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'Tis the season to be Jolly: managing employee wellbeing into the holidays

13 Dec 2021


The past few months have been a whirlwind for many businesses. Marked by lockdowns, remote working, and other COVID-19 related stresses, some employees may be feeling worried in the lead up to the festive season. While loosened restrictions and regional borders opening in time for Christmas is great news, pandemic-induced burnout and lockdown fatigue has also triggered a rise in mental health issues.

Although not all pressures are work related, organisations have a duty to prioritise employee wellbeing to help prevent stress related illnesses. There are also many benefits in investing in workplace health and wellbeing – including improved productivity, increased engagement and lower absenteeism. Here are some ways you can help your team navigate this period, so they can thrive over the holiday season and beyond.

Be supportive and realistic

While December can be a stressful month, it’s natural for productivity to slow down as people start to think about their holidays. Ensure you’re not overwhelming your staff with tasks and deadlines before they head off on their break. Outline key priorities and reshuffle projects depending on workloads. For some staff, holidays might be far from their minds. If you notice someone is down or know that the year has been particularly rough for them, make sure that the support services and tools you have on offer are readily available and regularly promoted.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

If you don’t already, consider offering an EAP as an option. Not only do EAPs encompass a wide selection of services with trained professionals, they’re also available 24/7 throughout the holiday period, so you’ll be leaving them in safe hands over the break.


Schedule check-ins with your team members before you go on leave. Offer them a platform to voice their concerns and address them as needed. Your staff should be using the holidays for a proper break, and not be worrying about the work that awaits them when they come back.

Reward your team

With ongoing restrictions and many organisations opting to work from home right up to Christmas, the traditional end-of-year office party may look very different this year. But this doesn’t mean a celebration can’t happen.

Organise a small gathering

If you can’t hold a company-wide event, consider smaller gatherings with individual teams to thank them for their hard work. Outdoor picnics, a beach BBQ or even a game of lawn bowls may be a great way to give your employees a change of scenery. It’s not about the extravagance of the activity, but more about taking the time to reflect on the year that’s been, recognising the professional milestones of your team and celebrating them.

Virtual events

For larger groups or teams that are unable to meet in person, you could arrange numerous virtual events including game shows, festive trivia, Zoom discos, a gingerbread making competition or virtual karaoke. Giving your team some fun before the end of the year is a great way to boost morale and help ease stress.

Cater to their needs

In a diverse country like New Zealand, remember that not everybody celebrates the holidays in the same way. Ask your team how they celebrate the holiday season and look to implement some of their traditions or cultures in the workplace.

Ask your team how they’re spending the holidays

Find out how they intend to spend their time off. Many of your employees may be connecting with families and friends after extended periods of not seeing each other, so they may have different leave requirements. Where possible, try your best to cater to their needs. By doing so, you’ll form more meaningful connections with your staff and let them know that you value their wellbeing and life outside of work.

This festive season there may be many external influences that could impact the mental wellbeing of your employees. But by looking after your people through this challenging period, you can help your team stay motivated and get them looking forward to the year ahead.