The Christmas season is a time of joy, but it can also be a source of stress for employees. The added pressure of holiday shopping and family gatherings, combined with the potential for reduced staff, can make this time of year particularly challenging for workers. As a leader, it’s important to help your employees manage their stress during the holiday season.
Here are some tips to help you do just that:
1. Acknowledge the added stress the holidays can bring.
The first step in helping employees manage their stress is to recognize that it exists. The holiday season can be a difficult time for many people. Many people may feel pressured to meet the expectations of others, whether it’s from family members, friends, or society at large. Besides the pressure of holiday shopping and family gatherings, the holidays might also bring reminders of lost loved ones, increased financial struggles, or more relationship conflict. Be understanding of your employees’ individual experiences. By simply acknowledging that these pressures exist and that it’s normal to feel stressed during the holidays, leaders can have a positive impact on reducing stress.
2. Help people set boundaries.
The holidays can be a hectic time, and it’s easy for employees to get overwhelmed with the demands of work and personal life. Encourage employees to set clear boundaries between their work and personal time and respect those boundaries. While you’re at it, make sure you model these boundaries as a leader, too. If you tell people it’s okay to go home, but they see you sending out emails late at night or responding to texts when they know you’re at a family function, they are going to be more prone to worry that setting these boundaries might be a career limiting move.
3. Support time off or flexible work hours.
The holiday season is a busy time for many businesses, but it’s important to allow employees to take time off to spend with their families and recharge their batteries. Encourage employees to use their vacation days and offer flexible scheduling options, such as working from home or taking extended lunch breaks, to help them manage their time effectively. Allowing your team a bit more flexibility to manage their work and personal commitments at this time of year is one of the best gifts you can give them at this time of year.
4. Encourage them to prioritize self care.
If your business isn’t conducive to allowing time off at this time of year, at least encourage people to carve out small bits of time for themselves. Remind your employees to take breaks, go for a walk, or do something else that helps them recharge. For many businesses, the Christmas shopping season is the busiest time of year and they need “all hands-on deck”, but if leaders are mindful of supporting these small “time outs” during the day, it will make a big difference in how resilient your people can be despite the demands many businesses experience at this time of year.
5. Provide resources to prioritize their mental health.
The holiday season can be overwhelming, and it’s important for employees to take care of their mental health. Encourage them to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed. Learn about the many resources available to help employees manage their stress, such as meditation apps, online therapy services, and stress-reducing activities like yoga or exercise. Consider providing these resources to your employees or offering to subsidize the cost.
6. Create a positive work environment.
A positive and supportive work environment can go a long way towards helping employees manage stress. Encourage open communication and provide opportunities for employees to connect with each other, such as team-building activities or social events. Show your appreciation for their hard work and offer support and encouragement during this busy time of year. The holiday season can be a great time for employees to connect with one another and build stronger relationships, but keep it fun and low key. Stay away from things like strategic planning or other formal team-building activities at this time of year, as people’s heads are usually too full of sugarplums and other things to focus on this type of work. (Note: If you know you don’t really have a positive work environment, this isn’t the time to force one upon people. The best thing you can do is to give them leeway to look after themselves. But prioritize time to strategize about how you will build a healthier culture in the new year, so you’ll have a more connected and resilient team by this time next year.
7. Promote healthy habits.
The holiday season is often associated with indulging in rich foods and drinks, which can lead to feelings of guilt and stress. Encourage your employees to maintain healthy habits, such as eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Consider offering healthy snacks and drinks in the office or organizing a company-wide fitness challenge to promote healthy behaviours. Make it light-hearted and fun. Give prizes for things like most miles walked over the holidays, most treats turned down, or most sleep logged. Have a contest for the healthiest variations of holiday recipes. Get creative and use this time as an opportunity to introduce healthier alternatives to traditional holiday over-indulgence.
While the holidays can be a stressful time for leaders and employees alike, it is possible to come out the other side feeling happy and refreshed. By encouraging employees to set boundaries and practice self care, being flexible with time off, providing mental health support resources, creating a positive work environment and being conscious of setting realistic workload expectations, leaders will help their employees be less stressed and more focused during this busy time. By showing that they’re conscious of and care about the mix of work and personal demands that this season brings, leaders will build trust with their people that will pay dividends in creativity, productivity, and performance well into the New year.