The holiday season is supposed to be a time of comfort and joy. Yet, for many people it can also be a time of great stress. Employees have to juggle their professional duties with personal demands, such as shopping for gifts, hosting and attending holiday parties, cleaning and cooking.

Moreover, some workers may feel financially or emotionally drained this time of year. “The holidays can be a hectic time for many, and a lack of money, a lack of time, and the hype and commercialism of the season causes increased stress” for many Americans, according to a 2006 study by the American Psychological Association.

Business owners and managers can take steps to relieve their employees’ stress levels around the holiday season and make their lives a little merrier:

Be flexible about scheduling.

Offering flexible scheduling or extra personal time in the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas may be the best gift you can give your employees. This will allow them extra time to run errands, shop, spend time with family or simply unwind during the hectic holiday season.

Hire temporary staff, if you need extra help.

Hiring a few extra workers can relieve your full-time staff and prevent them from needing to work overtime around the holidays.

Don’t overdo employee holiday events.

Even though it’s a festive time of year, office holiday parties and other employee events around the holiday season only place an extra burden on your staff. Consider keeping work-related events to a minimum around the holidays, if possible. Perhaps host just one party or employee event over the holiday season.

Praise your staff.

Your employees may need some extra encouragement and compliments around the holidays. Tell employees directly that they’re doing good work or give them cards with messages that show gratitude. Whatever you do, avoid making the holidays extra stressful by complaining too much or pressuring your employees.

Be sensitive to cultural and religious differences.

Remember that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas—and you don’t want to ostracize employees who don’t. Make sure all employees will feel welcome at any events you throw around the holidays.

Be on the lookout for over-stressed employees—and lend a hand.

For some people, the holidays may not be joyous at all. Keep an eye out for an employee who might see especially distracted or distraught around the holidays and offer to listen and help out any way you can, recommends Rich Bayer, CEO of Upper Bay Counseling and Support Services in Elkton, Maryland. Sometimes holiday stress or sadness can be caused by personal issues or problems at home. “For instance, the first holiday after the death of a loved one can be particularly sad,” Bayer writes. “Most likely, this is a ‘situational sadness,’ and the employee should rebound when the holiday is over.”

Keep the workplace fun.

Even though the holiday season can be a hectic time for some businesses—especially those in retail or the hospitality industry—it’s good to bolster employees’ spirits by maintaining a fun, lighthearted mood in the workplace. Writes Hcareers.com, a job site for the hospitality industry: “Small gestures like seasonal treats, holiday-themed contests and games, and special prizes can help defuse some of the tension that your super-busy staff is likely to be shouldering.”

 

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