The holiday season brings with it many feelings: joy for some, stress for others, and a little of both for most. People bustle around preparing for gatherings, the calendar year approaches its end, and many businesses prepare for an influx of demands and deadlines. An increase in requirements and rush on projects can have some negative effects on employee well-being. Being too busy can lead to fatigue, sleep problems, and other physical detriments that hurt productivity and increase the risk of injuries at work. In fact, according to a study by Inc.com, those who work more than 60 hours per week had a 23% higher injury rate, and those working 11 hours or more of weekly overtime had an increased risk of depression. The busy season involves all hands on deck, so it’s important for employees to stay well enough to bring their best selves to work, and still have some energy to give to their personal lives. The long hours that come with the busy holiday season are beyond any one manager’s control, but there are still things leaders can do to help keep the season more joyful than stressful.
Establish team spirit. In the classic holiday song “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it took more than just Rudolph to pull Santa’s sleigh. While the song is fictional, the principle of teamwork is very relevant in the real world. It’s important to develop a sense of team spirit to create and maintain team cohesion. No one needs the added stress of co-worker conflict during an already trying time. To reinforce that cohesion, emphasize communication across the company. Communication improves team-building and productivity because it keeps employees in the loop, aids decision making, and keeps work flowing more smoothly.
Try our Effective Communication Training to learn how to do it right.Reminding the team of why they do what they do is another important aspect of keeping spirits high. Being a small part of something bigger makes it easy to lose perspective, but the big picture can’t be painted without each small stroke of the brush. Prominently displaying awards your company has garnered is one way to subtly remind employees of the company’s achievements—achievements earned with everyone’s help. To make the reminder more personal, a wall of fame hosting clippings from newspapers or other publications is a way to show that their efforts do not go unnoticed.
Maintain a pool of relief workers. No matter how motivated or determined a person is, they can only handle so much stress. The World Health Organization officially recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon, and being constantly busy and under pressure is a leading cause of it. The good news is that managers can provide some relief to help busy employees avoid burnout. Using a Temporary Relief Employment Contract to bring in seasonal workers can help spread out the burden of increased workloads. Taking care of burnout before it sets in is important. If employees feel constantly overwhelmed or like they can’t take time off to be with family during the holiday season, it can lead to sickness or possibly to them looking for a new job.
Remember to hire early; recruiting, selecting, onboarding, and training temporary employees take time and effort. If you wait too long, you’ll just be adding those tasks to an already heavy holiday workload, putting you further behind and stressing out your employees more. When training new hires, it’s also good to offer current employees additional training to ensure they’re confident and capable. If you need guidance on how to develop an effective onboarding program, consider taking our Onboarding – Effective Practices and Programs training, or Orientation Program Training.
Encourage and promote self-care.While managers can help, stress management and relief aren’t solely their responsibility. Employees need to take care of themselves, too. Many organizations have resources in place where employees can get support. For example, if an employee assistance program (EAP) is available through the company, remind employees of its details with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Policy.
Programs offered through the EAP can help coach employees through difficult times both in and out of the office.As an employer, when it comes to enabling employees to care for themselves, consider developing a Flex Time Policy if your organizational needs permit. Allowing employees to have some flexibility when it comes to their schedule can be a holiday miracle. Allowing flexibility and keeping status quo in terms total hours worked are not mutually exclusive concepts.
When done right, flexible work arrangements can allow employees to put in the time required to accomplish their work and have the time they need to fulfil the demands of their personal lives.
Reward staff at the end of the season. Once the worst of the season is through, don’t forget to celebrate all the hard work it took to get there. Celebration and gratitude can lead to more energy, less stress and anxiety, and more prosocial behaviour, which all contribute to the health of employees. Plus, who doesn’t like to feel appreciated and have their hard work recognized?
To celebrate, you don’t have to have an open bar and live DJ or other forms of gratuitous entertainment. Celebration and recognition can be as simple as a small but effective announcement and time to come together as a team. Start by giving some statistics to quantify the success of the season, which will validate the celebration. Also, consider giving out individual awards for top contributors.
A Company Bonus Award Letter (Performance-Based) can be used to formalize the communication and notify employees of the significance of receiving the award. A great follow-up to sharing the underlying numbers and handing out awards is to host a social time for employees to mingle and enjoy their success. Some possible options include having some sort of treat, like cake, or providing a celebratory lunch.
Whatever best suits the organization, acknowledging achievements goes a long way.
The busy season around the holidays may take its toll, but by building and maintaining team spirit, giving thoughtful planning and care, and rewarding hard effort, managers can help their team navigate stressful times with ease and keep joy in the season. The extra effort is worth the investment to keep employees healthy and well, and to keep seasonal employees coming back.