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Holiday Stress and How to Deal with It

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The holidays are a happy time. Based on the study by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, people express numerous pleasant emotions during the holidays, including happiness (78% of the time), love (75% of the time), and high spirits (60% of the time). Many people love the holidays and look forward to spending time with family and friends.

However, the holidays are not always enjoyable for everyone. We all experience stress from time to time, but the holidays might add stress to the mix and make us feel even worse, such as setting up a budget for gifts, dealing with travel anxieties, or sitting through family get-togethers. Experts refer to this as “holiday stress”.

Stress can affect your mental and physical health. But what causes holiday stress and what can we do to avoid or lessen the effects of some of these holiday stressors?

Causes of holiday stress

The holidays bring with them a slew of difficult events. One is family gatherings, where there might be clashes of personalities and misunderstandings. For couples, choosing which side of the family to spend the holidays with can add to the stress. For single people, the additional stress might come from their inquisitive family members and their unsolicited opinions on certain life choices. 

Aside from that, gift-giving requires people to worry about overspending or underspending, as well as the etiquette of the gift type, its quality, and quantity. Travel anxiety can also be a source of stress, especially with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There’s also that underlying pressure of making everything perfect if you’re hosting a gathering, from the decorations to the meals.

Work stress also does not go away. Even though time off from work is a major highlight of the holidays, many people get so concerned about not having enough time off and that work obligation may interfere with time spent with family.

Who is affected by holiday stress?

According to an American Psychological Association survey, females (44%) are more likely than males (31%) to be stressed over the holidays due to a lack of time (69% vs 63%), a lack of money (69% vs 55%), and an overabundance of pressure to buy or get gifts (51% vs 42%). Women are especially prone to holiday stress since they oversee many of the holiday activities, particularly those related to meal preparation and home decoration. 

Furthermore, women have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more prone to engage in unhealthy stress-management behaviors, such as comfort eating (41%) or drinking (28%). This is concerning not only in general but especially for persons who deal with addiction or substance misuse on a daily basis.

Around the holidays, people in the lower middle class in the United States face financial difficulties. People belonging to this demographic experience difficult struggles in affording and procuring material commodities. During the holidays, lower-middle-income people are subjected to commercialism and hype, as well as financial concerns about being able to afford the holidays without going into debt.

Coping with holiday stress

Holidays and stress seem to be linked in a way. With the preparations and celebrations, the already-hectic schedule gets considerably busier. There are a few things you may do to reduce holiday stress and feel more positive about the season.

  • Have realistic expectations

    The perfect holiday celebration does not exist. The pressure to be cheerful and happy is one of the main sources of holiday stress. If you find something that doesn’t go your way, accept it and let it go. Consider errors and mistakes as opportunities to demonstrate adaptability and resilience. To pick and choose what is realistic, you must first recognize what is specifically stressing you out. If the holiday shopping list is outstripping the monthly budget, simply cut back. Remember that the most important thing is spending time with loved ones, not on store-bought gifts, expensive décor, or gourmet cuisine.

  • Plan ahead

    Think of the things that often caused you to stress at the last minute and attempt to plan them ahead. Make a list of the gifts to buy or make, the budget you have for your holiday shopping, the time for decorating, and other things you need to do. From there, prioritize what must be done. Setting aside some time to consider the activities most likely will help you take tiny, real actions toward achieving them in a pleasurable manner.

  • Have healthy conversations

    It is necessary to be conscious of your emotional limitations when dealing with family and friends. Learn to recognize your emotions and know how to deal with them to communicate in a healthy manner. Focus on what you and your family have in common if you’re worried about heated arguments or negative dialogues.

    When things become too much, talk to close friends and family about your worries and concerns. Getting your feelings out in the open can help you navigate them and find a solution. Families may also organize activities that generate excellent fun and laughter, such as playing a family game or going through old photo albums.

  • Take time for yourself

    It is possible that, during the holiday season, you put yourself under the impression that you have to be everything to everyone. Self-care is sometimes the best thing you can do. Maintaining healthy habits — to the extent possible — will improve your mood. Find balance and self-care where you can throughout the holidays, such as making a healthy snack for yourself, drinking lots of water, and going to bed as early as possible.

Do not let this holiday season be affected by stress. The key to preventing holiday stress is to be aware of your actions. If your holiday traditions are not working for you or making you unhappy, it is time to do something about it.

How Can Organizations Adopt the Genius Hour Strategy?

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Image Source: Qimono | Pixabay

The genius hour is now an emerging trend in education that encourages students to learn based on their passion, background, and interests. It is considered less formal and less standardized than traditional approaches in learning.

Jen Schneider discussed how genius hour works in her article on EdSurge. The concept began with Daniel Pink’s notion of what drives people at work. He said that autonomy, mastery, and purpose are intrinsic motivators needed in the 21st century. 

