How to support your employees during the holiday season

Sara Holmberg
December 6, 2022
How to support your employees during the holiday season

Pre-holiday deadlines. A few too many late nights. Secret Santa stress. Hyperactive children. Gift guilt. Diet guilt. Debt guilt. Nosy relatives asking insensitive questions – or no relatives at all. Long drives to far-flung family. Pressure to be a good host. Pressure to be a good guest. Seasonal parties and embarrassing stories.

The list of holiday season woes is endless. At a time when everyone’s under pressure to feel joyful, thankful, and present, many people across the world struggle with feeling sad, lonely, and stressed:

- In the US, 38% of people feel their stress increases during the holidays. 68% of people said they felt fatigued often or sometimes during the holiday season; 52% irritable; 36% sad; 26% lonely.

- In the UK, a quarter of the British population say they find the Christmas period more challenging than any other time of year.

- In France, a third of people feel sad and anxious at the prospect of Christmas, and 47% fear falling into poverty.

- In Sweden, a psychiatric clinic has highlighted the problem of lower mental wellbeing during the holidays, stating that feelings of loneliness caused by a lack of social interactions are the main contributing factors.  

There’s good bet your own workforce will be struggling with holiday season stress over the next few weeks. You can’t fix their pressured festive feast, overbearing family, or hyperactive kids. But you can be empathetic and compassionate and help make their experience at work as stress-free as possible.

The truth is, the better you understand your people’s individual challenges, fears, and pressures, the better you can help. But knowing what’s going on for your people, especially if they don’t work right in front of you, can be challenging. The explosion of remote and hybrid working has been largely very positive but it makes keeping control over the employee experience difficult.

Here are the five dimensions you should be looking at, to track employee wellbeing during the holidays.

5 ways to measure employee wellbeing over the festive season

1. Meaningfulness

The holiday season is often a time that inspires reflection (good and bad). Where are we in life? What have or haven’t we achieved? Are we truly doing what we love? Do we feel we’re making a positive contribution to the world?

Many of these questions relate to our sense of meaningfulness. Meaningfulness refers to an employee’s sense of purpose, including how connected they feel to their work and motivated to do their best for your organisation.

Tracking the meaningfulness dimension using an employee engagement platform like Winningtemp can give you a heads-up if employees need support to reconnect to your (and their) why. Before the New Year’s resolution resignations begin…


2. Inclusion

We all know how important inclusion is for employee wellbeing. When employees feel included, job performance increases by 56% and they’re 50% less likely to leave. They’re also 167% more likely to recommend your organisation as a great place to work, helping with future recruitment.

But the holiday season can be divisive. Every organisation is a melting pot of perspectives, cultures, opinions. Emotions run high. A classic example is parents asking child-free workers to cover core holiday shifts, but there are plenty of moments for potential discord.

Not to mention that the holidays typically worsen existing inequalities. For example, women are 42% more likely to feel extra stress over the holidays than men. And lower-middle income earners are 33% more likely to feel holiday stress than workers with middle household incomes.

Then there’s the added pressure of making sure employees feel included socially, even if they work remotely. Seemingly small stuff like forgetting someone from Secret Santa can sow the seeds of division.

To know where to provide extra support, you need to understand how included your teams feel — and whether that differs between employee groups and whether it’s changed over the holidays.


3. Stress

For many, the holiday season is a period of thankfulness; a time for counting our blessings. But for others, it feels more like a time for counting chores with blessings few and far between.

Stress is one of the most obvious signs your people might be struggling. Winningtemp customers often report seeing a big uptick in stress over the holiday period, from a whole heap of factors you might not always expect.

Having the ability to track in real-time how your teams are feeling is critical. But beyond this, it’s invaluable when your employees can add qualitative comments to clarify or contextualise.

Assumptions could do more harm than good, because one person’s perfect Christmas is another’s total nightmare. You’ll struggle to provide meaningful support unless you know exactly what’s stressing your people out.


4. Workload

Theoretically, the festive period is a time to relax and unwind. But the reality is often very different, with employees racing to get projects finished before the holidays and team members picking up extra slack as colleagues break early. Plus the inevitable downtime for festive cheer and post-party hangovers…

But research shows overloaded employees are three times more likely to experience poor wellbeing. In total, 75% of employees feeling overburdened by their workload have low wellbeing scores. And worse, more than 60% are also at risk for turnover.

Knowing how your employees feel about their workloads is important, both to protect wellbeing and to predict problems that could derail deadlines. There’s nothing worse than discovering a week before the holidays that the team needs to work overtime to finish a key project.

An employee engagement platform makes it easy for managers to understand their team’s workload, in real-time. And take the right actions to help, where help is needed.  


5. Team spirit

We often think of the festive period as a time for coming together; for family. But this is far from universal, and many employees can feel lonelier than ever over the holidays. For instance, a recent loneliness study shows that 55% of respondents experience loneliness over the holidays –leaping to 65% of single adults and 75% of Gen-Z.

The holiday season has a way of bringing loneliness home, whether it’s absent friends or family or feelings of being lonely despite the crowd.

These feelings can result in employees becoming withdrawn and distracted, pulling back from colleagues and workplace friends. But close-knit teams with great energy can also be one of the biggest antidotes to seasonal loneliness, helping an employee feel supported and connected.

Tracking team spirit gives HR and managers a heads-up when something’s going on for their team – and helps get the team back on track, at a time when that really matters. (Bonus points if the engagement platform you choose can segment scores across different employee groups, so you can pinpoint trends.)

Less holiday fear; more holiday cheer

You can’t act to support your people unless you truly understand the challenges they face (during the holidays and all year long!)

Winningtemp helps you measure what really matters, and act on it. On average our customers enjoy higher workforce job satisfaction, lower turnover, and less stress.

Our platform focuses on empowering managers to empower their teams, making listening and acting on employee feedback easy.


Download the guide now for eight practical tips to help managers build a culture of feedback and unlock a happier, higher-performing team.

With a strong background in legal and HR consulting in firms such as Fingerprint Cards, PwC and Flex, she joined Winningtemp as Head of HR in August 2021. Sara is passionate about people and believes that the future of work and HR is moving towards an approach where employees feel valued and have the tools to reach their potential. To achieve this aim, she’s focused on working to give employees their desired level of autonomy within their roles, creating a rewards system that focuses on recognising and understanding the needs of employees, from financial welfare to mental health. Additionally, her commitment to wellbeing is shown by her work as a board member at Räddningsmissionen, a Swedish charity working for social rights ensuring everyone has access to a dignified life.

About the author
Sara Holmberg

Focusing on people

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