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How to Help Your Team Manage Holiday Stress [+ Free Download]

How to Help Your Team Manage Holiday Stress [+ Free Download]

Is it the most joyful time of year... or the most stressful? Our best tips on how to raise your team's spirits during the holiday season.

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The holidays can be a stressful time. Between holiday tasks and end-of-year deadlines, your team has a lot to juggle. A low-stress holiday season is the best gift employers can give. At work, employees face end-of-year work deadlines and additional social functions. At home, they're expected to throw parties, give gifts, and host friends and family from out of town.

Rather than feeling light and merry, employees may be weighed down by stress. Workplace stress is a year-round issue, with 40% of workers reporting that their job was very or extremely stressful—and it gets worse during the holidays.

Luckily, there are ways you can help your team feel supported and motivated. Here are some helpful holiday stress tips you can pass onto your team to help brighten their spirits.

Holiday stress setting in? Take time to spread cheer with our free holiday activity guide!

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Make time to celebrate

This season’s festivities may look different this year, but that doesn’t mean you can't celebrate. With a little creativity, you can keep your team connected, even while staying apart. If you can't get together in-person, explore virtual holiday party ideas for your remote team. Virtual Secret Santa, holiday movie trivia, or ugly sweater contests are all fun ways to bring teams together.

Foster a culture of compassion

Winter is a tough time of year for many people. The lack of sunlight and cold weather may lead to feelings of isolation and boredom. Ask your team to submit ideas for mood-boosting activities like fitness challenges, healthy recipe swaps, or even a team book club. Embrace healthy activities that encourage your team to get active (even when it gets chilly!) and maintain a sense of connection.

Maintain effective communication

Amid the holiday bustle, it's especially crucial to maintain effective lines of communication. Let everyone know who will be taking time off (and when). Employees won't be caught off-guard and can coordinate to get things done.

Employers must remember to be clear about their own holiday schedules. If you take a vacation, make sure to delegate the management of holidays to a colleague.

Address financial stress


To celebrate the holiday season, it's tempting to spend beyond one's limits. Christmas gifts, tropical vacations, and big family dinners can wallop everyone's wallets.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, Americans will spend an average of $1,447 during the holidays, primarily on travel and gifts. PwC’s Employee Financial Wellness Survey of 1,600 full-time employed adults reports that 59% of employees are stressed about their finances.

Be proactive in helping your employees manage their finances. Suggest finance planning apps or offer a “Holiday Budgeting” workshop on responsible spending.

Push unnecessary deadlines into the New Year

If your employees feel like they cannot take time off during the holidays, then something should be done to remove the blockers before they burn out, disengage, or quit. A MarketWatch survey on taking vacation time found that 40% of respondents worried that if they took time off, they would return to an unmanageable “mountain” of work. Another 35% said that they thought that their organization wouldn’t be able to function if they weren’t present.

In order for your employees to reap the benefits of extra time off during the holidays, push unnecessary or non-time-sensitive deadlines and projects into the new year. Ask your employees what they have on their plates, assess what’s important and what isn’t, and see where you can make some room in their schedules. Reassigning or rescheduling projects could make the difference between happy employees, jobs well-done, and deadlines met this joyous season.

Be flexible and sympathetic

If there’s one thing that will help make life easier for your employees during the holidays, it’s being flexible. Give your employees some slack and the benefit of the doubt. They’ve been working hard all year and could use extra sympathy and flexibility in their work schedules.

For example, give employees the choice of where they work on any given day during the holidays. Many organizations have already moved to hybrid office models to allow for freedom and flexibility of working remotely or in the office.

If your employees get stuck in holiday traffic which makes them late for work or take a longer lunch to shop for gifts, give them the autonomy to work when their schedule permits. Trust that they’re doing their best to balance work, obligations, and fun. Again, no need to be Scrooge and count hours this time of year.

Recognize effort and reward achievements

Employees need to feel seen, valued, and appreciated. A simple word of encouragement can go a long way, particularly during stressful or challenging times. Handwritten notes are always a thoughtful touch, but if you have a larger team, this may not be feasible. Employee experience platforms like Cooleaf make it easy to recognize and reward your people for going the extra mile.

It’s easy to get swept up in the chaos of finishing projects, closing out the year, and celebrating the holidays. But rather than have everyone race to the finish line and disengage for the holidays, take this opportunity to be present for a moment. Slow down, gather your team, and notice their accomplishments and hustle.  

