Learning & Development

4 Strategies for Managing Employee Stress During the Holidays

The holidays are a time for joy, celebration, parties and potlucks in the office. But for some employees, this time can also be accompanied by stress and anxiety due to end-of-year reports, annual reviews and general burnout. Employers – especially HR and wellness departments – need to be aware of how their employees’ mental health can take a toll at this time of year. It’s estimated nearly half of Gen Zs (46%) and four in 10 millennials (39%) say they feel stressed or anxious at work all or most of the time. From shorter deadlines, end-of-year goals, and even added stressors that come with busy personal lives and schedules outside of work, developing robust mental health support and policies in the workplace makes a significant difference during the holidays.

Today, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, while an additional 25% say their job is the number one stressor in their lives. This stress can affect employee well-being and productivity that, if unchecked, can manifest in anomalous and harmful behavior. Within the workplace, this can range from absenteeism and unusual network activity to bullying, harassment and changes in financial conditions. That’s why HR departments should consider methods of people risk management that help support employees while mitigating the chance of crises – all while ensuring employee privacy and legal compliance.

This holiday season, there are several steps that HR departments and organizational leaders can take to create a safe and positive company culture, mitigate employee stress and boost organizational resilience.

Implement anonymous reporting tools.

The rapidly-advancing technological landscape can help employees report risk and give managers visibility into their organization at every level. Enhanced reporting technology enables employees to report concerns confidentially and fosters open communication without fear of retaliation. Giving employees the ability to report anonymously and through modern web-based systems can prevent a problem from escalating and gives leaders the opportunity to intervene as necessary while protecting employee confidentiality. Once the warning signs are shown, they can’t be ignored. Acting sooner can mitigate red flags and help HR understand what factors are causing stress and behavior change.

Introduce consent-based continuous monitoring technology.

Continuous, consent-based monitoring can bolster these reporting tools and ensure nothing falls through the cracks this holiday season. Even before an employee’s behavior or state of mind becomes noticeable to other employees to the point where they decide to report, often external everyday behaviors can indicate increased stress. For example, an employee getting a DUI may be a sign that companies should intervene. Utilizing automatic systems protects all parties involved and helps standardize workflows for verification and investigative matters while eliminating biases and favoritism. Implementing consent-based continuous monitoring systems will scan for behavioral anomalies in real-time and elevate risky or unusual behaviors through the right channels so HR leaders can take the necessary steps to help their workforce, and employees can feel confident that they are safe and cared for in the workplace.

Facilitate communication between employees and management.

Beyond technology, open and transparent channels of communication are an essential element of a holistic risk management approach. Regular check-ins and communication with supervisors and HR are vital for a supportive work environment. A shared commitment to openness can help establish trust so that employees are able to manage stress and feel safe communicating issues – whether work-related or personal – to their managers. It can also help employees understand when reporting is appropriate and know that their workplace leaders have their best interest in mind. By connecting with employees on a personal level, leaders can better keep them safe, while simultaneously using tools that help protect employee privacy and establish secure legal guardrails. Especially when stress is on the rise, it’s essential that both parties feel comfortable knowing they can raise and identify problems – and that these problems will be addressed fairly and effectively.

Provide educational resources and training programs to prevent burnout and promote a healthy work/life balance.

The pressures of deadlines and financial stresses can compound over time, leaving employees feeling overwhelmed and under-supported. Especially during a season where there are so many professional and personal events and factors happening at the same time, it’s important to invest in employees’ mental and physical health. For HR managers who want to mitigate the factors, if unchecked, can lead employees to a breaking point, providing resources and programs that provide employees with the tools they need to manage burnout and create balance in their lives can go a long way. For example, managers can encourage employees to take needed time off and prioritize their mental health. Doing so will help enhance organizational resilience as well: a healthy work/life balance has proven to boost productivity and improve retention rates.

This time of year, employers must pay careful attention and respond to employees’ mental health and stress. By taking proactive steps to increase safety and security through secure reporting and monitoring systems, open communication channels and educational resources, companies can better understand and address employee needs – and feel confident that they are fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment through this holiday season and beyond.

Tom Miller is co-founder and CEO of ClearForce, an employee risk management company based in Vienna, VA.

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