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Leading with Compassion: Cultivating Well-being in the Workplace During the Holiday Season

Written by Kimberly R. Martin, M.Ed, LMFT, Assistant Vice President, