Maintaining morale during the holiday season can be tricky. The holidays can be a stressful time, from business owners to employees and consumers. For many businesses, the busy holidays are a critical time during which they’ll earn a disproportionately large portion of their annual revenue. For others, it’s a time of low productivity before business picks up again in the New Year. Regardless, it’s a time when companies need to get the most out of the employees they have available.

Employees may also be dealing with a lot of holiday stress in and outside of work. Shopping, childminding, planning family Christmas or New Year gatherings, making travel plans, coping with holiday-related financial issues, and managing increased workloads aren’t things that make it easier for employees to put their best foot forward. To make it through the holidays as successfully as possible, and to put themselves in a position where they’ll be able to attack the new year with vigour, businesses need to help manage their employees’ stress levels and to keep morale high.

Employee stress during the holidays is unavoidable in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that employers can’t help their team deal with the pressure to ensure a more productive holiday season. Just a few reasonably simple concessions can make a big difference.

1. Provide Free or Subsidised Food

During the holiday period, people are likely to be struggling to find the time and money to meet all their obligations. If your business is operating over the holiday period, providing free or subsidised meals during the holidays can be a relief to employees who are feeling that additional financial pressure while boosting morale and engagement levels.

2. Offer Flexible Working

Employees are often forced to choose between personal and work obligations during the festive period. Not only does this cause much stress, but it can also severely impact productivity as employees go on holiday or take annual leave to manage social or parenting obligations. By offering flexible working options, businesses can help employees to juggle both their personal commitments and their workloads.

3. Don’t Make Needless Demands

It’s a favoured tactic of many businesses to organise an end of year party or other Christmas event, which can be a great idea, but it can also cause some employees to stress if it isn’t properly handled. Mandatory attendance, for example, can be a bad idea. Employees face many demands on their time during December. Having to snub a friend or family member to attend a mandatory work party will create new sources of stress for employees, and won’t be appreciated.

Similarly, events that include gift exchanges can place financial pressure on employees. For many workers, this would place them in a position where they can’t afford to buy something nice, but also can’t really afford not to. Putting a maximum value limit on gifts is a good idea, such as $20.

4. Be Financially Responsible

Employees are generally aware of how well a business is doing, even if they aren’t ever explicitly told. Being repeatedly turned down for pay raises, or receiving anaemic holiday bonuses, for example, aren’t very subtle clues. Even if the costs are comparatively insignificant, then, it’s essential that other holiday spending doesn’t send the wrong message. An extravagant holiday party, for example, won’t impress an employee who sees it as something their lost holiday bonus was used to pay for.

5. Be Fair When Rostering

Shift workers may be required to work over the entire holiday season, including public holidays, while their friends and family are off work. It is best to provide shift workers with as much notice as possible so they can plan their Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Employees with long tenure that were required to work the previous holiday season may find it unfair if they have been rostered to work it again. Business owners need to ensure rostering is fair and equally spread within the team. It is good practice to ask the group who does and who does not want to work. You will sometimes be surprised who puts their hand up as they don’t celebrate the holiday season or would prefer the penalty rates of pay.

Business owners have their own increased holiday stress, of course, but their success ultimately depends on their employees. By taking the time to boost morale and reduce employee stress during the holidays, business leaders can boost productivity to help them deal with their holiday stressors. The result is a happier, more productive holiday season, and a smoother transition to the New Year.

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