December is upon us, and for many the countdown to the holidays is officially on! For some, 'tis the season for festivities and cheer, but for others, the holiday season can be a time of stress and feeling burnt out.
With looming year-end deadlines and additional social functions at work, combined with other personal financial and family obligations at home, your team is likely to be feeling the weight of the holiday season upon them. This year, holiday work stress might be exacerbated even more by ever-changing work models and "The Great Resignation." Whatever the source, it's essential for leaders and HR professionals to understand how to support their employees and reduce holiday stress across their teams.
7 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress in the Workplace
1. Anticipate Holiday Stressors
Managing work and home responsibilities during the holidays can be tricky at the best of times. With more and more people working from home and lines between work and home life becoming increasingly blurred, this delicate balancing act has become even more complicated than ever.
The holiday season tends to have fewer workdays, meaning employees have less time to complete tasks and crunch periods are heightened for companies with an uptick in business during the holidays. All of these factors may mean that your team is feeling over-scheduled and overwhelmed.
Help employees prioritize projects and manage pending deadlines that may be creating additional stress. Department leads and managers should take a hard look at projects and deadlines, keeping everything attainable and time-sensitive on the go, while pushing other tasks off until the new year. Schedule a team meeting to share upcoming deadlines and discuss each employee's involvement in current projects so that responsibilities and expectations are clear. Where needed, re-assign duties and motivate your team to work together and share the workload where possible to avoid some employees taking on too much.
2. Maintain Effective Communication
Amid the holiday bustle, it's crucial to maintain effective lines of communication. Let everyone know who will be taking time off and when, so employees won't be caught off-guard and coordinate to get things done.
Employers should also remember to be clear about their own holiday schedules, making sure to delegate the management of holidays to a colleague and letting their people know who to reach out to when OOO.
3. Help Manage Financial Stress
When celebrating the holiday season, it can be tempting to spend beyond one's limits.
According to a PwC report, Canadians spent $1,593 each during the 2019 holidays, primarily on travel and gifts. PwC's 2019 Employee Financial Wellness Survey of 1,600 full-time employed adults also reported that 59% of employees were stressed about their finances.
Be proactive in helping your employees manage their budgets by providing education around financial wellness or other related programs to assist them with their concerns and plan ahead for holiday expenses. Providing an on-call financial expert can help employees feel comfortable reaching ot if they're needing any extra budgetary advice or support.
4. Offer Flexible Schedules
Everyone has a lot going on - especially during the holidays. Consider expanding schedule flexibility in the weeks leading up to the holidays to allow employees to attend any appointments, finish their holiday shopping or pick up holiday visitors at the airport. Allowing for time off in the middle of the workday to run errands or get a head start on their to-do list can make all the difference.
5. Keep an Eye Out for the Holiday Blues
While often considered the jolliest time of the year, the holiday season can be a lonely time for some. The holidays can trigger negative emotions for those who have experienced trauma, lost loved ones or are facing troubles at home.
Be aware of those who might need time alone, as well as others who may be feeling isolated and need extra support. Facilitate open communication about mental health and establish accessible and trustworthy lines of communication. You can do so by carving out a block of time each day for open office hours where employees can schedule a confidential call. Here, you can provide them with necessary resources, or they may feel better just having someone to chat with.
6. Encourage Healthy Habits
In today's nonstop and constantly connected world, employees often struggle to balance work and home demands. This can be even more difficult during the holidays, when people might be more likely to skimp on sleep, work straight through the day, not eat until dinner or over indulge in other unhealthy coping strategies when feeling overwhelmed.
Encourage employees to take time to check in with themselves and become aware of unhealthy patterns. Providing your team with the tools that they need to take care of themselves can help to increase resilience not only during the festive season but also for the year ahead.
7. Keep the New Year in Mind
Ongoing uncertainty, financial concerns and the stress of returning to work after time off can cause undue stress during the holidays. Creating a workable 'Return to Wrk' may be your best bet to getting your employees back into the swing of things come the new year.
Encourage employees to create a to-do list for tasks they need to complete in the first few days of returning to work and collaborate with others to balance the upcoming workload. Get managers and supervisors involved to communicate any. coming changes or initiatives early enough so that staff can mentally prepare themselves before they're implemented.
While the festive season can be a time of joy, it's essential to keep in mind that many employees may be feeling more stressed than ever this holiday season. Taking a proactive approach to supporting your employees mental wellbeing can ensure that your team stays motivated, engaged and resilient throughout the holiday season and beyond.