12 tips to help employees maintain work-life balance during the holidays

Woman sits on her couch and stares anxiously at her phone. There is a decorated Christmas tree in the background.
  • Date posted

    Dec 06, 2022

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 people in the US experience increased stress during the holiday season for various reasons, such as lack of money and sufficient time.

Holiday stress can also result in memory loss, difficulty making decisions, a decrease in attention, and blurred judgment. All of which can affect workplace performance and the overall emotional wellbeing of your employees.


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

Finding ways to support employees and encourage work-life balance throughout the holiday season shows you care and can go a long way to improve employee performance, talent retention, and workplace satisfaction.

Here, we present several tips to help employees cultivate better work-life balance, improve emotional wellbeing, and reduce holiday stress.

Communicate the holiday time off schedule

It may sound simple but mapping out which days employees have off well in advance can help employees plan their schedules accordingly. Encourage managers to discuss how many PTO hours employees have available, and which paid holidays they are entitled to in addition to PTO. This will help them know what and how to take days off as needed. Taking these simple steps will also help managers and directors set realistic expectations for teams during the holidays.

Reiterate the importance of time off

It's easy for employees to think taking time off will negatively affect their job performance and good standing with the company. Reinforcing the importance of work-life balance around the holidays from the top down is essential for employees to understand that your organization is serious about time off for everyone. Then, following up with modeling work-life balance is crucial for the concept to take hold. This is especially important considering a study published by Stanford showed that extra hours worked don’t always equate to an increase in productivity, which means those hours could be spent preparing for the holidays or spending valuable time with family.

What does this look like? At Navigate, we offer employees three Wellbeing Hours each week. This paid time off is in addition to their PTO hours and is designed to help Navigators carve out self-care time every week.

Implement floating holidays

Work-life balance during the holiday season may look different for everyone, especially when many families celebrate holidays other than Christmas and New Year. Looking for more workplace holiday ideas? Try implementing floating holidays that can help employees take time off when they need it instead of a forced holiday when they don't. This invites more inclusion and can cultivate a greater sense of belonging within your team since their needs are being considered and cared for.

Offer flexible scheduling

If you cannot offer flexible scheduling year-round, consider offering this possibility during the holiday season. This benefit can be used for employees to help prepare their homes for hosting, getting ready for holiday meals, shopping for gifts, or simply taking some time off to alleviate stress.

Allowing employees more control over their weekly schedule around the holidays can open the door to more gratitude towards their employer and more time to care for their personal tasks and emotional wellbeing. A flexible schedule improves work-life balance by allowing employees to meet personal obligations and maintain good standing at work.

Organize team bonding activities

The holidays are a great excuse to get to know your colleagues at a deeper than surface level. Studies have shown that a sense of belonging can reduce an employee’s likelihood of quitting. Examples of team bonding activities around the holidays could be hosting a company potluck, playing virtual bingo for remote teams, or volunteering together. These team bonding activities are a great way to get employees to take a step away from their workloads, have a good time, and focus on building relationships with each other.

Conduct employee surveys to discover pain points

HR teams can use employee surveys to gauge staff stress levels and the general climate of the workplace environment. Through surveys, HR leaders can discover insights to improve not only employee physical health, but mental health as well.

For example, Navigate clients can use the Total Health or Pulse Survey tools to request feedback from their employees and gauge where they need the most support across every area of wellbeing. This reveals timely insights and adds clarity to employees' stress points, helping HR staff find ways to help alleviate stress at work and improve employee wellbeing not only during the holidays but year-round.

Encourage breaks when possible

Many employees overextend their efforts at work towards the end of the year to meet annual goals and objectives. Others work feverishly to squeeze in every hour of pay available to cover extra holiday costs. Overworking can increase stress, but breaks throughout the workday have been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing which contributes to an increase in job satisfaction.

Focus on mental health

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. With programs like Total Brain, you can offer a wide range of tools to support employee mental health, and even increase participation with the resources you already have, like Employee Assistance Programs. The bottom line for an emotionally healthy workforce? Employers must create a safe environment and cut unnecessary stress while offering tangible support.

Set up a meditation or relaxation room

While it may sound unorthodox to some, relaxation rooms are a continuing trend in the workplace. For your on-site workers, a relaxation room can reduce stress and improve moods. Perfect for elevated stress levels during the holidays.

Tips for setting up a relaxation room include subtle lighting, comfortable chairs, and adding reading material. This allows your employees to work without distractions, complete more tasks, or enjoy a moment of peace during a stressful and overwhelming time of year.

Set aside company volunteering time

November and December see a 50% increase in volunteerism in the US. Offering time off for employees to volunteer in the community is an excellent way to encourage work-life balance. Volunteering is known to bring fulfillment and can add a greater sense of purpose to life.

By helping your employees connect with the communities around them, you can see improvement in their emotional wellbeing and become a positive, recognized name in these areas. Consider adding dedicated volunteer time off (VTO) to your company policy and integrating that volunteerism into your wellbeing program. This will help raise awareness of your VTO benefit and increase participation.

Spark some joy by giving back to your people

Sometimes the season of giving means you give a little too much. It’s easy for caregivers to feel burned out, overwhelmed, and discouraged during the holidays. So, while everyone else on their list is taken care of, their needs fall to the side.

Show your employees a little appreciation with holiday gifts or, better yet, with wellbeing incentives through programs like Fringe Lifestyle Benefits. This small step can help employees care for their wellbeing year-round and enjoy a reward designed to treat themselves during a stressful time.

Be mindful about added work stress

You can help employees embrace work-life balance by limiting the stressors you can control. Increase empathy during the holidays by avoiding short deadlines and being intentional about checking in with employees’ workloads. Offering an afternoon off or delegating extra work are more ways to help alleviate stress instead of adding pressure during the holiday season.

It is critical to support employees by helping them achieve a better holiday work-life balance. Workplace stress is high during this time of year, so empowering employees with a healthy work-life balance benefits your employees and your company. Knowing you helped your team reduce stress and improve their emotional wellbeing is a wonderful way to ring in the new year after the holiday season with employees that are refreshed and ready to return to work.

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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