Once December arrives, the holiday countdown is on! For some, 'tis the season for festivities and cheer. For others, however, there are too many pressures—and the holiday season becomes stressful.
At work, employees face end-of-year work deadlines and additional social functions. At home, they're expected to throw parties, give gifts, and host friends and family from out of town.
Rather than feeling light and merry, employees might be weighed down by stress. Workplace stress is a year-round issue, with 80% of workers feeling stress on the job—and it gets worse during the holidays.
What's the best employee gift that you can give? A low-stress holiday season.
How Can you Reduce Holiday Stress in the Workplace?
1. Manage Workload
The holiday season usually has fewer work days, so employees have less time to do their regular tasks. This crunch period is heightened for companies with an uptick in business during the holidays.
To avoid glitches, plan ahead and distribute your team's workload throughout the entire year. If you're ahead of schedule in December, you'll avoid declined productivity.
If your company is busy during the holidays, consider temporarily increasing your staffing. This will keep operations running smoothly and ensure employees don’t end up doing double duty.
2. Maintain Effective Communication
Amid the holiday bustle, it's especially crucial to maintain effective lines of communication. Let everyone know who will be taking time off (and when). Employees won't be caught off-guard and can coordinate to get things done.
Employers must remember to be clear about their own holiday schedules. If you take a vacation, make sure a colleague handles this communication function.
A personal touch can make a big difference. Show interest in your employees through individual and group meetings, walks around the workplace, and after-hours get-togethers.
3. Help Manage Financial Stress
To celebrate the holiday season, it's tempting to spend beyond one's limits. Christmas gifts, tropical vacations, and big family dinners can wallop everyone's wallets.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, Canadians will spend $1,507 each during the 2017 holidays, primarily on travel and gifts. PwC’s 2017 Employee Financial Wellness Survey of 1,600 full-time employed adults reports that 53% of employees are stressed about their finances.
Therefore, be proactive in helping your employees manage their finances. Suggest finance planning apps or offer a “Holiday Budgeting” workshop on responsible spending.
4. Look for Signals of Depression
While portrayed as the jolliest time of year, the holiday season can feel lonely for some people. For those who have lost loved ones or are facing troubles at home, the holidays might trigger grief or depression.
Seasonal social events are meant to be fun, but instead cause anxiety for some. Be aware of who might need alone time—and who might feel isolated. Facilitate open communication about mental health. Encourage employees to use counseling services through their employee assistance program (EAP).
Tip: Break the stigma surrounding mental health by having leaders share their own experiences with depression.
5. Discourage Unhealthy Holiday Eating
Gingerbread cookies and candy canes, eggnog and Champagne—the holiday season is teeming with temptation. At this time of year, it takes an ironclad will to stick to a healthy diet.
If you help employees make wise food choices, they can reduce the risk of serious illness, boost mood and energy, control stress and anxiety, and enjoy more social time. Eating well doesn’t need to be difficult and unappetizing. Entice employees with nutritious yet delicious snacks and cater meals from places that offer fresh, whole foods.
Tip: Organize a “Healthy Holidays” support group in which employees log what they eat and meet to compare notes. Those who wish to lose weight can join a workplace "Biggest Loser" competition, as long as participation is voluntary.
6. Encourage Work/Life Balance
In today's nonstop world, employees are often struggling to balance work and home demands. They're likely to be skimping on sleep, which only leads to errors and irritability.
With additional holiday commitments, many are at their limit. Encourage employees to take vacation leave or at least a half-day Friday to do their holiday shopping.
The holiday season will always bring ups and downs. But smart employers can take straightforward steps to lighten employees' stress.
Open communication is key to understanding where employees are at, and will help keep everyone on the same page. Helping employees manage their workloads, and focusing on their financial, physical, and emotional wellness will go a long way toward reducing stress.
The actions you take now will keep employees happy, and help sustain productivity into the New Year.