While some have already celebrated holidays, others are getting ready to soon. Either way, this holiday season has been like no other for all of us. As states either extend or ramp up safety measures due to rising cases of COVID-19, the seasonal activities that we typically look forward to enjoying in-person with family and friends have been altered, perhaps dampening a bit of the holiday spirit that we would otherwise revel in. But, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" song goes, “Another year’s over and new one’s just begun” (well, almost - and most of us can’t wait to say good riddance 2020).
It certainly feels like we've been in an unexpected war with an invisible enemy this year; however, with a vaccine on the horizon there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it is with a feeling of hope that we should take the opportunity to look forward to 2021.
For those skeptics who think I’ve been watching one too many feel-good holiday movies, I’m not saying that at the stroke of midnight on January 1st everything will magically go back to the pre-pandemic world. What I am saying is that it will still be tough for a little while longer, and employees will continue to need support so let’s take some time now to think about how we can support employees during the holidays – which are having a different impact than usual – and carry those strategies through to the new year.
1. Proactively offer support
Not being able to celebrate the holidays with friends and family can be isolating for anyone in a normal year, but after a year like 2020 this could really take a toll on folks. It's so important to proactively reach out to employees one-on-one to check in with them during this stressful time. If that's not possible, then remind employees via communication of any mental health resources that are available to them and how they can access them. The point is you want to show employees that they are supported without having to ask for it and let them know you're there when they need it.
2. Let your people know you see them
You can’t deny that being recognized feels good. And there is certainly no denying that every workplace could use a little lift in morale these days! What seems like a small act makes a big impact, but the key to it is that it must be intentional, genuine, and heartfelt. Remember, recognition doesn’t always have to come from a manager or supervisor, it can come from peers too.
Keep in mind that employees like to be recognized differently – most do appreciate public shout outs, but others may prefer direct praise from a manager during 1:1 meetings, email, or even hand-written note. The Forbes Human Resources Council has some great practical employee recognition ideas that you can get some inspiration from. So, if you haven’t already, commit to making the practice of employee recognition part of your culture.
3. Encourage some fun
Who knew we would miss water coolers, break rooms, and happy hours with co-workers so much? If you haven’t already jumped on the virtual celebration bandwagon, it’s not too late! These activities offer employees a way to connect on a human level, take a mental break, and have a little fun. You can do a couple of things to keep virtual mixers fresh like:
- Consider adding a theme: Keep things light-hearted. You can draw inspiration from holidays, movies, music, or even specific decades. For example, if you are planning a virtual holiday party ask everyone to wear their ugliest holiday sweater or have a 90s themed mixer and have everyone setup classic school picture backgrounds, like that very popular laser background – you know the one.
- Break the ice by playing a game: There are some free online games like Jeopardy and Skribbl that you can play as a group. You can also create a scavenger hunt where employees will have to find items and show them on screen to collect points – you can make this as easy or difficult as you like. Trivia games are also a fun way to get in some friendly competition and maybe even learn something new.
The important thing here is to connect with co-workers, take a mental break, and have a few laughs. This will not only bring your employees closer together but also keeps employees engaged.
4. Encourage time off
Even if time off is taken in small increments, like a day or two every other month, it allows employees to unplug from their work and do something for themselves. Sometimes employees need to hear that it's okay to take time off from leadership. So, review time off reports to see if there's anyone that hasn't taken any in a while and reach out to them to encourage them to do so.
A strong HCM platform can help with predictive analytics and give you proactive insights into trends and patterns that impact your people. This way you can get ahead of potential issues, like employee burnout, before they take a toll.
5. Be more flexible with schedules
Given the uncertainty around in-person learning for children in the coming year and other caregiver responsibilities, if there is any opportunity to give employees a bit more flexibility with their schedules it will go a long way. Consider allowing employees to swap shifts or ask for coverage via employee self-service to accommodate personal obligations. Also ensure that employee have visibility into their schedules in real time and can sync their personal and work schedules in one view for easier management.
Conclusion: Use the holidays to launch a support strategy for the new year
Taking steps to support employees will continue to be critical in the coming year. Sometimes all it takes are some small actions to make a big, positive impact on your employees in these trying times. Start now during the holiday season and build more in-depth strategies over time. If you need help, we've got a ton of resources for you to check out.
I wish all of you the very best in 2021.