'Tis the Season for Being Overwhelmed...

happy holidays

For many HR professionals, this time of year is, to put it mildly...hectic.  We've just passed through open enrollment season and are speeding toward the New Year, all the while trying to juggle work with the all-important holiday shopping, family, and whatever else comes with The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

All of that makes it completely unsurprising that a LinkedIn article called "10 Signs You're Working Too Hard and How To Stop," written by the chairman of JetBlue, got more than a quarter of a million views.  A sampling:

  • You're not as nice as you want to be
  • Your mind is always racing
  • You throw yourself a pity party
  • You don't live in the moment
  • You're constantly late

Dealing With Workplace Stress: Overworked or Overwhelmed?

So what's the difference between feeling overwhelmed and overworked?  Is there a difference? Does it matter?  And how can we as individuals be more accountable to our own well-being  and what can we do as colleagues to support others?

Those are good questions.  According to this infographic by Cornerstone on Demand, on a good day (a.k.a. not the holidays) 67% of U.S. employees suffer from work overload. That's up from 54% in 2013. Imagine how that's contributing to overall workplace stress.

These challenges bring me back to the concepts of mindfulness in the workplace. As a tool, mindfulness can keep you focused and in touch with priorities.

Searching for Holiday Well-Being

On a personal level, mindfulness might mean creating a list of to-dos. It helps to visualize the amount on your plate, and it helps de-escalate the overwhelming sensation that can happen when work and life expectations seem like too much.

I've also identified some tips for HR professionals and managers to consider promoting that will help employees fight the scourge of feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Find ways to let employees know that the organization values personal time. Let them use the holidays to renew and recharge!
  2. Model this value yourself: leave work on time and let employees know your intent to spend holiday time with family and friends. This is particularly critical for working families... findings in the Modern Family Index survey indicated over half of employees spend vacations dealing with family responsibilities. That's hardly a renewal!
  3. Create opportunities for dialogue within teams about highlighting meaningful work and reducing stressful workplace expectations caused by technology at least some of the time. This TED Talk by Leslie Perlow might help as a starting point.

January will be here soon enough. How can we get ready to bring our best selves to work in 2015?  I'm open to ideas. For now, each of us should reach out and remind ourselves to take the time this holiday season to really enjoy family and friends.

Believe me: the work will still be there when you get back.

Written by: Andrea Wicks Bowles

About the Author

Andrea Wicks Bowles at Bright Horizons

As Senior Consultant, Director Global Initiatives, Horizons Workforce Consulting, Andrea works with Bright Horizons clients to enhance the effectiveness of their employees and strengthen their position as an employer of choice. Her knowledge of global child care policies, organizational effectiveness, and work/life industry trends combined with analytical skills is used to help clients uncover their unique issues and challenges. Andrea, a frequent speaker at work/life conferences, is a key contributor to Bright Horizons' research investigations.