Readiness, Well-Being

Organizational practices for holiday employee support

The holidays are a festive time of year, but for some, these weeks can take a serious emotional and financial toll — particularly among those who have been faced with hardships throughout the year.

On your team, there may be those who have lost a home or loved ones. For others, once-joyful events such as gift giving and holiday parties can become stressors due to financial pressure. Regardless of the source, there is no denying holiday stress negatively affects people worldwide across every demographic. To put it into perspective, a 2019 survey by JoyOrganics found two in five respondents said they would rather stand in line at the DMV than deal with holiday stress. Ho-Ho-Hummm.

As HR professionals, we know it’s important to strike a delicate balance, embracing holiday cheer throughout the office while also being sensitive to those who may be struggling during this time. The impact from disasters and personal hardships is multifaceted, involving mental health, work-life balance, stress management and so much more. So the question is, how can you help reduce stress during this holiday season and spread cheer?

  • Check-in on employees who you know have experienced grief or loss. A simple acknowledgment of the known grief or loss may be a weight lifted off someone’s shoulders. By taking the time to check in, you may learn of upcoming days that are particularly difficult, significant triggers or stressors for the individual, or key insights into how to help this individual best navigate their stress throughout the holiday season. Depending on the employee’s individual characteristics and circumstances, this could be a time to discuss services available to them through the company, such as mental health or substance abuse counselors, wellness memberships or other relevant benefits.

  • Encourage leaders to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment without making judgments about what is happening. During the holiday season, a mindful leader keeps an eye out for symptoms of the holiday blues (i.e. change in appearance, lack of or heightened emotions/engagement, personality changes, etc.) and practices empathy when it is apparent something is “off” with an employee. As HR professionals, arming managers with the knowledge and tools on how to approach these situations is crucial to organizational effectiveness throughout the company. The approach and solutions need to be aligned with the company’s values and culture!

  • Normalize taking breaks. The holiday season can be demanding — particularly for caregivers and parents. By encouraging midday breaks to run errands, recharge or simply take a moment to oneself, you are preventing workplace distraction and potential burnout.

  • Organize volunteer opportunities or offer volunteer time off (VTO). We’ve all heard, it’s better to give than to receive and volunteering is a way to bring people together and allow everyone to enjoy the gift of giving back without an associated financial cost. Organizing during company work hours also considers those who do not have childcare alternatives, may have a second job or simply struggle to manage a hectic holiday schedule and allows them to participate in the festivities without adding extra stress or costs. If your company is location-based and there is an opportunity to get together, team building is a plus! For remote workers, offering a VTO plan allows them to participate in causes that matter to them and feel connected to the organization they support.

  • Support an employee relief program. For those financially able to give, contributing to an employee relief program will make a direct, positive impact for employees facing a tough time due to a natural disaster or unforeseen hardship . I see the impact of these programs across industries and company size year-long. Companies establish these programs, and then employees donate to keep them going and support their colleagues during their times of need. The ability to give together fosters a deep sense of community, and knowing your organization cares beyond the 9 to 5 is invaluable for employees. Around the holidays, it is particularly reassuring to know your employer is ready to respond when a crisis strikes.

Tackling holiday stress head-on is good for people and good for business. A proactive approach will not only lessen the burden of stress for your employees; it will also make for a smoother transition into the new year for your organization. By tapping into and focusing on ways to lessen holiday stress, tensions or anxieties, you are improving productivity rates, lessening the chance of workplace accidents and improving the overall morale of the company.

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