If the Holidays are supposedly “the most wonderful time of the year,” then why do you frequently find yourself thinking “You know, that Scrooge guy might have had the right idea?”
Oh, that’s right. Because business is busy. And while that extra cash flow is a good thing, the amount of stress it brings is not. It can ruin the Holidays for you, and for all your employees, too. Sure, managing your own holiday stress is hard enough, but anything you can do to ease that stress for your team will go a long way once the New Year starts.
In addition to the general holiday stresses of family visits, shopping, and nothing on the radio but “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” the workplace can be stressful, too. With coworkers often taking time off, employees have increased workloads and must learn how to cope. Similarly, even if your company is at full strength, employees will see an increased workload in many small businesses – especially in retail, personal care and foodservice.
If you’re bringing in seasonal help, your employees may be stressed by working with people who aren’t as far along on the learning curve. Also, that shift in team dynamics may stress people who thrive off routine.
On the flipside, if your business is one that typically slows down during the holidays, you may find employees stressed by boredom. Or, worse, stressed because they are not seeing returns on their efforts – like sales calls, content production and product pitches – because nobody is around to hear them.
Completely eliminating employee stress during the holidays would be like completely eliminating loud talkers on airplanes. It’s never going to happen. But, you can at least do your part to mitigate it.
First, get your scheduling done early. As early as NOW, call an all-staff meeting to discuss when people need time off, understanding not everyone might get what they want. This way schedules are made before anyone buys plane tickets, and you and your employees won’t be slapped with the last minute stress of having to work during a presumed vacation.
And, if you’re a business that will need to be open on Christmas or Christmas Eve, make sure those workers who are working that day get additional time off for their sacrifice. Conversely, make sure the employees who AREN’T scheduled those days understand that they will be expected to put in more time on other days.
Also, be mindful that not every employee celebrates Christmas and may need time off for other holidays. Should those people be the ones to staff if you need to be open Christmas? Possibly. But also don’t assume just because an employee is Jewish that they’re jumping to work on the 25th. He may have an important family Chinese dinner/movie to attend and is more willing to work on Hanukkah.
If you know you’re going to need extra employees, figure out exactly what those needs will be and start recruiting now. Let potential new hires know (if they don’t already) that they’re being brought in to work the holidays, and let your existing team know how many extra people are being brought in.
If your business is deadline-driven and you know you’re going to be short-staffed, look at which projects you have that are absolutely time-essential, and see which ones you can bump to after the New Year.
Once you’ve set a schedule and figured out how many more people you’ll need, you’re also going to need to let your staff know what’s expected of them. If those expectations are set early, your staff can prepare mentally and avoid the stress of surprise.
Let them know what the hours and workloads will be, and if extra shifts will be expected or optional. Also, give some instruction on how to give better service during the holidays, as your customers will be stressed too, and they’ll need pleasant people to help them. If you can, come up with new processes or workflow arrangements to handle larger volumes. The more you prepare beforehand, the easier it’ll be when the rush comes.
Breaks are always important, but during high-stress times they are absolutely essential. Even a quick 10 minutes to sit in the back with an ice pack on your head can recharge you for the next furious few hours. So, monitor your employees and make sure they are taking breaks regularly so they don’t burn out.
During slower times, give your employees longer breaks so they can do things like run errands and holiday shopping. Whatever it is, the ability to do things when no one else is doing them is a blessing any day, but a miracle during the holidays.
While stress during the holidays is as inevitable as ugly sweaters and bad presents from your aunt, unlike those other two things, you can actually do something about it. Make sure your business is taken care of during the holidays, but ensure your staff is too. And if you can make life a little bit easier for someone this December, well, that’s as good a gift as any.
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