He cited Atlassian and how they had a FedEx day at work as an example of applying autonomy in the workplace. The employees are given 24 hours to work on something they want to, with a team they want to work with, and ship it after the allotted time. It was initially called FedEx day because they have to deliver innovation “overnight.” Since 2005, the program has been called ShipIt. Atlassian’s ShipIt is continuously done and has been modified further to adapt to a remote-working culture in the advent of the pandemic.

Pink explored Richard Ryan and Edward Deci’s self-determination theory of motivation in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” In their studies, Ryan and Deci discovered that people who worked on a problem-solving task without incentives finished it faster than people who were told they would get payment for their work. 

Ryan and Deci concluded that intrinsic motivation, or motivation that originates from personal interest, has more impact than extrinsic motivation, which depends on external rewards, like payment or recognition.

With freedom and dedicated innovation time, learners are able to set their own goals and pace and at the same time boost a genuine love for learning. In an employee’s case, the genuine hour as dedicated innovation time might be a way to build or rebuild a genuine love for what they do. 

How can other organizations or even individuals implement their own genius hour and deliver results?

How to Implement the Genius Hour

In the context of education, the genius hour allows students to dedicate one hour per week to work on something that they are passionate about. However, Schneider emphasized that students must follow these three rules:

  1. “start with an essential question that cannot be answered with a simple Google search”
  2. “research the question using reputable websites, interviews, and/or print resources”
  3. “create something – the product may be digital, physical, or service-oriented.”

The rules are lenient as well on the side of Atlassian. Their challenge for every ShipIt day is to drop everything work-related and identify and solve other problems of any kind and any size by working with a team of your choice. 

The end results or products are then awarded accordingly. Atlassian is known to be a technical organization, but it does not limit the ShipIt days to only technical problems and solutions. Therefore, the event becomes inclusive and brings out the innovators in everyone.

The Leader of the Future: Principles and Practices

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There is no single formula for becoming the leader of the future. Every organization has its own culture, structure, and transformation journeys. But what happens in between the stages of change is where we realize we are going through the same struggles. 

Leaders who are not yet adapting to those needs would still find themselves rethinking their style because they can’t stop their environment and people’s behavior from evolving. Here are some of the common principles and practices for the leader of the future.

Practice empathy and empowerment. “As I understood it, many people were struggling at home because of the situation of the crisis that surrounded us. And I have to admit that I was also struggling at home. I think all of us were, one way or the other. So, it’s a question of being empathetic and trying to put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues,” Xavi Ballesteros, who is a Cambridge English Country Director in Spain and Portugal, said during a Q&A forum held by the Cambridge University Press.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Cater, Managing Director of CEM, shared that she assessed their communication pattern and looked more closely into what empowerment could offer in return. What she did was “making sure that things can happen without me being in the room, because there are so many projects that we’ve been working on over the last few months and needing an approval from me on everything wouldn’t work. So, trying to understand how to engender empowerment across the teams has been a focus as well.”

Communicate with employees constantly. “The main challenge is to make colleagues work throughout the company and to manage different time zones,” Monica Marchis, Research Director of AMSI, told PERFORMANCE Magazine. “We have one-on-one weekly meetings with all team members and regular meetings with the team for an overview of all work done individually. This way, we enable perspective and recognition and ensure support. In order to gain coherence, a corporate governance project has been initiated and a job evaluation project for internal equity has been done.” 

Create new strategies for virtual meetings. According to The Economist, before the pandemic, managers were spending almost 23 hours weekly attending meetings. After the pandemic, barriers that keep people apart increased and organizations have to come up with new ways of running a meeting. Organizations can consider the following techniques:

  1. Designate an amount of time for each topic, and once the time is up, the timer will ring and participants can move on to the next subject matter.
  2. Write follow-up action notes that can be seen immediately in the meeting rather than sending the list via email.
  3. Set positive communication rules, such as allowing presenters to finish their statements before commenting and encouraging participants to speak up.
  4. Have an additional break after each presentation in a meeting.
  5. Come up with creative icebreakers.
  6. Develop interactive and visually appealing presentations.
  7. When there is a new meeting platform, perform trial runs with attendees to familiarize them with the functions.

Prioritize productivity over multitasking. One useful technique to assess serial-tasks and avoid multitasking is the Pomodoro Technique. It proposes working in a hyper-productive rhythm for 20 minutes without distractions. For managers still working in a hybrid environment, dedicating 20 uninterrupted minutes to a task seems reasonable rather than an entire one hour. Dividing the time into short bursts allows the brain to fully concentrate. At the end of the day, it seems more productive than a day spent multitasking.

