Top Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

by Jaimy Ford

3 min read

The holidays aren’t merry for everyone: The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve create anxiety and depression for some people, including entrepreneurs.

After all, it’s the end of the year, a time when many small-business owners are pushing hard to meet their goals for 2013. Retailers tend to count on holiday shopping revenue to carry their whole year, and many other entrepreneurs try to boost sales in order to close out December on a high note. The extra work and long days can put big-time pressure on owners and their employees. Add to that the usual personal holiday stressors — shopping, traveling, managing family conflicts, hosting relatives, etc. — and it’s a lot to handle.

For the sake of your business, you and your staff need to be in peak form as 2013 comes to an end. For the sake of everyone’s mental health and morale, you all need to experience joy and relaxation this holiday season.

Follow these tips to stay productive — and keep your sanity intact — during the busiest time of the year.

  • Find time to reflect. Pull your team together to review your successes in 2013: Discuss challenges you overcame and benchmarks you hit. Then talk about what needs to happen to finish the year strong.
  • Prioritize. You’re going to need to let some things go during this busy time. First, decide what is most important for the business. Next, sit down with each employee to establish three or four priorities per person, so that everyone can more effectively manage his or her time. Omit any tasks that aren’t critical, and delay new initiatives until after the first of the year.
  • Set mini-goals. Maybe you will reach the big goals you set for 2013, and maybe not. Regardless, establish clear, specific mini-goals that employees can hit each day. For example, “Make 10 sales calls per day.” Small goals are achievable, and as employees complete them, they gain the momentum to keep going.
  • Break down tasks. If employees are stressed or depressed, even the most routine tasks can feel overwhelming. Ask staffers to create a to-do list at the end of every shift for the next day. Have them define all of the actions required to complete those tasks. When they come in the next day, they can take those actions, step by step. This process makes the work seem doable, and employees are less likely to feel burdened by the amount of work.
  • Encourage breaks. Seasonal affective disorder is pretty serious for many people. The cold weather and shorter days prevent employees from seeing much daylight on a typical workday. Encourage your staff to take short breaks throughout the day to soak up some daylight. Even people who don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder need breaks throughout the day. Research shows that short breaks improve employees’ productivity, acuity, and alertness, while helping them to manage their stress more effectively.
  • Be flexible. If employees are worried about rushing out of the door at 5:30 p.m. to battle traffic or crowds to finish their shopping or to attend holiday events, they won’t be focused on work. Allow employees to come in late or take long lunches (but put in a full day), so that they can meet the demands of their personal lives. Flexible hours are a huge perk — and morale lifter — during a time when people need it most.
  • Accommodate time-off requests. Employees need and deserve time to be with their families and friends. Granted, some businesses will need all hands on deck during the holidays. For other businesses, however, the last two weeks of the year tend to be extremely slow and can allow more people to be out of the office. Let employees work double shifts, split or share shifts, and/or swap shifts to work around personal obligations. Employees usually can come up with amenable solutions to covering the workload if you give them the freedom to do so themselves.
  • Have some fun. Decorate, host a holiday bash, hold contests, or set up a white elephant gift exchange. Those activities bring a bit of levity and laughter to the workplace and that translates to happier employees — who then pass on their joy to customers.

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