UK employers could do more to support employees manage Christmas stress by offering employees the holiday perks they actually want, such as greater flexibility and autonomy, rather than the traditional benefits that companies have historically offered to improve employee engagement and motivation. These are the key findings from the latest survey conducted over the past month by leading workplace consultants and office design specialists Peldon Rose.
With 54 per cent of respondents saying that they feel Christmas stress, it’s clear that this is an issue that needs to be addressed to improve staff wellbeing and productivity. 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.
On office Christmas parties there was also some surprising findings as while a clear majority (69 per cent) said that such parties help them bond and build relationships with colleagues and the majority of staff (65 per cent) said they enjoyed attending their office party, this leaves significant minorities (31 per cent) and (35 per cent) 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.
- Christmas stress level : 54 per cent of employees say they are stressed leading up to the holidays
- Christmas stress key causes: purchasing Christmas presents (56 per cent), finishing work and projects (49 per cent), increasing workload to complete (44 per cent) and managing their personal expenses (43 per cent)
- Perks offered by companies: Christmas party (71 per cent), Christmas tree and office decorations (61 per cent), secret Santa (46 per cent), and team outings and lunches (42 per cent) were the most commonly offered Christmas perks from businesses
- Perks employees desire: flexible hours or early finish (60 per cent), relaxed dress code (34 per cent), team outings/lunches (33 per cent), Christmas tree/office decorations (32 per cent) and a Christmas party (30 per cent) were the most desired holiday perks
- Christmas party value: 69 per cent say that the Christmas party helps them to build friendships with colleagues and 65 per cent of UK workers say they enjoy attending their annual Christmas party
- Christmas party venue: 71 per cent of UK businesses have a Christmas party with the majority being held at a venue (78 per cent) rather than the office (seven per cent)
- Inappropriate Christmas party etiquette: drinking too much (66 per cent), flirting with a colleague/boss (55 per cent) and gossiping about the company or colleagues (51 per cent) were rated the most inappropriate Christmas party behaviour
Encourage autonomy to allow employees to complete their work and personal commitments
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 reveals 54 per cent of employees feel Christmas stress, with purchasing Christmas presents (56 per cent), finishing work and projects (49 per cent), increasing workload to complete (44 per cent) and managing their personal expenses (43 per cent) cited as the leading causes of stress. Unsurprisingly, 60 per cent 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 per cent), Christmas tree and office decorations (61 per cent) and Secret Santa (46 per cent).
However, the perks that employees would prefer include flexible hours or early finish (60 per cent), relaxed dress code (34 per cent), team outings/lunches (33 per cent), Christmas tree/office decorations (32 per cent) and only 30 per cent 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 reveals 71 per cent of respondents have a Christmas party, the majority of which are held at a venue (78 per cent) compared to the office (seven per cent). While the majority of staff (65 per cent) do enjoy attending their Christmas party and see it as an opportunity to build friendships with colleagues (69 per cent), there is still a large portion (35 per cent) 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
Tis’ the season for holiday parties, and while they 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 per cent), flirting with a colleague/boss (55 per cent) and gossiping about the company or colleagues (51 per cent) 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, the office design specialists, comments, ‘While the Christmas holidays are a time of celebration for some, it can also be a time when employees feel more holiday-related stress due to buying presents, finishing projects and managing their personal finances. They also want to partake in social events with their colleagues but often this interferes with their work and personal plans.
‘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.’
Further reading on Christmas stress
UK professionals feel deprived of time off over Christmas
Another study revealed that the majority of UK professionals aren’t given sufficient time off at Christmas, despite believing businesses should shut down entirely.
Research from CV-Library showed that 40 per cent of UK businesses only close for the bare minimum of two bank holidays over Christmas.
However, 63.9 per cent of workers thought businesses should shut down for a longer period.
In addition, more than a quarter of employees (26.1 per cent) are not allowed to take time off at all over Christmas, with 38.9 per cent of workers forced to use their holiday allowance toward additional Christmas leave.
Despite wanting more time off over the Christmas period, workers understand that many small businesses are unable to shut down entirely. When asked what should be done when a business cannot close for Christmas, 83.9 per cent of respondents believed small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should make a bigger effort to embrace the Christmas spirit.
CV-Library founder Lee Biggins said, ‘It’s not realistic for every business to close their doors over the Christmas period, but there are plenty of other ways SMEs can offer a bit of festive cheer to their employees this year.
‘Allow employees the freedom to decorate their working space, invest in a few advent calendars for each team or organise a Secret Santa among workers.’
Luckily for workers, 37.2 per cent of UK businesses are already engaging its employees with ‘Secret Santa’ during Christmas.
Some 82 per cent of professionals believed that it is a fun activity when everything goes smoothly; however they do admit to a few challenges posed by hosting an office Secret Santa.
People not wanting to take part is the biggest issue (29.8 per cent), with people not liking the person they are buying for (17.3 per cent), people buying inappropriate gifts for the office (11.6 per cent), and people spending over budget (9.2 per cent) posing further problems.
Biggins said, ‘Adding some festive fun to the office is a great way to improve spirits and keep productivity levels up, especially if staff would rather be home with family than in the office.
‘Just make sure no one is forced to participate and there are reasonable controls in place to keep things professional.’