Make individual strengths shine. If the pandemic taught us one thing in the organizational environment, it is that individuals have different needs and respond differently. To win over the actual context, the manager needs to balance shared team commitments and the unique needs and strengths of individuals. In the opposite corner, the one-size-fits-all method will erase the possible shining contributions of individuals. With this, managing a diverse team means the ability to shield performance from drawbacks.  

Keep it real. A potential leadership crunch can also be avoided by looking at the technique of trading perfectionism for compassion. Before COVID happened, a good day meant being able to submit all assignments and attend all meetings. The post-pandemic work life paints it differently. For working parents, it got even more difficult as they have to get the children accommodated with homeschooling while attending virtual meetings. This does not imply falling short of one’s own standards, but becoming more reasonable when it comes to the number of tasks they can accomplish.

If you’d like to boost your personal performance as an individual and a leader, check out The KPI Institute’s Personal Performance Professional Certification course.

What Is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI)? Definition, Resources, and 1000+ Examples

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“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” — Zig Ziglar

When the cost of managing and measuring your performance is less than the tragic risk of hitting nothing, it pays to get your KPIs right.

KPIs, or key performance indicators, can prove that success is a result of not just one huge undertaking but a series of actions. These actions are taken by decision-makers that consistently rely on data rather than guesswork.

In this guide, you will learn the basics and benefits of KPIs and beyond. Explore the top articles, webinars, reports, and other materials produced by The KPI Institute, a leading global research institute specializing in business performance and KPI research for over 17 years.

Topics include:

  • What Is a Key Performance Indicator?
  • Why Companies Should Use KPIs
  • KPI Examples
  • Applying the KPI Best Practices
  • The KPI Measurement Framework

What Is a Key Performance Indicator?

The definition of a KPI, according to The KPI Institute, is “a measurable expression for the achievement of a desired level of results in an area relevant to the evaluated entity’s activity.”

13 Elements of a Good Key Performance Indicator

“If a decision support system is put in place, users need the right data granularity and the guidelines or context for making the right decisions. All of these reasons have an underlying story, and top-performing organizations are able to clearly communicate that story to their employees.”

[Watch] The Relationship Between Strategic Objectives, KPIs, and Initiatives

“As performance management & measurement is shaping up as a fundamental capability for organizations across the globe, there are still multiple challenges to be overcome.”

Why Companies Should Use KPIs

Top Six Reasons to Start Using Key Performance Indicators

“Nowadays, the challenge is not about accessing information, as most companies are managing large volumes of data. The challenge is to decide which data is the most important for decision making.”

[Listen] Performance Management and KPIs: Past, Present, & Future

“What have been some of the changes that the Performance Management field has experienced over time? What are some one-size-fits-all style KPIs that any company can employ?”

[Watch] Winning with KPIs: Optimizing PMS Implementation

Discover the role of KPIs in designing a rigorous Performance Management System (PMS) to ensure an optimized implementation across all organizational levels.

KPI Examples

Applying the KPI Best Practices

[Watch] Key Performance Indicators: The Core of Performance Management Systems

Compare KPIs and other performance evaluation criteria, identify the common KPI pitfalls, and discover how to use KPIs to create synergies between departments.

How Can We Ensure Our KPIs Are Aligned With the Strategy?

“In many cases, the key performance indicators (KPIs) monitored do not seem relevant as they are not connected to the strategy. To better understand how this problem can be addressed, we must first identify its possible causes.”

[Watch] Overcoming KPI Selection Challenges: Applying KPI Selection Techniques

“What are the most important guidelines to follow when selecting KPIs for strategic objectives? What are the most efficient KPI Selection techniques, most recommended KPI selection environments, and some Value Flow Analysis technique examples?”

The KPI Measurement Framework

How to Implement a KPI Measurement Framework

“A KPI implementation project plan provides a structure for the implementation of an organization’s performance management system. Once the project plan is set, all types of activities would have a clear deadline and designated responsibilities.”

Project Plan: Developing a Performance Management System Based on KPIs

“When formalizing and implementing a performance management system (PMS) based on key performance indicators (KPIs), there are multiple activities to be considered and many stakeholders to be engaged in the process. Therefore, you’ll need a project plan to make performance management an ongoing process within your organization.”

How Can You Improve the Data Gathering Process for Your KPIs?

“An important component of performance measurement is represented by the data collection capability. However, when applied in the organizational context, this process is neither easy nor lacking obstacles, as practitioners often discover.”

[Watch] KPI Selection Techniques

“Learn how KPI selection techniques can be implemented in practice and gain insights into the best practices for selecting KPIs.”

Advice on KPI Selection

“KPI selection is a process which seems simple, yet is inherently complex, due to the interdependencies involved. Here are 15 things to consider before embarking on this journey.”

How Can You Improve Key Performance Indicator Reporting?

“Just reporting performance data will not ensure the improvement of results. Improvement is only possible when decisions are made based on the insights provided by data.”

