Navigating the work of holiday season

Traditionally in North American culture, December is ‘the holiday season’ and a time to celebrate with family, friends and colleagues, give gifts and eat and drink more than usual. While this sounds enjoyable it can bring a lot of stress with it. Financial pressures, family or work obligations and the demand on time can amount to a lot of anxiety all while regular requirements of life and work remain demanding priorities.

Lindsay Roberts, Director of HR Services at Praxis Performance Group understands the holidays can be a challenging time for some and shares tips on how individuals as well as employers, can look after themselves and their colleagues during this highly charged festive season.

“First off, it’s important that employers consider that not all employees are comfortable with the concepts surrounding Christmas and not everyone does well around the holiday season,” explains Roberts. “The number one thing around the holidays is to take care of yourself and your family and decide what you can handle, financially and within your comfort zone. Also important is to really try and see the positives of the season, even if it’s not your favourite. If all it is, is a few paid days off work then take that as a win and try not to focus on the things that get you down.”

When it comes to food or clothing collections and giving, it’s wise for employers to make this process anonymous. This allows employees to donate at their own discretion and not feel judged or pressure to contribute or compete with other colleagues.

Focusing on the spirit of the season rather than the material giving can be a positive way to alleviate stress for employees. Activities like ‘Secret Santa’ or ‘Kris Kringle’ where employees exchange gifts can be uncomfortable and may result in employees taking unnecessary sick days to avoid such events. By focusing on the season as a time to get together socially and relax a little in the workplace rather than gift giving may inspire employees to be more involved. Roberts encourages employers to be generous with staff during the holidays if that’s the time of year they feel most comfortable doing so. She encourages transparency around extra time off or reduced expectations so employees can plan personal events and activities accordingly.

Another tip from Roberts is to acknowledge other celebrations during the year. “Ask employees to share their holidays and traditions; maybe an anonymous ideas board and asking how the office can support the celebration in a way that represents the team.”

Christmas parties can be the source of much excitement for some employees. Often this excitement translates into too much ‘fun’ at the party followed by regret the following day. Roberts encourages employees to enjoy holiday parties but recommends avoiding the ‘work party hangover’ at all costs.

“The company holiday party is not an excuse to get drunk with colleagues. Treat a Christmas party like work. It’s a time to hear about people’s hobbies and get to know your colleagues on a personal level but it’s not a time to do things you wouldn’t do while at work,” explains Roberts. “Employees should look after themselves and employers should set transparent expectations. Depending on company culture, an employer could remind employees they have to come into the office the next day. Be lighthearted but clear. From there, it is up to the employee to treat it as a work function and behave accordingly.”

While employers should be sensitive to staff’s emotional wellbeing around the holidays it’s not just this time of year that can be stressful. It’s a good reminder to be sensitive to employees throughout the year. Roberts recommends offering an open door policy to support employees to share if any time of year is difficult whether it’s the holidays or a personal date of significance.

“It’s about being true to yourself, not overspending and not putting yourself in a place where you wake up in January with regret,” says Roberts. “Staying true to who you are might mean not participating in any of the celebrating but also not giving yourself a hard time for that. It’s not only about December 25th. Let’s focus on making the last 31 days count. How can you capitalize on making sure you did the best for yourself in 2018? As an employer that’s giving and listening and as an employee that’s making sure that you’re doing what’s good for your soul and body.”