With the holidays upon us there are festivities, shopping, and, unfortunately, added stress. Americans have some of the most stressed employees in the world and rather than the holidays being focused on celebrations, they can become filled with anxiety and the sense that there is never enough time to get everything accomplished. The U.S. is the only country with a major economy that does not have any laws requiring paid vacations. One-fourth of American workers do not have vacation offered by their employer. The U.S. companies that do offer vacation provide 10 to 14 days a year on average. However, most Americans never use their vacation time or end up working while on vacation. As a result, our work never feels like it’s done.
Brigid Schulte, a Washington Post reporter and author of, "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time" states:
“The U.S. has only one family-friendly federal law—the Family and Medical Leave Act. You can get 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, after the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a sick family member, for instance. But most people who could take it don’t because they can’t afford it.
Some companies do have reasonable and even generous paid time off or parental leave. But culture is even more critical than policies. Organizations’ leaders need to model sane work habits and take breaks. After vacation, everyone comes back more productive and happier. And companies that measure performance, rather than counting long hours of face time, say they see benefits.”
Schulte suggests that one of the best ways for HR to help their employees is to conduct regular surveys to find out what is stressing your employees. There might be several simple solutions to reduce the stress in your office – flexible hours, focus on creating a culture that rewards efficiency rather than the number of hours worked each week.
Most flexible work arrangements have had a positive impact on attracting and retaining employees, turnover, absenteeism rates, productivity, quality of employees’ work, quality of employee’s personal life, employee health, company culture, company public image, and employee morale and job satisfaction. Human resource professionals predict that telecommuting and other employer-offered flex options will increase substantially during the next five years, according to new survey findings from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
One system that Schulte has implemented is that she now works in 90 minute increments without any email or telephone distractions. Working this way has allowed her to increase productivity and decrease the number of hours needed in the office each day. Helping employees learn to focus on productivity can have a tremendous impact on reducing their stress.