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By: Kim Moshlak on November 23rd, 2020

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Leading Employees Through the Holidays During a Pandemic

Total Rewards | Business Management & Strategy

The holidays are upon us. They are a time of joy and family gatherings. They are a time when we take stock of our blessings, and we prepare to begin a new journey into the new year.

It’s also 2020 and we are in a pandemic, and the normal rules don’t apply. This year, our families are divided, separated by physical distancing due to the pandemic. The world feels much different than it did this time last year.

And so, our employees continue to have their own focuses right now during the pandemic. Some of our employees are still struggling personally with balancing work and family challenges, online schooling for their children, and a host of other priorities which, as you know, may be affecting employees.

The challenge leaders have now is focusing on helping our employees navigate through the holidays, while also taking care of ourselves.

"In an April Inc. survey of more than 250 U.S. small-business leaders, 74 percent of respondents reported higher levels of stress than usual--including nearly a third who said they felt "extremely distressed." 

In the normal holiday period, we see an increase in mental health assistance sought by employees. Employees suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder due to the lack of sunlight, interruption to regular routines, and any of a host of other issues around the holidays.

As we add in the stressors of the pandemic, we need to continue to think about our employees and leaders individually, and with a specific lens on keeping them safe and happy throughout the holiday season.

Any good article on taking care of your employees in a time of stress will talk about the basics: EAPs, individual conversations about their work life, checking in on their personal lives to the extent appropriate.

A recommendation here is to think about ways to boost your employee’s morale. An easy way to do this is with your overall well-being efforts.

Double-Down on Well-Being During the Holidays

If you have a well-being committee or group in our organization, they are probably already thinking about the holidays and how to further support employees to avoid burnout. Below are a few areas to focus on if you are beginning your planning process.

Make Time for Downtime

Encourage your team to make time for self-care, including you and your leadership team. Are you stressed, yourself? Think about how you are showing up and how that may impact your team. Remember the old airplane rule: put on your own mask before helping others.

During your one-to-ones, make sure you are intentional about checking in with your direct reports to see how they are feeling about everything, and if there's anything you can do to support them. Compassion and empathy can go a long way.

Encourage your team to take time off for the holidays (even if they aren’t traveling) to have some time to relax and reset. It’s never too late to make the suggestion.

Another easy and impactful idea that Google recently rolled out is "No Meetings Week". We all know how busy our remote work lives feel and that truly does sound like a gift to know you have a full week without any meetings.

Show Appreciation

Rewards and recognition programs are always important, and now probably more so than ever. They help employees feel a sense of accomplishment, security, and success…something that many people are looking for right now. Even if you are not hitting your financial targets, you can show gratitude for your team with low-cost ideas.

Keep it Fun

Gaming has been an effective way to help employees get and stay connected to the organization, and can be a fun, safe alternative to traditional holiday parties. You may consider activities that will allow the employees to get engaged in both organizationally-based events, as well as personal events. Some organizations are even turning their activities into a chance to win awards. Wearables like activity trackers have become very popular and are regularly offered as a prize.

Whatever you decide to implement, be sure the program is meaningful and aligned to the organization’s values (and mission if possible). Supporting employees with their personal and professional goals allows them to have the best sense of "normalcy" during this time.