How to Help Employees Avoid End-of-Year Stress

The end of the calendar year is already fraught with stress, as employees feel pressured to close out the year strong while planning ahead for the following one. Add in the holiday season, and all of the travel, shopping and time that involves, and that tension becomes compounded.

So how can employers be more mindful about alleviating corporate stress, as well as the personal stress that is often exacerbated amidst the hubbub and expectations at the end of the year and holiday season? Below are 12 practical ideas illustrating how employers and business owners can assuage or prevent stressful situations, when possible.

1. Adjust Strategic Plans

Even with the best annual business planning, it is not unusual for some items either to be neglected or overtly bypassed. Where possible, reprioritize those untended tasks for the following year. Trying to push those initiatives into an already ballooning schedule likely will cause none of the year-end initiatives to be done well.

[Related: How to Spot Burnout]

2. Reprioritize

In those instances where deferring a task is not possible, then perhaps you can take a look at the other non-strategic initiatives piled on your December calendar and do some whittling. What you thought was important last week, or last month, may suddenly seem less urgent.

3. Offer Time Off

As counterintuitive as it may seem, especially as the company’s project clock ticks down toward Dec. 31, offering time off, in the form of a whole day, half day or even a longer lunchtime, can destress your staff. Energizing them with the mental and physical space to play catch-up with their holiday commitments may, in turn, convert to new-found energy in the office. As such, they can return to the office with the verve to unravel one-off problems or client situations that require fully rested and focused attentions.

4. Reconsider That Reprimand

Perhaps your every last nerve has been exhausted as you wind down the year and try to clear your desk for some holiday merriment of your own. As as a result, your sensitivity to your employees’ lack of luster and attention to detail is more acute than usual. Resist the temptation to point out their every fault, correct their every foible and/or demonstrate passive-aggressive signs of frustration with them. Instead…

5. Tap Into Your Gratitude Reserves

Consider the pressures your employees have withstood, not just in the recent wind-down of another year, but also throughout the past 12 months, aspiring to meet your goals and objectives. When tensions rise, as they are bound to at some point, reach down deep into your reserves of appreciation instead of responding to mistakes with reprimands. You might be surprised at the turn of attitude and overall bump in performance this attitude adjustment and grace will create.

[Related: How to Give Thanks for High-Performing Employees]

6. Surprise Your Staff With an Early Bonus

Instead of waiting until that final send-off before the holiday break to thank them, ingratiate yourself with high-performing employees with an unplanned bonus. This can spur extra pep in the step and overall attitude, helping them grind through the end-of-year tough spots, with more hope and invigoration.

7. Bring Spa Services In-House

Hire a portable spa service to provide 5- to 15-minute chair massages to employees to help with de-stressing during office hours.

8. Schedule an End-of-Year Celebratory Recap

This meeting should focus on the wins for the past year and provide opportunities for individual and team recognition. It could be planned on- or offsite and should include some sort of takeaway, such as thank-you cards handwritten by the CEO, gift cards, etc.

9. Reward Overachievers

For those employees who particularly have picked up the slack throughout the year and/or during the year-end rush to the finish line, you might consider offering to invest in them in a tailored way. For example, if your customer service professional has a fondness for theater, invest in tickets for them and their partner to a local play.

10. Offer Healthy Alternatives

Consider that not everyone is celebrating the same this time of year, including some employees who are averse to the candies and treats being brought in to the lunchroom. Offering healthier alternatives to the smorgasbord of sugary foods can bring comfort and calm.

[Related: 8 Steps to Create a Positive and Healthy Work Environment]

11. Pitch In

If your role is to overlook a team of doers, but you sense burnout and stress over an end-of-year project, it may be a good time to drop what you are doing and be hands-on, helping them get to the finish line however you can.

12. Slow Down

As an employer, be intentional about slowing down, not only to reflect on the past year, but also to look into the new year, with hope. Be visibly calm and exude the possibilities you see, which will naturally infuse your staff with the same sense of optimism.

Learn More:

The Employee Wellness Playbook