Remote and hybrid employees enjoy the perks of working from home. But working remotely can have a physical and emotional toll—especially during the holidays. Learn strategies to engage employees during the holiday season for better performance and connection.
Since the pandemic, the holiday season has been difficult for most people, including your employees. Many could not be with loved ones, and spending time with others meant concerns about COVID-19. As we head into the 2022 holiday season, your employees’ list of concerns continues to mount, including grief, inflation, financial stress, social unrest, and the continuation of remote and hybrid workplaces.
Many businesses have switched to long-term remote work or hybrid environments, which many employees have embraced and celebrated. However, working remotely can leave employees feeling more isolated from coworkers and family at a time of year that celebrates coming together and human connection.
As a leader, it’s important that you be aware of the mental and emotional dynamics impacting your employees. In addition to the emotional struggles during the holidays, an added challenge for your remote employees is often the reduction in physical activity.
According to a recent article from Forbes:
“The ramifications of the extreme lifestyle shift in 2020 through early 2021 resulting from the pandemic are far-reaching, likely to have ripple effects for many years to come. 49 percent report having less energy for nonwork activities.”
Among other statistics, participating survey respondents reported to Forbes that:
- 60% of employees admit cutting their mobility by over 50% since working remotely.
- The average remote worker commutes just 16 steps from their bed to their workstation.
- On a typical remote workday, one in three workers sit in their work chairs the entire day, and 63% walk only to the bathroom or kitchen. Meanwhile, 24% of remote workers never leave their homes.
- Nearly half of all remote workers estimate they take fewer than 1,000 steps during work hours, despite the 8,000 steps per day recommended by health experts.
These struggles are likely to be exacerbated over the holiday season. But there are steps that companies can take to support staff through the holiday season.
Strategies to Support Remote Employees During the Holidays
Proactively check in with your employees by setting up frequent one-to-one meetings and asking questions about how they are doing. Allow employees to provide feedback on where they stand on work-related matters and how they are coping with the holiday season on a personal level. Every employee will embrace the holidays differently. Listen and validate feelings while tackling year-end business demands. Treat information shared in these meetings as confidential and provide additional support when necessary.
Reward Physical Exercise via Work Schedule Flexibility
The time crunch for the holidays can be challenging. Allowing employees flexible work schedules, 4-day work weeks, and PTO or other leave time could benefit productivity in the long run but also affords employees a chance for self-care and physical activity. Encourage employees who have not taken much leave this year to take some time off, if possible. If your business offers discounts on gym memberships or access to apps that focus on activity, be sure to remind employees through general communication campaigns so that individuals don’t feel targeted.
Actively Promote Self-Care
Long-term stress, or the “fight or flight” response, can lead to prolonged periods of elevated cortisol in the body, which can contribute to the development or worsening of conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and weight gain. Managers should role model and encourage employees to set boundaries with work commitments, maintain a well-balanced diet, get daily exercise, plenty rest and hydration. Self-care also includes financial stability. If your business has access to financial coaching or resources for employees, be sure they know them as part of their holistic wellness routines.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Poor mental health and stress can affect an employee’s job performance, productivity, communication with coworkers and daily functioning.” Which makes the importance of addressing work-life balance and self-care routines to combat increased stress a critical investment in the health of your organization.
Schedule Holiday Virtual and In-Person Work Events during Regular Office Hours
By doing so, this allows employees to use their valuable free time to take care of personal holiday responsibilities and activities. Workplace holiday events that occur during “after hours” can add stress to already busy schedules.
Acknowledge Those Who Are Dealing with Loss
Sadness during the holidays is common for those who have experienced the death of a loved one or a pet, a failed significant personal relationship or other loss. Employees could be facing recent loss and may not be spending as much time with family and friends who can support them. Being supportive and checking in on them is an important leadership practice.
Remind Employees about Outside Assistance Programs
It is a good time to remind employees about the help that is available through employee assistance programs (EAP) if your company utilizes these services. Many EAPs have 24-hour phone crisis support and allow for confidential short-term counseling. Additional help an EAP can provide includes referrals for programs that offer specialized care, services that help manage stress, and programs for substance abuse. Regional and national teen and adult Suicide Prevention Hotlines are also available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255 (national).
Reprioritize Year-End Goals and Deadlines
Company leaders should empower their managers to dedicate more time to employee engagement activities during this holiday season. Reprioritize year-end goals and deadlines, moving less critical ones to first quarter 2022 to help alleviate added pressure and stress on valued managers and employees.
Acknowledge Your Employees in New Ways Instead of Throwing Parties
If you have an all-remote or hybrid workforce, hosting an in-person party may not be feasible. In addition, you may have employees who cannot travel or would prefer not to travel. Instead, send gifts to employees at their homes, and write genuine notes of recognition, praise, and encouragement through internal organizational channels.
Although planning for the holidays may be more challenging, it does not mean the fun has to stop! For more ideas on celebrating your remote and hybrid teams, read our article on How to Throw a Fabulous Virtual Holiday Party.
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