Employees buckling under back-to-work stress

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Coming back to work after the Christmas break is rarely easy but could HR be downplaying its impact on employees? According to a recent study, 79 per cent of workers will suffer from work-related stress when they return.

The figure may come as no surprise to those who’ve weathered the “January blues” for decades but dismissing them as something trivial could be a big mistake. 

In fact, psychologists are increasingly diagnosing that back-to-work dread as PHT – Post Holiday Tension.

"PHT has become more prevalent in recent years due to the increased pace of modern living and greater expectations," said one survey, which revealed just 25 per cent of employees would return to work feeling refreshed.

A second survey, by UK-based MetLife found that just 27 per cent of employees said they wouldn’t feel any stress at all when they come back from the Christmas break.

While the festive season may have offered a brief respite from work, it’s clear the anxiety over returning is far from insignificant.

So what can HR do to help sufferers or even themselves through the situation?

“Keep doing the things that bring you joy,” advised Judi Clements, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

"Take advantage of the lighter evenings and arrange social activities with your family and friends so you have something to look forward to after work and at weekends,” she told Radio New Zealand. “That may be enough to help you settle in and feel optimistic about the future.”

Other advice includes:
  • Creating a harmonious work environment by organising your workspace, bringing flowers to work or having photos on your desk.
  • Setting aside at least 15 minutes a day for yourself, to do something such as a walking or reading.
  • Reviewing your job, asking whether it was still fulfilling and challenging.
  • Getting organised by getting up earlier to avoid rushing and setting aside time to process emails.

"While it's not uncommon to feel a bit low when you first get back to work, it's not usual for this feeling to continue," said Clements. 

"If you do continue to feel this way for more than two weeks or you feel down and tearful for no apparent reason, please speak to someone you trust or see your GP for help,” she added.

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