Money and work continue to be “significant stressors” as tracked annually by the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Stress in America Survey, with nearly two-thirds of adults (63%) reporting one or the other to be a major source of stress. Not to mention the added factor that Americans have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The holiday season can add an entirely new level of demands on the mental state of your employees, with the pressures of remote work, meeting year-end deadlines, competing for bonuses, and managing time for family, contributing to a broadly shared sense of unease during a global pandemic.
Holiday Stress Directly Affects Productivity and Morale
For some, stress can be a powerful motivator to get things done. However, for a significant portion of the working population, debilitating workplace stress can spike around the holidays, creating both health risks and a loss of mental energy. High absenteeism, turnover, poor time management, lack of motivation, and increased employee complaints can be directly tied to losses in productivity, morale, and engagement. The losses are not simply financial — overstressed and unhealthy employees tend to create unhappy workplaces.
What Employers Can Do
There are a number of steps HR professionals and company leaders can take to alleviate the tension that stressed employees feel around the holidays:
- Extend flexible hours or the opportunity to work remotely — Employees often cite these two benefits as being most effective at combating seasonal stress disorder. Providing flexible schedules for holiday preparations or floating days off for holidays worked, and offering reduced hours so employees can run errands, honor their religious traditions, or volunteer during work hours are just a few ways employers have addressed the time crunch that employees feel at the end of the year. Allowing employees to take breaks from online meetings and early release saves time — time they can use to pursue holiday activities and events, while maintaining a sense of work-life balance.
- Offer access to company-paid mental wellness professionals — Providing support for people coping with mental illness in the workplace is a growing need for many organizations. Bringing an expert speaker to discuss mental health and mental illness with your employees may be an excellent first step. So is adopting an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can help employees deal with stress-related emotional and psychiatric pressures that may affect on-the-job performance. Finally, ask your insurance carrier to ensure that you have adequate mental health coverage.
- Schedule holiday events during normal business hours — Employees who already are overscheduled will appreciate not having to stay logged in after regular work hours to celebrate the season. In addition, be mindful not to book too many online meetings, as many employees will feel stressed from having one more thing to do!
- Give gifts of holiday food — To show appreciation for employee’s hard work during a busy time of year, give the gift of take-out or food delivery gift cards. This will save them time and money – two of the most precious resources available in the holiday season.
Perhaps the most powerful gift an employer can give employees during the holidays is not causing additional stress. As Susan M. Heathfield, a management and organization development consultant, recently put it in a blog post:
“As an employer, you control many of the variables that create holiday season stress for people. (Scheduling) excessive overtime hours … (imposing) short deadlines for important projects, and (creating) pressure to reach end-of-year goals can add additional stress for the holidays.”
Safeguard Your Employees with Identity Theft Protection
One of the most stressful experiences any employee can have, regardless of the time of year, is having their identity stolen. Scammers, fraudsters, and identity thieves ramp up their nefarious activities during the holidays because they know people will be online shopping, connecting with family online, and being less careful in general with their personal information. In this era of increased cybersecurity awareness, it may come as a surprise that cybercrime spiked as criminals sent nearly 4 trillion phishing emails and ramped up a 350% increase in fraudulent websites, costing Americans over $200 Million in COVID-19 fraud.
When constructing financial wellness benefits, most companies prioritize debt management, college tuition assistance, retirement planning, and budgeting tools as being the most valuable to employees, to name a few. But there is one facet of financial wellness progressive employers are shining a light on, especially around the holiday season: identity theft protection. Forward-thinking organizations recognize that a critical part of a complete and sound financial security picture should be protecting the identities of employees and their families. Providing identity theft protection shows that your company is proactively working to protect employee information in the event of a corporate or personal data breach or fraud.
Identity theft protection is a non-taxable, non-reportable employee benefit when offered by employers to employees. In addition, employers are able to improve overall productivity by limiting time sinks and employee stresses associated with remediating identity theft.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.