Top tips to support staff through the festive season


Need to know:

  • Employers can offer treats and perks to help staff stay motivated during the festive season.
  • Personalised gifts or a ‘thank you’ can boost engagement levels.
  • Employers can introduce new year initiatives in December to combat the January blues.

The Christmas season brings a mix of emotions for employers and their staff. While some look forward to a few weeks of parties, celebrations and winding down, for many it is one of the busiest times of the year. There are a number of options employers have to keep employees motivated through the festivities.

Get in the festive spirit

It may be tempting for employees to clear their desk and concentrate on their party outfit rather than a looming deadline, but it is important to find that happy medium that allows staff to get into the festive spirit while keeping productivity high.

Helping employees manage their time efficiently can better enable them to juggle competing demands, says Bill Alexander, chief executive officer at Red Letter Days for Business: “Employees will be feeling pressure in the run-up to Christmas, not only because they’ll have work projects to complete before their holidays, but they’ll also be juggling Christmas outside of work for their family and friends too.

“In the run-up to Christmas, [employers could] get staff to recognise when they do their best work and on the days when they’re least productive, let them take a few hours off to pop into town to run festive errands or do some online Christmas shopping,” he adds.

Provide a personal thank you

Christmas and expectation of the new year can bring a time of reflection, and many employers use the season to say thank you to staff for their hard work throughout the year with a gift or reward. Providing a personalised or tailored gift can ensure it comes with the right message. Gone are the days of giving employees a turkey, says Joanne Taylor, head of business development at Jordan Media. “There are lots of challenges employers face that need to be thought through otherwise a well-meaning benefit or reward programme can have the opposite effect on staff and make them feel alienated,” she says.

For example, if an employer is presenting staff with specific retail gift cards, it needs to consider its workforce demographic, including age group, the brands that will appeal to staff and the method of delivery.

Employee recognition can help boost motivation during a potentially stressful time. Jenni Wilson, operations director for corporate fitness and wellbeing at Nuffield Health, says: “Employers could send individual messages to staff to thank people for their year’s contribution. They could highlight something special they’ve done individually that has made a difference to the [organisation]. This can be a real boost to wellbeing.”

Support employees’ health

While it may be the furthest thing from their minds during the festive season, offering support for employees’ health and wellbeing can help focus their minds and rejuvenate motivation levels.

“Employers can promote healthy eating and drinking through user-friendly education,” says Wilson. “For example, ‘guess the calories’ in the average Christmas dinner or glass of wine and then advise the equivalent they would have to walk, run or cycle to burn these calories off. This type of activity could also be run in conjunction with the staff restaurant with feature stands and prizes such as a free lunch.”

Of course, a little extra indulgence is a welcome part of the festive season for many, and with a growing number of organisations hosting Christmas parties mid-week, employees may place extra value on employer-provided treats and perks. For example,  preparing a post-party gift pack for the morning after the office party, including items such as snacks, water and cooling face masks, could provide staff with a much needed pick-me-up and help them to remain engaged and productive.

Financial worries are also a high priority for employees who might be concerned about spending on presents spiralling out of control. It is worth employers reminding staff about employee assistance programmes or financial education services available to them.

Look to the new year now

Employers can help raise spirits by introducing initiatives for the new year in December. While providing a focal point for staff to look forward to, it can also pre-empt the January blues.

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Provider PeopleValue recognises that the Christmas season is a busy time for its own employees, and they may need extra motivation in the new year. “We are focusing on a big event for the company in February. It gives people something to look forward to after the last party popper has been popped. There’s a balance between having fun and maintaining customer services and support,” says Mike Morgan, chief executive officer at PeopleValue.

Employers can also help employees prepare for their new year resolutions by beginning a new year wellbeing campaign now. “This could be promoted on-site if they have fitness, health and wellbeing services or at facilities local to where employees live with whom employers have negotiated a discount,” says Wilson. “Employers could also do something as simple as bringing in wellbeing services to staff desks, such as neck and shoulder massages or head-massage sessions.”