HR Tips for Keeping the Holiday Season Sane
There’s nothing like the holidays for combining fun and good cheer with turkey-sized helpings of stress and exhaustion. So how can we keep stress levels low and the management headaches minimal this time of year? Here are five tips for limiting holiday-caused hassles within the office environment.
1. Review and remind employees about holiday policies ahead of time, and stay consistent with your handbook.
- Make sure employees know exactly when the office will be closed, all relevant scheduling details, and when/how they can use time off, especially around paid holidays. These details, most of which should also be addressed in your employee manual, make planning easier and will limit the last-minute questions or problems you have to field.
- Clearly communicate that attendance at any office parties or holiday events is not mandatory.
- As much as possible, schedule any parties or activities well in advance.
- Don’t try to make changes to any holiday bonus policies at the last minute.
2. Be sensitive to those who celebrate in different ways and to different extents.
We all know not everyone celebrates the same holidays or in the same way, but it’s also important to keep in mind that some people don’t celebrate at all, or find the holidays depressing for personal reasons.
- Not participating in your office party, or during any seasonal volunteer or charity event, must not be penalized in any way. Employees have the right not to take part, and may have a number of reasons for their decision (time, cost, stress, family, etc.).
- Likewise, employees may or may not wish to participate in company gift-giving for a variety of reasons – make sure it’s optional and that there is no undue pressure to take part.
3. As always, keep things religion-neutral, both in the office and at any company-hosted festivities.
- Keep invitations, decorations and traditions secular.
- Avoid prayers or other religious overtones at company-sponsored events.
- If an employee requests time off for a religious reason, try to accommodate it if possible. Failing to do so can create discord and legal vulnerability.
4. Be aware of the special stresses that come along with this season.
Most of us have a lot to juggle at this time of year: extra family and social obligations, travel and expenses, cold/flu season, short-staffed offices, and numerous other burdens. Any one of these can take their toll.
- If any employee coaching or management decisions are called for, make sure your actions are well-documented and in accordance with your overall policies.
- Remember that a great holiday attitude starts with you! Doctors, office managers and team leaders have influence when it comes to the mood of the office. Try to stay positive even if you’re stressed yourself.
5. And finally, follow these HR best practices when it comes to planning your office holiday party
These tips can help you lessen your risk before, during, and after your company celebration:
- If alcohol will be involved, hold your holiday party off-premises. Consider scheduling it on a weeknight and limiting its duration. Make transportation readily available.
- Limit drinking and its effects: use drink tickets and/or stick to wine and beer. Serve plenty of food, and make sure non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
- Make it clear that workplace policies remain in effect during your party. Communicate party policies in advance.
- No mistletoe! Find some other way to deck the halls: mistletoe invites harassment.
Always keep in mind that office parties are not a one-size-fits-all thing. If your company doesn’t wish to serve alcohol, or if you’ve had trouble generating enthusiasm for holiday events in the past, consider a less time-consuming holiday breakfast or lunch instead.
With a little extra planning it’s usually possible to achieve seasonal success without much if any extra stress. As always, management should provide good examples and stay on the lookout for problems – noticing any workplace issue early is crucial to keeping it small and dealing with it effectively. We hope these tips help to ensure that your holiday smiles stay right-side-up this season.