Unrealistic expectations and extra responsibilities can make the holidays anything but merry. If the holidays are supposed to be a time of cheer, family togetherness, and festive parties, why are so many people showing symptoms of stress–anxiety, short temper, depression, and distraction?

For many people, the holidays magnify loneliness, family troubles, financial problems and depressing memories. Our lives are stretched thin already, without the extra shopping, spending, family gatherings, parties, and houseguests.

If you are an employer, don’t inadvertently add to the mayhem. Here are some tips to take the pressure off and make the season truly one of “comfort and joy” for your employees. At the end, there are some personal suggestions for making the most out of your holiday party, without wearing a lampshade on your head…or worse.

  • Set reasonable dollar limits on what employees spend on gifts. Ask employees for input on a reasonable dollar amount.
  • Give employees a longer lunch hour or let them leave a little early to run errands or do some holiday shopping during the work day, when shopping malls are navigable.
  • Don’t have a potluck Christmas party. It only adds to the to-do list when an employee has to cook something (and then worry about whether it will be a hit with coworkers). If you do want to have a holiday lunch, why not have it catered? There are many reasonable alternatives to choose from.
  • Rather than doing a gift exchange, consider doing something together for a charity. It won’t cost anyone anything and will bring joy and perspective. Be sensitive to time and financial commitments.
  • Holiday parties are fun for some and a burden for others. If you do have a holiday party, consider a casual dress code, so employees don’t have to invest in dressy, festive attire. If your employees would rather not have a party (ask them), why not give them the money you would have spent in the form of cash, a gift certificate, or food item, such as a fancy ham or turkey?
  • Consider having a holiday celebration during work hours. Evenings fill up fast with family events, shopping, and recitals.
  • Gift certificates are a good choice if you would like to give your employees a little extra spending power over the holidays.
  • If you distribute a holiday bonus, consider giving it out early enough for your employees to spend it on holiday expenses, if they wish.
  • Be sure to thank employees who are working extra hard during the holidays. If their workload is at its peak during this time of year, these employees are really feeling the crush of extra responsibilities. Bringing in pizza, having some impromptu fun, and little thank you treats mean a lot to people who are struggling with extra pressure.
  • Discuss vacation and time-off schedules early enough for people to make arrangements. Last minute staffing shortages will only add to the stress if coworkers are expected to pick up extra duties or hours.
  • Give employees a break if they are more absent-minded and let some things slip during this crazy time of year. If their work must meet strict standards, consider more progress check meetings to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.
  • Make it clear that holiday activities are voluntary. Be sensitive to the religious differences of your employees and don’t pressure anyone to participate.
  • Be careful with alcohol at events or offer alcohol-free events. Besides the obvious risk of accidents and company liability issues, alcohol can add to holiday stress. Loose lips can cause hard feelings or embarrassing situations that will spoil the festivities.


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