Managing Work-Life Balance During the Holiday Season

Father and daughter sitting at computer while father works from home. A benefit of working from home during the holiday season.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, the holidays are a busy time of year not just at work, but in your employees’ personal lives, too. From shopping, baking, parties, and yes, even moving the Elf on the Shelf every night, to meeting tight deadlines and hitting year-end goals, this time of year can be so chaotic that it can affect the mental health and work-life balance of your workforce. In fact, a Monster poll found that 61% of workers are negatively impacted during the holiday season: 44% feel more stressed than usual and 17% report a decline in their overall well-being.

“Employees commonly endure multifaceted stress throughout the holidays,” says Derek Bruce, operations director at First Aid at Work Course. “Personal obligations compete for attention with work-related tasks and deadlines. This innate drive to excel in both areas — personal life and career — often elevates stress, impacting mental well-being and distributing the delicate balance between professional responsibilities and private life. Forging a positive work atmosphere with activities aimed at building teams, recognizing diligent efforts, and offering stress management resources leads, to what is called a harmonious and balanced workplace — a boon not only during the festive period but extending beyond it as well.”

To help alleviate end-of-year stress, here are a few ways you can help manage your team’s work-life balance during the busy holiday season.

Offer Flexible Schedules

Although most workers typically receive 1-5 days off during the holiday season, that still may not leave them enough time to accomplish everything they need to do. This is evident in Monster’s latest poll findings where 22% of workers said they try to take as much time off work as possible during the holiday season in order to better balance family time, celebrations, and work.

Allowing employees to work from home or offering flexible schedules can take a huge weight off their shoulders during this hectic time of year. Erik Pham, CEO and co-founder of Health Canal, says, “Fostering a supportive and flexible work environment is essential for helping employees strike a balance between work and personal commitments during the holiday season.”

At Goodwin Recruiting, for instance, Marketing Director Jenny Battershell benefits from having the ability to work from home. She says, “This gives us the flexibility to adjust our schedules, if ever needed. If there’s a holiday event at my kid’s school, for example, I can schedule an hour to pop out and adjust my other workdays accordingly.”

Encourage Employees to Fully Unplug

Between looming deadlines and year-end targets to hit, it can be difficult for employees not to check into work on their days off or even use their time off to catch up on work. According to Monster poll respondents, nearly two-thirds (65%) of workers admit that they work on their days off, while 35% say they continue to check their work email, even when their company is closed.

“The unplugging from the office has to be a company-wide effort,” says Verity Gough, communications manager at MyStaffShop. “While bosses can’t police compulsive email checkers, they can create a culture that reminds employees that holidays and days off are for taking time away from work.” Gough recommends conducting round-up meetings to check that employees have completed tasks before heading out for the holidays. She says managers should also lead by example by refraining from any language or behavior that makes staff feel like they need to remain on call during the holiday period.

At Health Canal, Pham shared one of the tactics his company employs to help employees close out the year with ease. “To mitigate end-of-year stress, we incentivize our staff to complete their tasks before the holidays,” he says. “By offering rewards or recognition for early completion, we ensure that the workload is manageable, and our employees can truly unwind during their time off.”

Some businesses, however, may need to stay open during the holidays or complete time-sensitive projects. In these types of situations, Gough recommends having a roster for emergency situations so employees know when they are going to be needed and can plan accordingly. For those running a skeleton team, Gough says employers can ask their workforce in advance for volunteers to cover shifts to allow those who don’t celebrate, want time away from home stresses, or need the overtime hours, to put themselves forward.

Provide Outlets for Workers to Destress

In addition to taking time off work, Monster’s poll identified other ways employees are able to cope with holiday stress. These include:

  • Attending celebrations with family and friends (37%)
  • Carving out time to decompress alone (27%)
  • Finding time to destress through exercise (21%)

“Employers, recognizing that a significant 21% of employees regard exercise as an essential stress reliever during the busy holiday season, can adopt proactive measures to bolster their workers’ fitness aspirations,” Bruce says. “They might implement wellness programs, provide gym memberships, or organize team-building exercise — actions which lay the groundwork for cultivating a healthier and more stress-resilient workforce.”

Throwing a holiday party (whether in-person or remote) can be another way you can boost morale, promote inclusion, and bring a sense of lightheartedness to the workday. These events can be a great way for employees to take their mind off their day-to-day obligations and enjoy a bit of fun with their colleagues.

Lastly, encourage personal downtime to help support well-being, creativity, and productivity, and prevent employee burnout. Consider scheduling no-contact hours or meeting-free days during the busy holiday season and beyond, which would prohibit associates from scheduling meetings or messaging each other during these periods.

Remember to Promote Work-Life Balance in Your Employer Branding

How employers treat their employees at the end of the year can have a big impact on next year’s success. Creating a healthy work-life balance can help retain top talent, while also being a big driver of talent for organizations looking to hire in the new year. From social media and networking platforms to your own career site and job listings, it’s never been more essential to convey practices like these in your employer branding. To learn more, download Monster’s Employer Branding Guide today.