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How to Support Your Employees During the Holidays

The holidays can be a joyous time of year and, for many extra stressful. Learn how to support your employees during the holidays.

The holiday season is a time to rest, recharge, and reflect on the past 12 months and the coming year. Yet, for many, the holiday season comes with added stress that can be isolating and challenging. The end of the year and the holiday season bring on many extra responsibilities and pressures. 

Employees face financial stress, social responsibilities, added workplace duties, lack of sleep, travel, and increased demands that can be overwhelming and exhausting. Even during a happy season, these demands can take a toll on your employees' physical and mental health. 

The holidays and the end of the calendar year is an excellent time for employers to show appreciation for the employees working hard to make the company successful. When you learn the elements likely to make your employees feel stressed during the holidays and consider relevant ways to support your employees' mental health, you can help prevent end-of-the-year employee burnout and build an engaging, inclusive workplace culture during the holidays.

Holiday Stressors to Consider

Media and advertisements surrounding the holiday season promote happiness, relaxation, togetherness, and joy. While all of these feelings are a genuine part of the holiday season, 88% of people believe the holidays are the most stressful time. For some, this statistic might come as a surprise, but many employees are well accustomed to the stress of creating the perfect holiday season. 

Consider how these conditions can make the holidays a stressful time for employees: 

  • End-of-year (EOY) wrap-up: In various sectors, EOY comes with added duties like inventory, project completion, or taking on extra tasks while coworkers are on vacation. Personal obligations related to the workplace, like benefits enrollment and tax responsibilities, usually occur during this time. 
  • New year planning: It's common to begin a new year with personal and professional goals. Creating a plan for these new goals can be time-consuming and energy-draining.
  • Increased childcare responsibilities: For parents, the holidays represent a temporary lapse in childcare provided when children are in school. For many, this can mean balancing unavoidable absences with the related stress of income loss and failure to meet workplace requirements.
  • Dangerous weather: Half of employees find their daily commute stressful. Snow and ice during the busy holiday season can make this commute even more problematic. 
  • Increased travel: Traveling for a much-needed vacation or visiting family and friends can be exciting. Yet, whether you travel by air or highway, planning a trip can be challenging and stressful. Since the holidays represent one of the most popular times for traveling, typical travel stress can be exacerbated by clogged airports and roadways.
  • Illnesses: Changing weather, frequent gatherings, and increased shopping mean employees are exposed to more germs. Illness leads to increased absences and decreased productivity adding to raised stress in the workplace.
  • Increased financial burdens: No matter how your employees celebrate the holidays, gifts and festive meals are often involved. Meeting the expectations of the holiday season brings added financial burdens, especially during economic uncertainty. 
  • EOY burnout: Meeting all of life's requirements during a calendar year is rewarding and exhausting. Often, the year's final days can feel like an extra burden as employees try to wrap up year-end requirements.

Ways to Make the Holidays a Little Brighter

While it is impossible to eliminate stress during the holiday season, employers can change the workplace to help alleviate the burdens employees face. To bring holiday cheer to your employees and foster an inclusive workplace culture, consider how these suggestions can offer stress relief during the busiest time of the year.

Offer More Schedule Flexibility

Work-life balance is more difficult to manage during the holidays. A recent survey shows that 73% of employees ages 18-34 say they'll be available during the holidays because they find it hard to switch off, and 63% of employees feel burned out during time off. Furthermore, over 53% of employees reported having to work during the holidays last year even though they had time off. 

High expectations of work during the holidays can be especially stressful to global workforces when expectations may be typically lower in other countries. For example, 66% of Americans expect to be available to work during the holidays because their employer expects it, while only 48% of Germans and 39% of U.K. citizens feel the same way.

By offering a flexible schedule, you can help employees find a balance that allows them to stay on top of their job while still finding time to do personal and professional things like childcare, traveling, and shopping. Make sure to share information about these perks early and often so employees understand the benefits available to them, and encourage managers to set an example by taking time off to relax.

