Though a time of happiness and celebration for many, for some, coping with the pressures of Christmas and all that goes with it can be overwhelming. And in the workplace, many employees can feel the effects of Christmas taking its toll long before the office shutdown. So, what can employers do to help their staff deal with Christmas stress in the workplace? 
 
Tackling SAD 
The run up to Christmas should be something to look forward to as many businesses look to end the year on a positive – and festive – high. At one of the busiest times of the year for many businesses, the mid-winter period can leave employees with the feeling they’re not coping or performing as well as they should. 
 
 
Staff can fall foul of the seasonal pressures, both physically and mentally, with illness and strains on their time and finances. While colds can chip away at physical health, an outbreak of flu can take staff out for weeks at a time. But it’s also important to remember the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in staff at work too. 
 
While mental health plays an important part in all health and wellness in the workplace, SAD can add to the feelings of stress and strain already taking hold. Unlike depression that can affect people for long periods at any time, SAD can often be known as ‘winter depression’. 
 
The symptoms of SAD can be more obvious and severe during the winter months due to a lack of sunlight leaving the serotonin levels in the brain lower than normal. Affecting mood, sleep, and appetite, it can leave people feeling tired and with no motivation or enthusiasm at work. 
However, while this can be a real issue for employees, there are plenty of ways for employers to help combatting seasonal affective disorder in the workplace for their staff if they’re affected, and maintain a positive working environment. 
 
Christmas stress in the workplace 
But employee stress may not be directly linked to SAD, even though many of the same, or similar, symptoms can appear. For many, stress at Christmas time is something that goes hand in hand with the time of year and all that surrounds it. 
 
In a survey undertaken by Peldon Rose, a workplace design consultancy based in London, 54% of their respondents claimed to feel stressed in the lead up to the Christmas holidays. Of that 54%, their key stress factors were broken down into the following categories: buying Christmas presents (56%), finishing their work (49%), an increased workload (44%), and managing their personal expenses (43%). 
 
There are only two work-related issues listed, but the others can also contribute hugely to employee’s stress levels overall. December is a shorter working month, so more workload plus tighter deadlines can add up to longer working hours. Couple these with the pressures of home and family, and it could result in some employees feeling the detrimental effects of Christmas stress all too early. 
Christmas stress isn’t an area with a lot of expertise behind it, but employers should be able to recognise any early signs of stress or unusual behaviour in individual employees and take measures to limit the repercussions. 
 
What should employers do? 
Promoting health and wellbeing at work throughout the whole working year is important, but it’s especially appropriate in the run up to Christmas. In doing so, your staff come back feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to go in the New Year. Here are a few ways you can help limit their stress levels. 
 
Manage their workloads 
We’ve already mentioned that December is a short working month, so prioritising workloads and schedules is really important. Focus on completing the tasks that need clearing before the Christmas break and schedule other projects for the New Year. There’s little advantage in overworking staff and risking an increase in physical or mental stress. 
 
Consider remote or flexible working 
At a time when illness rates can be high in staff or their families, or when car, boiler, or other breakdowns can happen without warning, why not be flexible in their working arrangements? More businesses are introducing remote working from home, but just being flexible in their working hours can work wonders in relieving stress and worry. 
 
Set the festive tone 
Boosting morale in the run up to Christmas is important to keeping staff happy and productive at a busy time. Seasonal office perks including decorations, or maybe even a Christmas tree, dress-down days, and festive team bonding games can work wonders to office atmosphere and help gain a motivated team for the final push. 
 
Schedule an office party - and an alternative 
The annual Christmas party can be a great opportunity to relax and bond with colleagues after a busy year. Whether it’s a sit down meal or a social night out on the tiles, staff always appreciate a stress-busting, paid-for celebration. But not all employees enjoy big social gatherings or may not even celebrate Christmas at all. So remember to ask your team for alternatives that will give them an entertaining day or night out they can all enjoy. 
 
Your next steps 
Promoting and developing positive mental health in the workplace is essential to a healthy, happy, and productive workforce. Around 70m working days are lost each year to both long and short-term staff absence for stress and mental ill health, costing the UK upwards of £70m annually. 
 
So while it should be a priority for all employers, mental health awareness is still an area surrounded by stigma and a lack of understanding. As specialist mental health training providers, Clearfocus Training offers a range of courses across the UK that make sure your employees – and colleagues – have the right help and support when they need it. 
 
To help employers increase awareness of mental health in business, our Mental Health And Wellbeing In The Workplace 1-day introductory course is suitable for anyone who wants and needs their staff to understand more about mental health in the workplace - with no previous knowledge or training required. 
 
The course can be tailored to meet your own objectives and needs for up to 15 delegates, and will be delivered by our fully qualified mental health professionals at a time and location that suits you - wherever your business is based in the UK. For more information and to book your course, call us today on 01392 248 130 or email info@clearfocustraining.co.uk. 
 
 
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