(One of) the Most Stressful Times of the Year

holidays_escalatorsWhen the holidays hit, most of us find it pretty hard to keep our healthy habits in check. The pace picks up (and so does the stress) as we head off to parties, scramble to finish shopping, and plan out indulgent dinner party menus. Suddenly – whoops! – there goes that workout/diet/sleep regimen/[insert whatever healthy habit you tend to push off here].

And, let’s be honest, occasionally skipping a run or staying up late to celebrate the season won’t kill ya. But when unhealthy habits start to become your norm, it can do a number to your well-being, making it that much harder to manage seasonal stress.

In fact, Virgin Pulse’s recent report, “‘Tis the Season for Stress: The Holidays’ Impact on Employees’ Health & Happiness (& What it Means for Employers),” surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees in the U.S. and Canada (not our members) and found that 70 percent of employees are over 21 percent more stressed during the holidays. What’s more, over 30 percent are feeling somewhat or a lot more stressed this year, in comparison to years past. Yikes.

The root of all this anxiety isn’t exactly shocking: 65 percent of employees saying shopping for gifts and events is the reason for stress. With all the extra buying comes financial worries, and 60 percent say maintaining finances is what stresses them most during the holidays.

Unfortunately, as stress levels rise, employees’ focus and productivity at work plummets. Sixty-four percent say holiday-related stress distracts them at work, causing them to feel 30 percent more anxious than usually cutting into their quality of work by about the same amount.

Stressed out employees also have a harder time maintaining their well-being. Sixty-two percent of our survey’s respondents say eating healthy is the hardest aspect of well-being to maintain during the holidays, with 71 percent saying they eat unhealthily between two and five days a week.

Exercise and sleep often go out the window, too, with 51 percent and 46 percent of employees, respectively, saying these were their hardest habits to keep up. Fifty-nine percent of respondents sleep poorly and 51 percent say they skip exercising between two and five days during the holidays. If everyone’s eating poorly, cutting back on physical activity, and skimping on sleep, it’s only boosting their stress levels, and making it more difficult to cross off all those holiday to-dos at work and home.

There’s a silver lining here, though. As an employer, you’re actually perfectly poised to support your people in feeling their best and brightest – at the holidays and all year long. Support their health and happiness with tools, resources and programs that impact all areas of well-being. You’ll help them keep control over their health and anxiety, and they’ll get the energy and focus they need to power through all the priorities on their plates.

Support your employees through the holidays and beyond. Check out Virgin Pulse’s full survey report, “‘Tis the Season for Stress: The Holidays’ Impact on Employees’ Health & Happiness (& What it Means for Employers)” for three tips you can try today.

Kaite Bonneville is Marketing Communications Manager at Virgin Pulse, where she leverages her personal passion for health and happiness to create compelling content about employee well-being and engagement. Outside of the office, Kaite spends her time mentoring a high school student, and recently trained for and completed her first half marathon.








How to Spread the Health this Holiday Season

528371295It’s officially the holiday season; the most wonderful time of the year, so sang Andy Williams (how’s that for a holiday throwback?). But it can also be one of the most stressful times for your employees, too. For many people, the healthy routines we’ve worked so hard to develop or maintain can get turned upside down with all of the added pressures of decking the halls, hosting parties, giving gifts, and fun festivities with our family and friends. Add those extras on top of our already busy lives and it’s easy to see how seasonal stress can spur some unhealthy habits.

During the holidays, we often spend so much time and attention on others (not a bad thing), that many of us don’t take the best care of ourselves (not a good thing). We skimp on exercise, we make some not-so-healthy food choices (ok, maybe I could’ve passed on those holiday cookies after lunch), we cut into our sleep, and our well-being suffers. And as it turns out, our family, friends, and co-workers may have more to do with this than we realize.

