9 Ways You Can Help Employees Through The Holidays To Reduce Stress - Tilson


9 Ways You Can Help Employees Through The Holidays To Reduce Stress

Leadership & Management | December 2023

Article provided by Tilson EAP partner, Espyr. Written by: Melissa Francois

Movies and advertising would have us believe the period from December to the new year is a non-stop ride of joyous festivities, but managers need to be prepared for a far less merry ride. In a 2016 Healthline survey, 62% of respondents reported elevated stress levels over the holidays. Balancing work and family commitments gets increasingly challenging as the festive season approaches, which is exacerbated further by the financial strain of the pressure to buy the right gifts, cook the right meals, and participate in holiday outings.

Fortunately, leaders have a unique opportunity to support their employees and alleviate some of the demands associated with the holiday season. In this blog article, we will explore 9 actionable strategies and initiatives managers can implement to help employees navigate the holidays with less stress and greater well-being.

From promoting work-life balance to offering mental health resources, let’s ensure that your company is well-equipped to create a supportive and stress-free environment during the festive time of year.

1.  Start Early

The most effective holiday stress reduction initiatives start months ahead of when needed. Come the end of the year, everything gets increasingly rushed. Employees scramble to meet deadlines, make travel and family plans, and inevitably get burnt out.

Leaders can get ahead of this problem by laying the groundwork months before the holidays. Here are some examples of what that can look like:

  • Start PTO discussions in September, so work calendars can be adjusted accordingly. This also prevents a mad dash at the end of the year with employees trying to squeeze in last-minute PTO.
  • Check in with employees to make sure that they know what the company policies are about holiday PTO and give ample warning on dates if the business will be closed for a period.
  • Book things like office Christmas parties well in advance so that it doesn’t accidentally become a burden in the last weeks of work.
  • Finances and the possibility of bonuses are often a big concern toward the end of the year. If a Christmas bonus is a standard employee benefit, make sure people know about it and what they can likely expect to avoid added anxiety or disappointment.
  • If open enrollment is at the end of the year, be sure you work with your broker well in advance to establish your plans, existing or new, and give employees plenty of time to learn and choose benefits. Giving a 30-day time period is a good timeframe.

2.  Ask Employees What They Need

Though we can generalize about common issues that crop up in workplaces over the holidays, each company and employee is likely to have a unique perspective on the issue. It’s worth running anonymous surveys in the lead-up to the holidays and in the immediate aftermath to gauge how leaders can best support staff through the holiday season and new year.

3.  Holiday Wellness Initiatives

Introduce wellness initiatives specifically tailored to the holiday season. This could include virtual wellness challenges, mindfulness sessions, or providing resources on managing stress. By actively promoting employee well-being, your company can contribute to a healthier and more resilient workforce.

4.  Encourage Time Off

Actively promote the use of vacation days and encourage employees to take time off to recharge. Emphasize the importance of work-life balance and create a culture that supports employees in utilizing their allocated time off during the holiday season.

5.  Flexible Scheduling

We’ve mentioned quite a bit about planning in advance, but a struggle with the holiday season is how much can crop up last minute, especially in terms of family or childcare responsibilities. Consider offering flexible work schedules during the holiday season. This can include adjusted start and end times, compressed workweeks, or remote work options. Providing flexibility acknowledges the diverse needs and commitments of your workforce, allowing employees to balance work and personal obligations better.

6.  Supportive Policies

Review and communicate policies that support employees during the holidays. This may include policies related to family leave, remote work, and flexible scheduling. Clearly outlining these policies helps employees understand their options and reduces anxiety around managing work and personal commitments.

7. Clear-up Communication and Expectations

It’s also worth being upfront with staff about what is expected of them when they’re away from the office. Do they need to be on Teams/Slack and answering emails? Just giving clarity on this can reduce stress in the lead-up to the holidays and prevent staff from accidentally falling back into work when they need to be recovering. In fact, getting clear on all expectations, including what work has to be done before they leave and what will be on their desk when they return, can put anxious minds at rest.

8.  Recognition and Appreciation

Express gratitude for employees’ hard work and dedication throughout the year. Consider organizing virtual holiday celebrations, sending personalized thank-you notes, or recognizing outstanding contributions. Feeling valued can boost morale and alleviate stress during the holiday season.

9.  Promote Mental Health Programs

Stress isn’t an isolated mental health issue and, when ignored, can exacerbate pre-existing disorders or even lead to new ones. Leaders have a responsibility to not only have mental health programs in place but also to promote them during the holiday season so that employees feel empowered to use them.

At Tilson, we partner with Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Espyr, to offer a range of employee-focused well-being solutions that companies can use to better support people as the end of the year approaches. From proactively helping employees identify their stress and emotions to making it easier and immediate for them to access high-quality counselors, we’ve got you and the staff you’re trying to care for covered.

A scary reality of the holiday season is how many unexpected crises can arise. Seeing estranged families, struggling with end-of-year deadlines, or losing control of holiday schedules can send people into high burnout. It’s imperative for leaders to have a service they can rely on and refer their colleagues to during emergency situations before the problem worsens. Contact Tilson today for more information on our EAP services and other HR solutions.


In conclusion, companies have a pivotal role in creating a supportive and stress-free workplace during the holiday season. By implementing these strategies, organizations can reduce employee burnout, foster a positive work culture, and ensure that employees feel understood, valued, and supported during this festive time of the year.

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