Ask for feedback to manage holiday stress

Get ahead of the holiday stress by sending a pulse survey to your team. By gathering feedback on team culture, work environments, and work-life balance, you can quickly resolve engagement issues before they impact your team's productivity. Listening is your key to happier employees – which, in turn, means happier customers.

Also, ask your employees ahead of time how you can help make their lives easier during the holidays. The season can be the best time of year for some and the most difficult for others. Or, they may not celebrate a holiday in December at all. The beauty, and challenge, in working with a diverse group of individuals is how different all of our needs (and beliefs and cultures) are. Ask your employees what they need from you and your managers—and be empathetic, caring, and giving this season no matter the holiday celebrated.

Create an office self-care routine

While we may all be busy managing the holidays, we shouldn’t forget about giving the gift of self-care.

Above all, focus on giving your team simple gifts that will help minimize the impact of holiday stress. These gifts may include extra time for the morning commute, a healthy team lunch, giving time for meditation, sponsoring social activities, or in-office fitness classes.

We recommend creating an office self-care routine specifically for the holidays to help minimize stress. From offering 30-minute chair massages to encouraging employees to take short power naps or even just a walk around the office (or the block!), these small rituals can work wonders to reduce stress.

Look for signals of depression

While portrayed as the jolliest time of year, the holiday season can be a lonely time. For those who have lost loved ones or are facing troubles at home, the holidays can trigger grief or depression.

For some people, seasonal social events cause anxiety. Be aware of who might need alone time—and who might feel isolated. Facilitate open communication about mental health. Encourage employees to use counseling services through their employee assistance program (EAP) if you offer this benefit.

Tip: Break the stigma surrounding mental health by having leaders share their own experiences with depression.

Give employees extra time off over the holidays

According to Harvard Business Review, 45% of employees say that their workplace doesn’t close outside of the federal holidays. That means that if your employees want to spend extra time off or with their loved ones over the holidays, they have to ask for it. But, over half of employees surveyed by HBR said that they’re uncomfortable asking managers for time off during the holidays. Cue the added stress of asking for extra holidays during an already stressful and busy time of year.

If your organization can afford to close for a few extra days over the holidays, consider doing it as it’s a great employee perk. This will remove your employee’s fear of asking for and taking time off. It will also incentivize and motivate them to be more productive while they are in the office. After all, holidays or vacations in general boost employee happiness, engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. This is a great way to celebrate the end of the year and start the new year feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to work.

Give back to your community—it’s good for everyone!

‘Tis the season of giving and caring. Rather than gift-giving and exchanges, consider engaging your employees this season by giving back to your community. Organize food and fund donations, volunteer your team’s time and energy at a community event or non-profit, or donate gifts and winter goods to those in need.

Why is giving so good and important?

Not only does giving back to your community help others in need during a hard time of year, but it’s also good for you and your employees. The simple act of giving (without expecting anything in return) triggers your brain’s reward system and releases endorphins. This makes you happy, lowers stress, and boosts self-esteem. Volunteering or organizing donations with your team is a great way to bond this holiday season. It will help re-engage, inspire, and motivate your employees around a good cause—and show how much your organization cares.

Be inclusive by celebrating all cultures in your office

Your organization is made up of many unique individuals who all bring their own beliefs, cultures, and celebrations to your team. Celebrate and honor the diversity on your team! Get to know your employees and learn about the holidays they celebrate and when.

Establish an open, inclusive, and understanding workplace culture by allowing people to celebrate the holidays how they wish. Use this opportunity to learn about your employee’s cultural celebrations—and be sure to give time off as other important holiday seasons arise throughout the year.  



Help where you can as often as you can

We know the holidays are coming, so ask employees what you can do to help reduce their stress.  Ask if they would like to postpone the company party until January, or if you are hosting a pot luck lunch, ask if people would rather have pizza brought in so no one has to cook.  Perhaps, you can give everyone one hour on Cyber Monday to go online and shop so they don’t feel like they have to sneak screen time to get the deal on the gift their child really wants at a price they don’t want to miss.

As an organization, your core values should encompass the health and well-being of your employees - especially at the holidays. Never underestimate the power of caring.

Show appreciation for your team with meaningful, personalized gifts

Remind employees that you care with a thoughtful holiday gift. Desk organizers, protective face masks, or coffee mugs make great gifts, or you can pick a gift card from a favorite store. With Cooleaf's holiday gifting feature, you can set a rewards budget and choose from thousands of gifts, or let employees pick for themselves.

Looking for more ways to boost your team's spirits during the holidays? We teamed up with Thankful to create a free white paper with 8 more tips:

Help your customer service team manage holiday stress




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