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For Employees, 'Tis the Season To Be Stressed

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Employees are stressed out of their minds just in time for the holidays.

About 68% of employees in a new ComPsych Corporation survey said they have high stress levels going into the holiday season, and one-fifth (20%) revealed lack of job security as their biggest source of stress.

ComPsych Corporation offers employee assistance programs, or EAPs. As the company's CEO explains:
“As the holiday shopping season begins, employees are trying to balance the urge to spend with the worry that they will retain their job,” said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of ComPsych. “We increasingly get calls from employees who are struggling to manage their daily expenses. On top of that, they are now faced with gift-giving costs."

The high stress levels are hurting employee productivity: 44% of employees surveyed said they are losing an hour or more of productivity every day due to stress, and 64% said they are "too stressed to be effective" on the job up to four days per year.

Given employee stress levels, companies might want to reconsider their usual approach to holiday fun. Shelving the very tired Secret Santa tradition would be a good start. Sure, employees have to buy only a week's worth of "small" (read: cheap) gifts, but what if Jane in accounting doesn't like cranberry-scented mini candles or reindeer-shaped plastic cookie cutters? Trying to figure out which gifts a co-worker will like can be very time consuming. Besides, while management sets a strict budget typically -- e.g., "please don't spend more than $25 total on gifts!" -- one co-worker always goes overboard and makes everyone else's Secret Santa efforts look cheap and lazy.

In my experience, the Secret Santa tradition tends to leave awkward office grudges in its wake. Jane isn't happy with Dave, her Secret Santa from sales, for giving her the stinky set of cranberry-scented mini candles from the dollar store when her co-worker Cindy got a beautiful Pier 1 Imports vase full of Belgian chocolates from her Secret Santa. By the end of the week, Jane feels cheated while Dave feels relieved he doesn't have to wait for Jane to go to the restroom so he can sneak another crappy ass cranberry candle onto her desk. Who needs the stress?

No, what employees really want for Christmas is some much-needed time off, a small bonus, something fun like a week's worth of catered lunches in the office or simply the elusive feeling of job security. Or maybe, as ComPsych suggests, the employer could consider enrolling the company in an employee assistance program.

Whatever you do, don't stress. It's the holidays. Pass the eggnog!

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