While you may do your best to spread seasonal cheer and appreciation, it's important to keep in mind that this time of year is not all sparkles and snowflakes for your staff. Many of them will be trying to balance holiday schedules and family complications while feeling added stress due to end-of-year work tasks. Furthermore, absences and vacations often leave big holes in staffing right when the duties are most intense. With only 34.1 percent of employees engaged at work without the distractions associated with the holidays, don’t be surprised if the holidays bring a decline in productivity and a decrease in employee engagement.
There is a fix for this. Expressing employee appreciation during the holiday season is a powerful way to build good will that will last long after the candy canes have been composted. Here are seven tips for sharing true merriment (or at least momentary comfort) with your workers over the holidays.
1. Deliver Individual, Handwritten Notes
Almost all our written communications now take place online, so the simple act of putting ink on paper adds a real sense of importance to whatever is being said. Concentrate on each employee's specific strengths, challenges, and achievements, when acknowledging their contributions on a nice sheet of paper. Avoid using holiday cards for this purpose, because you don't want it to seem like an obligatory act. Research at Wharton School of Business found that when managers take time to express gratitude to workers, productivity increases by 50 percent.
2. Facilitate Relaxation
Weathering the winter holidays is hard work; a survey conducted by Healthline shows that between 61 to 65 percent of workers feel elevated stress during the holidays due to factors including money, family expectations, heavier work duties, and scheduling and travel demands,. You can brighten everyone's day by bringing in a massage therapist to offer free shoulder massages or in-chair back rubs. Another inexpensive option that can be helpful is a wrap station. Encourage workers to bring in their stacks of unwrapped family gifts and provide a space with free wrapping paper and various tools and supplies. Employees can socialize during breaks while they get a personal chore accomplished.
3. Be Flexible
Winter weather complicates commuting, and if children's schools close, you may end up with frustrated employees who are torn between commitments. Letting your people work remotely or adjust their schedules can go a long way toward relieving family stress, and employees will be able to concentrate on job duties if they aren't having to text a stranded family member. With half of the modern workforce holding a job with some workplace flexibility, this initiative might be one to keep year-round.
If your company's tasks cannot be handled remotely, you can win huge points by encouraging employees to bring their children to work. Buy a few games or hire a temporary childcare worker; for a small investment, you can earn months of heartfelt gratitude from busy parents. Besides, you'll be helping your company save money. One snow day in Massachusetts costs the state around $265 million, most of it in lost wages.
4. Provide Free Food
While employees welcome edible contributions any time of year, food is one of the strongest ways to put something tangible behind your holiday employee appreciation campaign. In a workplace survey, 51 percent of respondents said that perks involving food made them feel valued and appreciated by their employers, and the holidays give you a ton of options for fun food treats. Keep some of the offerings vegetarian and gluten free, and include more than sugary desserts if you want to help people concentrate on work. If end-of-year tasks are causing your staff to burn the midnight oil, ordering in some pizzas can make all the difference in people's commitment to stay until the job is done.
5. Host a Volunteer Day
Building a company culture of volunteerism pays valuable dividends in the form of employee morale and brand perception, according to a Deloitte study. This is especially helpful during the holiday season, because many people get depressed when they feel that celebrations have lost a central purpose of generosity and caring. You can divide staff up into different teams, depending on the volunteer setting, and help with a toy drive, holiday meal program or other community cause.
6. Encourage Employee Recognition
Employees need to feel appreciated by co-workers as well as by supervisors. In a "recognition-rich environment," according to Gallup, employees who feel adequately recognized (including by their peers) are only half as likely to quit during the following year as those who don't feel appreciated. The holiday season offers fresh new approaches for co-workers to gift each other, including "Secret Santa" programs and cookie or gift exchanges. Provide the initiative to get the ball rolling, and offer logistical support to any employee who wants to spearhead a recognition program of seasonal fun.
7. Leave the Holiday Party Early
This last tip might sound confusing, but it's good to start the new year without taking yourself too seriously. Regardless of how cool you are, you're in a position of authority, and your employees will inevitably feel somewhat self-conscious in your presence. Leadership consultant Tine Thygesen reminds managers that "while bosses are (mostly) nice people, it's a well-known fact that no one wants to sit next to them at the Christmas party, because then they have to behave." She urges bosses to show up during the first part of the event, circulate in a friendly way, and then leave while everything is still underway, so that employees can relax and really bond with one another.
Rewards and recognition are an important part of your company culture all year round, however the holiday season provides you with unique opportunities to show your employees that you care. For more handy tips, check out this report: The Art of Appreciation.