At a traditionally joyous time of year, extra tasks and events may need to be squeezed into an already tight schedule. You might find yourself trying to do the impossible in a short amount of time, on a limited budget and with conflicting demands that pull you in different directions.  

De-stress your holiday season

At a traditionally joyous time of year, extra tasks and events may need to be squeezed into an already tight schedule. You might find yourself trying to do the impossible in a short amount of time, on a limited budget and with conflicting demands that pull you in different directions. 

As an employer or HR professional, the annual year-end holiday season undoubtedly presents many challenges for you. Whether it is absence management, benefits administration or year-end activities, the following tips can help reduce stress in the workplace during the holiday season. 


Tips for employers
  • Reflect on the state of your business in prior holiday seasons. 
    Review the numbers, your notes and employee absence data to determine if your business has suffered. Ask yourself the following questions: Were there resource issues due to an increase in employee absence up to the holidays? Does absence data from prior years show a higher incidence of employees being late or leaving early at this time of the year?
  • Create a Plan. 
    Mitigate the risk that these issues will reoccur. If you see a seasonal increase in attendance issues, consider putting attendance incentives in place. One example, offer a bonus for perfect attendance.
  • Focus employee resources. 
    People are more productive when they have fewer projects. Examine business priorities and projects. Are there certain activities that have higher priority and others that can be put off?
  • Find a healthy balance between holiday work and play. 
    Manage the frequency of holiday celebrations in the workplace. Allowing employees to acknowledge the holidays is a wonderful way to boost coworker camaraderie and employee morale. Too many parties, however, can distract employees from their work and exacerbate holiday burnout.

Problems related to holiday stress can also take a serious toll on employee productivity -- an issue that costs employers millions of dollars every year. The good news is that there are effective ways for employers to control the negative impact of the holiday stress. To start, share the following tips with your employees to help them also cope with holiday stress: 


Tips for employees
  1. Reducing time stress 
    Extra holiday tasks and events can lead to overload. The following steps can ease the time crunch: 
    • Set realistic expectations. Ask yourself what you want the holiday to be or to mean. What part of it matters most to you? If sharing time with family is most important, why not spend a day sledding with your children and less time shopping for gifts or food? If you are planning to serve a meal to family members, why not say "yes" when others ask if they can bring something? Or, take responsibility for the main course and ask your guests to contribute the rest. Including your guests in the preparation will make them feel part of the celebration.
    • Prioritize. Make a list of all the things you need to do and decide which ones are the most important. Do the most important things first and the rest if you have time. You may not be able to get to everything on the list, but if you get the important things out of the way, the rest probably won't matter. Consider delegating some of the tasks to others.
    • Say "no." If you have a tendency to take on too much, learn to say "no" when people ask you to do just one more thing. Or maybe just find a few shortcuts if you can't resist saying "yes." For example, you don't have to make all the cookies for the PTA party from scratch -- buy the cookie dough that comes in the tubes and bake it. Chances are, nobody will even notice.
    • Learn to say "no." Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  2. Reducing financial stress 
    Spending too much money can cause financial stress that may last long after the holidays have ended if you go into debt. 
    • Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Plan for an increase in spending if meals, gifts and entertainment are part of the holiday. Know how much you can spend before you go shopping or before you decide how many people to invite for a holiday meal. This will keep you from spending more than you should.
    • Talk with children about financial limits. If you have a child who wants an expensive toy, it's okay to tell him that everyone has financial limitations. Save your money and use it to get a head start on planning for the following year.
    • Pare down your gift list. Ask yourself if you could give fewer or less expensive gifts without hurting anyone's feelings. Could you and your relatives agree to draw names and give gifts to only one or two people instead of everybody? Could you set limits or guidelines for the cost of gifts so that family members don't feel pressured to overspend? Some families enjoy making homemade gifts, such as simple beaded jewelry, or giving an "I owe you " for helping with chores.
  3. Reducing family stress 
    Family tensions can flare up quickly when you get together with relatives who have different personalities and ideas about how to celebrate the holidays. 
    • Set differences aside. Holidays may throw together family members who, at other times of the year, are happier apart. So it's often best to save potentially heated discussion topics for another time. And remember that you can decide who you want to spend the holidays with and how much time you want to spend together. A holiday gathering is about getting along with people to the best of your ability -- not about putting yourself in anxious or loaded situations.
    • Get emotional support. If you miss people who have passed away or relatives who can't be there to celebrate in person, reach out to friends or family who can give you the emotional support you need. If the people close to you can't give that support, consider talking with a therapist or another counselor who can help, such as a spiritual adviser.
    • Remember that families come in all shapes and sizes. If you have always wanted that big family but have few family members living nearby, expand your family for the holiday to include people who might be alone. Or, if you find the big family gathering too overwhelming, invite a few close relatives rather than attending or hosting a big family gathering yourself. Talk with your partner and family about what you would like to try differently this year. They may feel as you do or may understand your needs and want to help you meet them.
  4. Other ways to manage holiday stress 
    Other good ways to manage holiday stress include: 
    • Get plenty of rest and exercise. It's easy to forget to do the things that keep you healthy when you have so much to do. Keeping to your regular sleeping and exercise routines will give you the energy you need to do everything, and it will keep some normalcy in your life.
    • Remember that other people also deal with the stress and pressures of holidays. If you are in a traffic jam at the mall, you're one of many people trying to get everything done to make the celebrations run as smoothly as possible. Don't take the difficulty of finding a parking space personally.