Leaders offered tips on how to manage the hectic holidays. (Photo: MGNOnline)

A recent survey quantifies what many already know—the holidays can be stressful, and the workplace isn't exempt from the Christmastime crunch. 

A survey from Robert Half International found 39 percent of respondents said it is more difficult to manage workloads during the holiday season. 

And 41 percent said their current workloads are too heavy, Kevin Green, with Chattanooga's Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of staffing agency Robert Half International, said. 

"Time-off demands from co-workers wishing to celebrate the holidays can create a crunch for those left to do the work," he said. 

To deal with this seasonal stress, Green said it's important to examine deadlines for upcoming projects and adjust them as needed. The most important tasks should be prioritized.

Communication with co-workers about vacation plans or other delays is also important, he said via email. 

"Delegate time-sensitive tasks and responsibilities, and offer to return the favor when your colleagues are out of the office," he said. "Departments that are spread thin should consider interim staff to help with year-end projects. A staffing firm can help you identify skilled candidates."

Managers also feel added pressure during the holidays, he said. But strong leaders help employees cope with job stress by being cognizant of increased workloads.

Business leaders can help their employees by noticing if someone on the team is showing signs of stress, acknowledging concerns and coming up with a plan to deal with the situation, Green said. 

"Ask for volunteers for new projects and encourage colleagues to help each other when needed," he said. "Acknowledge and reward hard work. These efforts don’t have to be expensive. For example, a handwritten note acknowledging a job well-done can be very motivational."

Forbes contributor Judy Martin recently addressed this topic. 

She suggested stress management educational programs and/or organizational changes to help quell the stress. 

Other wintertime wonderments 
Q: Is it acceptable to skip the office Christmas party?

A: Green said most reasonable employers understand the holidays can be busy and hectic, and it's typically OK to occasionally miss office events if there is a legitimate conflict.

"But repeatedly missing out on group festivities can raise red flags," he said. "Not attending because you simply don’t feel like it or 'might' have something else going on may send the message that you’re not fully engaged with the company."

And holiday parties provide the chance for employees to get to know managers and co-workers better, as well as provide valuable networking opportunities, he said. 

Q: Your workload is huge, but what if you get sick? Tough it out at work, or stay at home?

A: The Robert Half survey found that 76 percent of employees have gone to work at least somewhat sick. And 34 percent said when a co-worker comes in sick, they worry about being exposed to the illness. Only 8 percent of respondents were impressed by their co-workers' dedication. 

Half of the respondents said employers encourage them to stay at home if they don't feel well. 

Just more than 10 percent said managers discourage them from taking sick time off. 

"Most people are well-intentioned—they come in even when they aren’t feeling well because they don’t want to fall behind in their work or burden colleagues who cover for them," Green said. "However, they risk spreading their illness to others and affecting the entire team. Employers should encourage staff to stay home if they are under the weather and provide tips on what employees can do to prevent the spread of illness in general." 

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