Use Virtual Tools to Bring Teams Together

While employees should have an opportunity to disconnect during the holidays, it's essential to be mindful of people who don't have a circle of relatives to celebrate with. Many employees see their fellow employees as a work family. 

Remote employees may even feel more isolated during the holiday as they're not involved in workplace festivities. SHRM reports that nearly half of employees experience loneliness more now than before the pandemic. When employers take steps to alleviate this, they can create a more inclusive workplace.

With virtual tools, you can create opportunities for employees to engage during the holidays. You could hold virtual meetings via Zoom or create a Slack channel where people share how they celebrate Christmas. 

Be Generous With Holiday Gift-Giving

The shift to remote work has allowed some organizations to reduce the cost of facilities and other amenities like complimentary snacks or even team meals. Employees will expect more generosity during this holiday season. Gift-giving is a great way to show appreciation for your employees. 

Not sure what would help employees this holiday season? Consider options that would alleviate current stressors. 

Holiday bonuses are a great way to show employee appreciation. If large employee bonuses aren't practical, a gift card could help provide employees with the funds for their holiday meal, or an extra paid day off will give your employees the priceless gift of extra time. 

Ramp Up Your Communication About Mental Health

From affording and finding holiday gifts to spreading illness or missing family members, the American Psychiatric Association reports many reasons employees feel stress, anxiety, and depression during the holidays. Employers can support employees and decrease stigma surrounding mental health care by using this opportunity to increase communication about mental health. 

Take the time to reach out to employees and remind them about mental challenges during the holidays. Acknowledge the stressors (including work-related ones), be transparent about challenges, and let employees know you're doing what you can to support them. Also, remind employees about the mental health benefits available to them. 

Check-in Often With Your Employees

Like employees, employers and managers are often overwhelmed during the holidays. While you might be tempted to cancel the usual check-ins for your staff, it's not a good idea. Perhaps it seems as though employees might enjoy a break, but it's more likely to make them feel isolated. 

Take the time to reach out to employees individually, talk about what you think of their efforts and thank them for helping. It's vitally important to show appreciation for employees when they're putting in extra effort during busy times like the holidays.

Encourage Your Team Members to Take Time Off

For many, the end of the year is the perfect time to take some time off. Previously mentioned research recongizes that 43% of employees say their schedules become packed during the holiday season, and 59% say the season is chaotic. According to the APA, 34% of employees think employers should support employee mental health with a culture that respects time off.  

Encourage employees to take additional time away from their jobs to spend with loved ones. Let employees know early what to prioritize and what projects can wait until the new year.

Be Inclusive

The holidays can be stressful and isolating for some. Recognize that there are many ways to celebrate the holiday season, including different religious customs and holidays. Consider having different types of holiday parties and decorations that celebrate various cultures. 

Encourage employees to share how they celebrate and plan a gathering that combines different customs. Create a culturally centered, mindful, and inclusive plan for all employees. 

The goal is to create a sense of belonging, especially this time of year. Be mindful of employees who don't celebrate the holidays, and ensure that attendance at celebrations is not mandatory.

Help Employees Connect With Local Communities

Create a way for employees to give back and feel a sense of belonging in their communities by providing resources for employees worldwide to connect with their local communities. This will promote giving by offering volunteer opportunities and encouraging more work in the local communities. This will also promote giving by offering volunteer opportunities and encouraging more work in the local community. 

It requires investing time to uncover what your community needs most. Encouraging giving helps build camaraderie and creates a sense of happiness and light that can permeate the workplace. The benefits you provide for your employees during the holidays and throughout the year indicate your appreciation for all they do. 

Download our HR guide, The ROI of Healthy & Engaged Employees, to learn more about how accessible and equitable mental health benefits can improve your employees’ well-being and offer a considerable ROI for your investment.”

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Modern Health

Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.