Globe and Mail Small Business – December 3, 2014

For the three-quarters of Canadians living with daily stress (2013 Sun Life Canadian Health Index) those feelings of angst become more acute during the holiday season.

According to employers, this discontent is felt in the workplace with many companies reporting a decline in productivity during this time of year.  While some drop off is acceptable as we celebrate the season, a good portion of it results from holiday burnout.

How can companies help their staff cope?

  1. Embrace the festivities. It’s the season to celebrate and reward the wins. Say ‘thank you’ more often and directly. It’s not about the value of the reward but more about the acknowledgement.
  2. Allow a certain amount of flexibility around deadlines and encourage your team to provide progress reports rather than micromanaging. Giving employees autonomy over their work helps to reduce stress. Monitor your employee’s ability to handle their workload and provide time to recover from demanding tasks. Let employees know it is OK to say ‘no’ if they are feeling stretched.
  3. Connect with your direct reports regularly. Ask about their families and their plans for the holiday season. Showing you care about them as individuals first can go a long way to building resilience.
  4. Encourage the team to maintain healthy routines and create a work environment that supports that. Offer treats and celebrations, but balance it with healthy options such as providing fruit at meetings. Other ideas that your employees are sure to welcome are meditation and relaxation sessions and seated massage.
  5. Encourage regular physical activity by posting posters near elevators that suggest taking the stairs as a healthy option, and providing reminders to stand up regularly throughout the day to stretch and increase blood flow. Post these holiday stretches on your intranet site to help employees improve attention.
  6. Layer Up and Get Outside. Encourage walking meetings. The fresh air and bright sun can lift your mood and energy while burning calories. If you are in the downtown area multi task and combine your walk with some window shopping.
  7. Give the gift of kindness. Find unique ways to promote positive outlook and show appreciation. Encourage acts of kindness within your workplace with Three Good Deeds a Day. Simple acts such as holding the elevator, bringing your co-worker a coffee, and offering your support on a project will go a long way to promoting civility and gratitude. Create a team of volunteer holiday mood boosters to spread laughter, joy and appreciation throughout the workplace.
  8. Rally around a cause. One of the easiest ways to brighten your workplace is to do a good deed for somebody else. Especially at this time of year there are so many people in need and causes to support. Allow departments time off to volunteer at local food bank, soup kitchen or shelter.
  9. Promote responsible drinking by bringing your team together with a mid-week Mocktail Party. Serve up a few non-alcoholic festive drinks and pass low fat snacks such as hummus and dip. Hand out mocktail recipes and tips on responsible hosting over the holidays. Ensure sure your holiday party provides taxi chits.
  10. Encourage downtime to recharge. A little relaxation can go a long way, especially during the holiday season when employees experience new sources of stress.  Organize an office-wide coffee break on Friday afternoons featuring staff-favorite seasonal blends, or provide an afternoon off to make a dent in holiday shopping.
  11. Lighten up your next departmental meeting with a re-gifting theme. Have some laughs while you exchange gifts. Just remember to keep it clean and make sure you don’t bring in a gift given to you by your boss or co-worker! Laughter and social engagement have been shown to boost immunity.
  12. Manage financial stress. Hand out tips on setting goals and sticking to your budget over the holiday. Promote the idea of charitable donations or homemade gifts to give your bank account a break.

Keep company supports and resources front of mind particularly this time of year. Promote the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) wherever possible and have managers pay closer attention the emotional well-being of their team.