10 tips to tackle employee burnout and holiday anxiety

Man experiences employee burnout while sitting at a laptop surrounded by paperwork.
  • Date posted

    Oct 23, 2023

  • Estimated reading time

    5 minutes

The holiday season is often synonymous with fun, food, family, and friends. But chilly weather, hot cocoa, and jingle bells also sound the alarm for an impending increase in stress.

Studies show that over 85% of US adults experience increased stress during the holidays. This stress can result in memory loss, difficulty making decisions, a decrease in attention, and blurred judgment.

All these factors impact the performance and overall emotional wellbeing of your employees.


of people in the US experience increased stress during the holiday season

An impactful employee wellbeing strategy takes holiday stress into account. This helps HR teams prioritize employee engagement and wellbeing when stress is high and emotional bandwidth is low.

Keep reading for 10 tips to help your employees cultivate better work-life balance, improve emotional wellbeing, and reduce holiday anxiety.

1. Communicate the holiday time off schedule

It may sound simple, but mapping out which days employees have off well in advance can help them plan accordingly. Resiliency and flexibility are two key traits of a healthy workforce. But when communication is as clear as mud, it can breed uncertainty and distrust among employees.

Managers are in the perfect position to help executives communicate clearly with the rest of the workforce. Start by educating them on your time off policies, and then empower them to communicate this to their teams.

This strategy delivers timely information to employees and builds trust between managers and their direct reports. It also helps managers and directors set realistic expectations for their teams during the holidays.

2. Emphasize the importance of time off

It's easy for employees to believe time off will negatively affect their job performance and good standing with the company. However, employees need to understand that their employer values time off during the holidays.

It is crucial to emphasize work-life balance from the top. According to a study published by Stanford, extra hours don’t always equate to an increase in productivity. Share that finding with employees and encourage them to take time for holiday preparations or to enjoy their family.

What does this look like? At Navigate, we offer employees three Wellbeing Hours each week. Navigators can use this extra time off to care for themselves without using PTO.

3. Implement floating holidays

Balancing work and personal life during the holidays can look different for each person. Floating holidays offer a valuable way for employees to manage stress, and they promote inclusion in the workplace.

By granting employees the flexibility to take time off for important cultural and personal events, organizations empower their workforce to strike a healthier work-life balance.

This policy reduces stress associated with juggling professional and personal obligations, and it communicates a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. It also creates a more supportive and harmonious work environment where employees from various backgrounds feel valued and respected.

4. Offer flexible daily schedules

If you cannot offer flexible schedules year-round, consider offering this possibility during the holidays. Offering flexible daily schedules during the holiday season can help employees manage stress while providing numerous additional benefits.

This flexibility allows employees to adapt their work hours to align with their personal commitments and festive traditions. This can reduce the stress associated with trying to balance work and family during a hectic time.

It can also increase employee morale and job satisfaction, as employees appreciate the consideration for their personal needs. Flexible schedules can also lead to improved productivity, as employees can choose their most productive times to work. This approach can help in maintaining a healthier work-life balance, ultimately fostering a more loyal and engaged workforce.

5. Organize team bonding activities

The holidays are a great time to get to know your colleagues at a deeper than surface level. Studies have shown that a sense of belonging can even reduce an employee’s likelihood of quitting.

Team bonding activities bring colleagues together in a fun and relaxed environment, promoting friendship and reducing stress at work. The collaborative nature of these events can also improve communication and teamwork, leading to more efficient and effective collaboration in the workplace.

This can look like a potluck, virtual bingo, or even volunteering together. Get creative, have fun, and try to keep activities within working hours to avoid disturbing personal obligations.

6. Conduct employee surveys to discover pain points

HR teams can use surveys to gauge staff stress levels and the general climate of the work environment. By requesting feedback, employers can learn about the stress, workload, and personal challenges employees face during the holidays. This information empowers employers to make targeted adjustments and accommodations, leading to reduced employee stress levels.

Moreover, the act of soliciting feedback demonstrates an empathetic and caring leadership team. This strengthens the employer-employee relationship and promotes a culture of open communication.

Navigate clients can use Navigate Total Health or Pulse Surveys to request feedback from their employees across every area of wellbeing. This reveals timely insights that can help HR staff improve employee wellbeing year-round.

7. Focus on holiday anxiety

It’s important to offer resources that help employees manage stress—especially during the holidays. By cultivating a culture that celebrates all the areas of wellbeing, including mental health, HR leaders build a holistically healthier workforce.

Integrating stress management training and mental health resources into your wellbeing program is a great place to start.

Mental health platforms like Total Brain, or even meditation apps like Headspace, offer a wide range of tools to support mental health and reduce employee burnout. The bottom line for an emotionally healthy workforce? Employers must create a safe environment and cut unnecessary stress while offering tangible support.

8. Set aside company volunteering time

November and December see a 50% increase in volunteering in the United States. Offering time off for employees to volunteer is an excellent way to encourage work-life balance.

When your employees engage with their communities, it boosts their emotional wellbeing and enhances your reputation in those areas. Consider adding dedicated volunteer time off (VTO) to your company policy and integrating that into your wellbeing program. This will help raise awareness of your VTO benefit and increase participation.

9. Spark joy and give back to your employees

Sometimes, "the season of giving" means employees give a little too much. It’s easy for caregivers to feel burned out, overwhelmed, and discouraged during the holidays. While they take care of everyone else on their list, they neglect their own needs.

Show your employees a little appreciation with holiday gifts or, better yet, with wellbeing incentives through programs like Fringe Lifestyle Benefits. This simple action can help workers take care of their health throughout the year.

10. Be mindful of added work stress

Help employees embrace work-life balance by limiting the stressors you can control. Increase empathy during the holidays by avoiding short deadlines. Be intentional about checking in with employees’ workloads. Giving time off or sharing tasks can reduce stress during the holidays instead of adding more pressure.

Mental health and emotional wellbeing are a priority beyond the holiday season. See how you can build a company culture that supports employee mental health year-round.

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