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Most of us welcome the festive season with anticipation, excitement and enthusiasm. Others may see it as a burden. Still others may have feelings in between these extremes, relishing some aspects of the holidays but dreading others. Heavy traffic, large crowds of shoppers, long lines at stores and post offices, bad weather and other hassles can make things worse if you aren’t prepared for them or don’t know how to deal with them effectively. Financial pressures may be particularly difficult during this time of year as many people spend more money than usual on gifts and travel to visit relatives. Many people can experience overwhelm by trying to do too much during the holidays – working extra hours at their job, planning family gatherings and buying gifts for their loved ones – without giving themselves a break or learning how to say no to something that will cause them unnecessary stress.  The holiday season is a stressful time of year as it’s often when we ask the most from ourselves and our family members.

Commonly, as psychologists we see many who will be working through their grief – remembering loved ones who will not be sitting around the family Christmas lunch. There may be some who are dealing with painful relationship breaks, disagreements over where children will spend Christmas, longing and loneliness for happy scenarios that are not a personal reality.

There can be a wide range of responses in workplaces—from enthusiasm to dread—it’s important for employers to understand what their staff might be going through during this busy time of year so they can provide support where needed. Here are some ways to share and care during the festive season as a team:

  • Normalise the load and encourage realistic expectations and pacing. Does it have to be finished this end of the year? Can it be dealt with in the new year? Driven teams can have unrealistic expectations to bring closure to projects and tasks before the year ends.
  • Create a schedule that works for everyone. Rosters, meetings, social functions – they collide with end of year school performances, last minute Christmas shopping and social functions. Check in with your team for what might be happening in their worlds, and find a common ground so that work schedules are not one more thing to have to juggle.
  • Encourage staff to unplug and recharge their batteries. Model the way by checking in and sharing ideas and encouragements for simply stopping, simplifying and recharging.
  • Set a cut off time for work email, phone calls and other distractions so you can fully enjoy your time away from work with your family or friends. Overtly make silent time after work hours – no more emails, tests, work communication after a certain time, so teams can switch off and switch into their personal mode
  • Make the office festive socials inclusive and sensitive to those who may be having a difficult time

While the rest of the world seems to be dazzled and dazed by the festive season, the workplace can be a space for our team to feel valued, a solid sense of belonging and maintaining their focus and perspective.