Flexible hours best way for employers to reduce staff stress Christmas lead up

Over 50 percent of respondents to a recent survey want their bosses to offer more flexible hours in the weeks leading up to Christmas to help them deal with the stress of the season, while a significant minority do not want to attend their office Christmas party and see little value in building friendships with colleagues from such events. These are the key findings from the latest survey conducted over the past month by Peldon Rose which claims that 54 percent of people feel stressed in the lead up to the holidays. Yet, while many employers off the typical well-intentioned holiday benefits, such as Christmas parties, office decorations, team outings and lunches, what employees really value are perks that have a direct impact on improving their workload and allowing them to work in a more relaxed manner at this very busy time of the year, such as more flexible hours, finishing early on agreed days and a dress down code.

While a clear majority (69 percent) said Christmas office parties help them bond and build relationships with colleagues and the majority of staff (65 percent) said they enjoyed attending their office party, this leaves significant minorities (31 percent) and (35 percent) who saw no bonding value in the events and did not want to attend. Employees also listed the biggest office Christmas party etiquette mistakes as drinking, flirting and gossiping.

Survey highlights:

  • Holiday stress level : 54 percent of employees say they are stressed leading up to the holidays
  • Holiday stress key causes: purchasing Christmas presents (56 percent), finishing work and projects (49 percent), increasing workload to complete (44 percent) and managing their personal expenses (43 percent)
  • Perks offered by companies: Christmas party (71 percent), Christmas tree and office decorations (61 percent), secret Santa (46 percent), and team outings and lunches (42 percent) were the most commonly offered Christmas perks from businesses
  • Perks employees desire: flexible hours or early finish (60 percent), relaxed dress code (34 percent), team outings/lunches (33 percent), Christmas tree/office decorations (32 percent) and a Christmas party (30 percent) were the most desired holiday perks
  • Christmas party value: 69 percent say that the Christmas party helps them to build friendships with colleagues and 65 percent of UK workers say they enjoy attending their annual Christmas party
  • Christmas party venue: 71 percent of UK businesses have a Christmas party with the majority being held at a venue (78 percent) rather than the office (7 percent)
  • Inappropriate Christmas party etiquette: drinking too much (66 percent), flirting with a colleague/boss (55 percent) and gossiping about the company or colleagues (51 percent)were rated the most inappropriate Christmas party behaviour

The holidays can be a stressful time of year as employees try to manage the demands of work and their private lives. In fact, the survey revealed that 54 percent of employees feel stressed leading up to Christmas, with purchasing Christmas presents (56 percent), finishing work and projects (49 percent), increasing workload to complete (44 percent) and managing their personal expenses (43 percent) cited as the leading causes of stress. Unsurprisingly, 60 percent of employees say that flexible hours or early finish would be the most beneficial for them during this period.

Create an enjoyable and festive atmosphere

When it comes to reducing stress and keeping employees productive in the lead up to Christmas, there seems to be a discrepancy in the perks that companies offer versus what employee’s value. Of the holiday perks that businesses do offer, the most common were a Christmas party (71 percent), Christmas tree and office decorations (61 percent) and Secret Santa (46 percent). However, the perks that employees would prefer include flexible hours or early finish (60 percent), relaxed dress code (34 percent), team outings/lunches (33 percent), Christmas tree/office decorations (32 percent) and only 30 percent cited a Christmas party as their preference. So setting the mood in the workplace by providing employees with autonomy, more flexible schedules and a festive atmosphere that does not interfere with their work will help to create a happy and motivated workforce.

Provide opportunities for bonding outside of a traditional Christmas party

The survey revealed that 71 percent of respondents have a Christmas party, the majority of which are held at a venue (78 percent) compared to the office (7 percent). While the majority of staff (65 percent) do enjoy attending their Christmas party and see it as an opportunity to build friendships with colleagues (69 percent), there is still a large portion (35 percent) of the workforce who do not enjoy attending their party. Instead of hosting a Christmas party, employers should talk to their employees about what activities they’d like to attend and that will allow for increased staff bonding but also help to reduce holiday related-stress.

Partake in Christmas activities but remind employees of proper party etiquette

While holiday parties can serve as an opportunity for employees to unwind and celebrate a successful year, it can also be a time that is fraught with stress for some employees.  When it comes to party etiquette, employees name drinking too much (66 percent), flirting with a colleague/boss (55 percent) and gossiping about the company or colleagues (51 percent) as the biggest mistakes to make. To help reduce any worry around the holiday party, employers should speak to their employees and provide gentle reminders of proper party etiquette.

Jitesh Patel, Chief Executive, Peldon Rose, commented: “As our survey reveals, it is clear that employees don’t feel that they have the time or resources to complete all of their holiday-related tasks and even things like Secret Santa gifts can add to feelings of angst because it is just one more personal task to do.

“While a cheerful work atmosphere is important for boosting morale, employers should recognise that the best way to boost engagement and motivation during the holidays is to provide employees with more autonomy and flexible working and encourage their input on office festivities. When employees feel that they have more control over their work and have more time to complete their personal errands, they will be happier and more productive leading up to Christmas.”

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