The holidays are a stressful time for businesses. While some are fighting their way through a holiday rush, others try to keep revenues flowing and costs covered through a slowdown as clients and employees go on holiday. For business owners, though, that isn’t everything. Employees face serious stress of their own, as they attempt to manage their finances, holiday plans, and work and family obligations.


Whether businesses are dealing with a holiday slump or a rush, they need their employees as engaged as possible during the holidays. Moreover, they need those employees to be fresh-faced and ready to go in the first week of January. To do that, business owners need to do whatever they can to keep employee stress low, and morale high. Often, that means finding ways to deal with the additional stress of the season, while also taking steps to reduce unnecessary stressors.

Understand employee priorities

Managing employee morale is about understanding the relationship between workers and their business. As in any relationship, communication matters, and miscommunication is dangerous. Before leaders can take steps to improve morale, it’s important to understand the perspective of the people they’re attempting to communicate with.

For example, a business that has suffered a blow to morale due to budget cuts, layoffs, or anemic holiday bonuses might be especially in need of a boost. A well-meaning business owner might try to lift everyone’s spirits by throwing a big holiday bash, or perhaps sponsoring a raffle with valuable prizes. Attending workers would likely see this as a financially irresponsible use of funds in light of the personal toll that tough times had taken on them. Any action that business leaders take needs to take their business’, and their employees’ current situation into account.

Getting the holiday party right

Businesses frequently opt to host a holiday party as a way to give employees a chance to mingle and unwind in an otherwise stressful time. It’s a great opportunity to make everyone feel appreciated, and to hand out holiday gifts or bonuses. However, holiday parties need to be approached with care if they’re to be a success.

Don’t make parties mandatory

Employees have a lot going on during this time. While a party might be what most of your team needs, others might have family obligations, or aspects to their role that make it difficult to attend. Making attendance at your party mandatory won’t benefit them, and could breed resentment that might influence other employees. A party should be a gift freely given to those who will enjoy it, without strings attached for those who won’t.

Don’t go overboard

Party planning is a great creative outlet that might offer some employees a lot of joy, but it’s important not to overdo it. Involving too many people, or making the event too elaborate might distract workers from their work, and ultimately leave them further behind, and more stressed, than they would have been without a party. Instead, both planning and execution should ideally be managed as efficiently as possible so as to minimise the additional strain put on those organising the event.

Help employees manage stress

Businesses can’t simply let employees slack off just because they suddenly have other obligations to see to and holidays to plan. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t help employees to balance their combined social and work responsibilities. During the holidays, more than any other time, flexible working arrangements can make a very big difference. That means allowing workers to work at irregular times and places as needed, whether that means working from home, showing up on a weekend, or even dropping in at night.

This gives people that crucial time they need to go holiday shopping during the day, to attend their kids’ holiday events, or to make that all-important trip to visit the in-laws instead of blowing it off for work. Not only will this ultimately help to reduce stress, it’ll also eliminate the need for difficult choices that would otherwise result in unnecessary absenteeism and lost productivity.

Ultimately, keeping morale high is about keeping employee stress under control, and making them feel understood. They need to know that their employer is aware of the stress they’re under, and is working to help them rather than making their lives even more complicated. By offering moral support in this way, businesses can lend their workers a sense of security that will limit their stress levels, and help to build a sense of solidarity and loyalty in their teams.