“How so?” you ask. Well, everyone has a network of social influencers. The people we spend the most time with – our family members, friends, and colleagues – they’re some of the first people we turn to for advice, comfort, and support. We often take our social cues from those we love and trust most, but have you ever wondered how these people actually influence our personal health and well-being? Turns out, quite a lot.

Weight gain, which can be common during the holiday season (seriously, someone take away the holiday cookies, please!), can spread within our social networks. Science says so, too. Researchers James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis studied data from over 12,000 individuals and published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here’s what they found: adults with siblings who become obese have a 40 percent increased chance of becoming obese themselves. Those with a spouse who becomes obese have a 37 percent higher likelihood of becoming so, too. And one thing I found really interesting – those with friends who become obese have a 57 percent higher likelihood of following suit, yikes!

HolidayTip7But it’s not all bad news. Researchers actually found the reverse holds true, too. People whose friends lose weight are also likely to lose weight themselves. So while poor health can spread like wildfire, so too can good health. Considering we spend most of our waking hours at work and with colleagues, it’s no wonder why so many employers are turning to innovative employee health and well-being programs to create healthy, engaged, productive people who are able to bring their best selves to work each day. Not long ago, Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, wrote an article about how our social networks influence engagement in our health and at work. It’s a great read, so check it out if you have a chance.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll share three things you can do in your workplace, plus tips to share with your employees to help them stay healthy and well, and inspire their loved ones to do the same.

Meantime, download this poster series (like the gold one above!) featuring 12 easy tips you can share with your employees. Print them out, post them up, and remind your people that their well-being’s important, both to them and to you, this holiday season and all year long.

Katie Tierney is Director of Marketing at Virgin Pulse where she leads marketing communications and public relations. One of Virgin Pulse’s original employees, Katie led efforts to create National Employee Wellness Month, a campaign that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles. A pop culture champ and dance buff, Katie can usually be found busting a move in a Zumba class (or anywhere, really). Follow Katie on twitter: @k_tierney.

Thrive Summit 2015 – Insider’s Peek

thrivebannerComing off the heels of a wildly successful event earlier this year, we here at Virgin Pulse are so excited to announce the 2015 Virgin Pulse Thrive Summit, taking place in Boston April 27-29. Last year, we brought together our clients, consultants, and other industry leaders for a full day of wellness education, inspiration, and networking.

And. It. Was. Awesome. Arianna Huffington gave our keynote address, and Virgin Pulse CEO, Chris Boyce was able to catch up with her privately after the conference. Check out their talk here and hear her thoughts on how companies and their employees can learn how to thrive.

In true Virgin Pulse style, this year’s event is shaping up to be bigger and better – with more customer stories, more sessions from industry leaders, and three days of learning and networking instead of just one.

Just this week, we announced our keynote speakers. Kicking off the event, we welcome Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC’s morning show “Good Morning America!” Robin will talk to her own personal story, the lessons she learned along the way, and discuss the very topic of her book, “Everyone’s Got Something.”

Closing out the event, we’ll welcome to the stage Ann Rhoades, Former Executive Vice President of People, JetBlue Airways; President of People-Link and author, discussing the very topic of her book, “creating an enviable culture that outperforms the competition.” These are sessions you won’t want to miss!

LibertyJoin us in Boston April 27-29, 2015, and be at the forefront of the well-being revolution that’s taking place today. You’ll discover how to engage your employees, create a thriving, productive workforce and a great place to work, and build a business that is designed to perform at it’s peak.

Still need convincing? We held a webinar after this year’s event to recap what we learned to share with everyone that couldn’t make it. Keep in mind, this is just a taste of what we heard! To get the full story, make sure you join us in person this year! Visit the Thrive Summit website to register and get more information.

Megan Berry is the Senior Demand Generation Manager here at Virgin Pulse, responsible for all digital, outbound marketing programs. Born, raised and schooled in the Boston, MA area, Megan earned her bachelors degree in marketing from Bentley University, a small, private business university just outside the city. When she’s not at work, you can find her playing ultimate frisbee, or exploring her new passion for photography.


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Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!