Workers experience post-holiday let-down

Tips to help employees bounce back

After all that holiday cheer, January leaves most people dealing with leftover holiday stress. Most are struggling to adhere to New Year’s resolutions, are worrying about receiving post-holiday credit card bills, or trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

According to employee assistance program (EAP) provider Shepell•fgi, reports of mental health problems increased in January. Among others, reports of suicidal thoughts increased by twenty-seven percent and depression increased by seven percent in January.

“It is common for people to think that once the holiday season is over, so are their stressors,” explains Paula Allen, vice-president of health solutions and the Shepell•fgi Research Group. “But the truth is, January is a time of residual holiday stress. Our studies reveal that there are fifteen per cent more EAP accesses in January, compared to the rest of the year, fifty-one per cent more than December alone.”

Shepell•fgi's recent research report entitled Post Holidays and the Broken Promise Effect – an EAP’s Perspective, found that:

•There are 15 per cent more accesses in January compared to the rest of the year (51 per cent more than December alone).

•January is associated with more reports of domestic violence (55 per cent more) and other social health issues involving care giving (42 per cent to 50 per cent more), marriage and relationships (10 per cent to 42 per cent more), and family (14 per cent to 37 per cent more).

•Reports of mental health problems also rise in January, including suicidal thoughts and feelings (27 per cent increase) anger (12 per cent increase) and depression (seven per cent increase).

•Reports of physical health problems rose in January, including medical stressors (13 per cent increase) and weight management (10 per cent increase).

•Other January increases were found for reports of debt and credit (39 per cent increase), career (28 per cent increase) and life transition issues (15 per cent increase).

“Social health issues, physical health concerns and mental health problems all increased in the month of January," says Karen Seward, senior vice-president of business development and marketing at Shepell•fgi. “Organizations need to recognize this trend and that social, mental and physical health issues are costly if they are not prevented or properly treated.”

According to Seward, one of the best strategies that employers can use to combat post-holiday stress in the workplace is to promote awareness of EAP, well before, during, and after the holiday season to ensure that the program is used when needed.

In order to manage employee health and wellness with a more preventative approach, the report offers the following recommendations:

•Promote EAP awareness among employees throughout the year, both to prevent the emergence of post-holiday health problems and reduce the January ‘rush’ to EAP.

•Implement year-round employee health and wellness programs that provide crucial information to employees, enabling them to manage their lifestyles more effectively (e.g., on-site health risk assessments).

•Leverage the New Year as a time of employee renewal and engagement. This may involve re-connecting employees to their jobs, re-connecting jobs to the vision and strategy, and setting clear performance expectations for the rest of the year.

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