Are you excited for the upcoming holidays?  Believe it or not, while the holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time, not everyone welcomes it with open arms.  According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people say their stress increases during the holidays.  Especially this year, there are many reasons why our employees may not be in the “holiday spirit”.  Some of these reasons may include stress or hardships due to COVID-19, financial struggles, family issues, and more.  As employers, we can support our employees by providing them with coping strategies to deal with stressful situations during the holidays.

Here are some of my recommendations for alleviating holiday-related stress.

Adjust expectations

This year, I think it’s important that we adjust our expectations of the holiday season.  While typically we may spend much of our time gathering with family and friends, these activities will need to look a little bit different this year. With COVID-19 very much still a part of our lives, it’s important that we continue to respect the latest public health guidelines.  While this may bring feelings of disappointment to some of our employees who can’t gather with their loved ones, challenge them to look at it from a different perspective: one that shows they are caring and selfless.  Of course, human connection is a vital part of the holiday season and family traditions.   For this reason, encourage your employees to get creative with how they spend their holidays with their loved ones while keeping safety in mind. This could take the form of a winter walk with family (all masked of course).

Additionally, recognize that these changes could impact employee morale and productivity.  To combat this, I recommend providing your employees with something they can value and appreciate.  In lieu of or in addition to gifts, you may consider providing additional time off for the holidays or extending deadlines to help alleviate stress.

Provide additional support

With so much going on during the holidays, it’s no wonder why people become overwhelmed.  Do your part to help make the holidays a little less stressful by communicating expectations far in advance and/or providing additional resources to support your employees as we near the end of the year.  You can help rebalance workloads or reallocate tasks as needed to provide them with some extra time to accommodate holiday-related activities that tend to take up a lot of time.  Additionally, I encourage you to activity promote that your employees spend the holidays relaxing instead of being concerned about their work.

Choose healthy coping mechanisms

With drinks flowing and sweets abundant during the holiday season, it’s easy to be tempted to cope with stress in an unhealthy manner.  Remind your employees that everything in moderation is ok, but it is important to maintain a regular sleep, meal and exercise schedule over the holidays if they can.  This will help keep them recharged for when they return to work. 

This year you’ll need to make an extra effort to create a holiday season that is a less stressful and joyous for your employees.  In addition to the coping strategies I’ve listed you may also want to remind your employees that they can access your Employee Assistance Program for additional resources and support.