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Tips for supporting employee wellbeing in the lead up to the festive season

16 Dec 2020


Are your staff feeling more stressed and overwhelmed this festive season?

The lead up to the holidays can be filled with excitement and anticipation for many Kiwis. But for some – especially in light of the roller-coaster year of 2020 – the festive season marks a period of heightened stress, burdened by social expectations, complex family dynamics and increased financial pressure.

And as most businesses look to wrap up for the year, employees can face additional work-related stress – dealing with increased workloads, shorter deadlines and pressure to complete everything before the last day in the office rolls around.

Employee wellbeing can often take a hit during this time – and if not remedied, the build-up of stress can negatively impact mental health, cause burnout and lead to long-term physical health issues. Studies have shown that stress can contribute towards a higher likelihood of a heart attack and stroke, and even increase the risk of diabetes.

So as employers, how can you successfully navigate this tricky period and help your employees manage their stress levels? Here are some practical ways you can support your team so they can end the year on a high.

Show gratitude

Most people appreciate praise and a pat on the back once in a while, and the end of the year provides a fantastic opportunity to do just that. Boost morale by organising something a little different from your stock-standard Christmas function and reward employees for their hard work over the year.

This could be a casual team outing, an office morning tea or a surprise gift. It’s not about the extravagance of the chosen gesture, but more about taking the time to reflect on the year that’s passed and recognising the achievements of your team and celebrating that.

Be inclusive

It’s important to remember that not everybody celebrates the holidays in the same way. Especially in a diverse country such as New Zealand, keeping this in mind when interacting with your employees can be crucial.

Lead by example and ask your team how they celebrate the holiday season and look to implement some of their traditions or cultures in the workplace. Ask how they’re intending to spend their time off and be inquisitive. By doing so, you’ll not only form more meaningful connections with your staff, but you’ll create an environment where your employees feel comfortable and safe to express their differences – making the workplace a more enjoyable space for everyone.

Set realistic expectations

While December can be a stressful month, it’s natural for productivity levels to drop as people wind down before the holidays. So, instead of placing undue pressure to perform above and beyond, it’s best to be understanding of the situation and talk through realistic expectations with your team.

Outline the key priorities for the month and reshuffle projects depending on the workload. Ensure that your employees know you’re listening and that their concerns are acknowledged – especially if they’re feeling overwhelmed. This mindful approach will lead to a more pleasant atmosphere and long-term, promote better employee wellbeing.

Provide support

For some staff, celebrations might be far from their minds. If you notice someone is down or know that the year has been particularly rough on them, make sure that the support services and tools you have on offer are readily available and regularly promoted to staff.

If you don’t have any initiatives on-hand, consider funding and offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as an option. Not only do EAPs encompass a wide selection of services with trained professionals, but they are also available 24/7 throughout the holiday period, so you’ll be leaving them in safe hands over the break.

Keep next year in mind

Many employees experience uncertainty and anxiety before returning to work in the New Year. To help address this, work with your team to implement a ‘Return to Work’ action plan. It’s important to collaborate with your employees so that you have their buy-in and engagement. Showing your commitment to them will help your team feel valued and will motivate them in the year ahead.

If you’d like to speak to nib about the wellbeing of your team, give us a call on 0800 287 642 or email [email protected] – otherwise, you can find out more about our workplace wellbeing offer at