Who’s at risk for a “Merry Sickmas”?

Who’s at risk for a “Merry Sickmas”?

Who’s at risk for a “Merry Sickmas”?

Coworkers and employees often complain that they always get sick at Christmas, but a new poll finds evidence to back up the workplace whinge.

A survey from AXA PPP healthcare finds 75% of workers will be hit by illness over the Christmas break, and a third of those affected get sick every year.

The research suggests that burnout from the build up to the season could be to blame, as 69% of employees reported their workloads increased in the run up to Christmas, with the overall amount of work people were expected to complete rose by 30%. At a time when employees are supposed to be recharging their batteries, many were instead rushing to meet end-of-year goals.

Two-thirds (68%) of employees said they think about work during their Christmas break, while 21% check work calls and emails several times a day over the holiday.

The problem is so bad that a quarter of employees would like to skip Christmas entirely, and 40% are relieved to return to work, either because they’re exhausted by the holiday season or because they’re worried about managing their workload.

“For many employees Christmas is full of stress and pressure and the chance to recharge their batteries is overshadowed by exhaustion and illness,” said Dr Mark Winwood, AXA PPP healthcare’s director of psychological services.

“Prior to the holidays, employers need to take precautionary steps to ensure that their employees get through this hectic period and come back firing on all cylinders in January.”

Winwood suggested “a few simple steps” that can make a difference, such encouraging employees to make small lifestyle changes to help them avoid the downsides of the festive frenzy that grips offices in the run up to Christmas.

Help employees avoid ‘sickmas’:

  1. Remind employees about the support services available 
    Employees forget about all of the benefits available to them, so use the high pressure festive season as an opportunity to remind them about any helplines or employee assistance programs available through their benefit scheme.
  2. Prioritize
    Urge employees and managers to be realistic about what can and can’t be achieved before leaving for the Christmas break. Encourage employees to re-evaluate priorities so that they can focus on time-sensitive work that requires their attention.
  3. Ensure business continuity
    However small or large a team, it’s a good idea to share a work and holiday schedule and a pre-agreed rota identifying who is the main ‘out of hours’ contact. This will enable those who have booked days off to relax fully, safe in the knowledge that work will be picked up by those ‘on rota’ or those who choose not to take time off.