The holiday season can be a tough time for businesses. Work hours are sporadic, end of the year deadlines are looming and employees are distracted. Leaders can help make this time less stressful for employees by recognizing the challenges and addressing them head on. Below are some strategies for reducing the number of issues that arise during the holidays.

1. Plan for flexible scheduling

Businesses need adequate coverage for customer service and production scheduling. During holiday periods employees want time off, whether it’s the holidays to spend with family, accommodating social functions, or getting away for a vacation. Set a clear holiday schedule for the business and communicate it as early as possible to help employees plan their time outside the office.

Set an early deadline for holiday time-off requests. This gives you adequate time to review scheduling needs and accommodate requests wherever possible. It’s not always feasible to make everyone 100% happy, but communication and adequate lead time can give you a greater chance of having productive and happy humans.

2. Communicate expectations and actively manage your team

Ensure you’re communicating performance expectations throughout the holiday season. While core responsibilities often don’t change seasonally, explicit reminders can help draw distracted workers’ attention back to what they need to focus on.
Use deadlines and goals to ensure work expectations are clear and attainable for your team, and easier for you to oversee.
Finally, consider having an open conversation about how the winter holiday season can bring distractions and why it’s important for your workforce to stay motivated.

3. Plan time to celebrate

Businesses often find small ways to celebrate the winter holiday season with their teams. Methods of celebration can vary, from providing an extra day off to giving small gifts or a bonus. Others choose to have a company-catered lunch or after-hours holiday party.

Each company needs to assess what’s right for its culture, workforce, and budget. However, acknowledging your team’s contributions, thanking everyone for their effort throughout the year, and conveying your excitement about the future can make a real difference.

4. Sort out work priorities

You can help reduce employee holiday stress by reminding employees to focus on what’s most important to accomplish during the season. If necessary, adjust deadlines for lesser projects to help alleviate the stress of meeting near-impossible deadlines.

5. Talk about stress with your employees

Don’t pretend that stress doesn’t exist or ignore signs of holiday stress at work when they occur. Hold staff meetings to discuss stress, anxiety, and the best ways to deal with them. Talk about mindfulness and stress management techniques employees can adopt and follow on their own.