KPIs are not just about understanding and working with numbers. Using KPIs requires stakeholders to fulfill a vision and commit to ensuring success across all levels of their organization. If you would like to learn how to select the right KPIs for your organization, sign up for The KPI Institute’s Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner live online course today.

ICTs in the Workplace: Understanding Techno-stress and Its Solutions

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Technology shapes patterns of human activity in every aspect of life. Undoubtedly, the transformative impact of digital technology requires individuals, businesses, and organizations to constantly adapt to new systems and applications to use them effectively and mitigate risks related to techno-stress creators.

Digital Technologies in the Professional Environment

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are essential to the workplace. Organizations are dependent on digital technology. Work-related use of ICTs offers a myriad of benefits to organizations, provides organizations with opportunities to optimize business processes, improves efficiency and productivity, reduces costs, shapes the patterns of information processing and innovation patterns, and assists a wide range of online services.

Moreover, work-related usage of ICTs can positively impact job performance and virtual team effectiveness. ICTs provide continuous connectivity. Colleagues can easily communicate without restraints of location and time. In parallel with the advances in ICTs, telecommuting has become increasingly prevalent around the world. Consequently, not having to commute has reduced the costs and time spent in traveling.

The impact of digital technology in professional environments on work practices and habits manifests in work performance, how employees connect, and how they think and act. Despite numerous advantages created by the effective use of ICTs, there can also be challenges and negative outcomes. The human brain’s cognitive performance and attentional behaviors are affected by being exposed to information technologies.

Challenges

ICT-induced challenges in professional environments are referred to as techno-stressors. Being constantly available and techno-overload can cause techno-stress, and they are usually associated with the work-related use of ICTs.

Advances in ICTs allow for constant connectivity and work independent of time and location. In this context, employees may find separating work and non-work life difficult. Techno-invasion due to work-related ICTs after working hours makes employees vulnerable elevated levels of work stress, diminished work performance, and life invasion. Additionally, always-on work culture and constant connectivity make employees feel forced to be available and easily reached via e-mail, the Internet, or mobile devices. Consequently, employees tend to work longer due to ICTS-induced expectations for faster response and dealing with multiple tasks simultaneously.

Techno-overload occurs when employees get occupied with too many different tasks simultaneously or are constantly interrupted by ICT applications. As a result, they may feel obliged to work faster and more due to increasing demands and expectations.

The impact of digital technology on attentional behaviors steams from its design. Through the multi-windows design, users can navigate through several folders, documents, programs, and browser tabs that are simultaneously open. This multi-windows design translates into switching attention between multiple activities in a short period. In other words, technology-induced multitasking results in attentional switching.

Similarly, due to mobile devices and collaborative workspace chat and videoconferencing applications, employees face a multitude of interruptions and streams of real-time information that may foster information overload and fragmentation of attention, making maintaining attention on the task at hand difficult.

The main problems associated with techno-stressors include leading to attentional and cognitive deficits, provoking anxiety, fatigue, and low performance.

Virtual Meeting Fatigue

As a new popular term, Zoom fatigue has become widely used to describe emotional, psychological, and physical lack of energy resulting from spending too much time in front of screens while video conferencing. Video conferencing fatigue appears to be the new form of techno-stress underlining challenges in adaptation to modern technologies due to overutilization of technology and lack of healthy coping strategies with techno stressors and ICT-induced demands.

There is a set of factors contributing to Zoom fatigue: video conferencing involves different ways of communication with prolonged eye contact, limited non-verbal cues and body gestures, and difficulty in focusing during discussions, and additional cognitive load. Moreover, asynchronicity of communication is listed among contributing factors that lead to increased cognitive efforts, frustration, and stress.

Although advances in ICTs provide organizations with instruments to increase productivity by saving time and energy, studies suggest that overuse of ICTs results in more than  25% of the general working population suffering from fatigue and emotional exhaustion.

Techno-stress leads to lower work performance and productivity, reduced job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. To mitigate such undesired consequences, businesses search for solutions to ease techno-stress. An increasing number of organizations recognize that employee well-being is crucial to high performance and thus integrate well-being initiatives into their work.

Finite Resources

People’s time and attention are finite resources. ICTs can increase productivity in the short term. However, such gains can be undermined by increased cognitive load and lower productivity, performance, and well-being in the long term.

At an individual level, some of the strategies that can be applied to mitigate the overwhelming side effects of excessive ICT use are practicing strategic attention n order to reduce loss of time and the fragmentation of attention; prioritizing urgent communications and postponing less relevant communications; and utilizing applications to organize information storage and block distractions.

Finally, individual employees should ensure that they get adequate rest to counter ongoing psychical and emotional exhaustion. Techno-stressors, along with long virtual meetings, can trigger sensory overload. Sensory rest, taking mindful moments of sensory deprivation, can also be helpful.

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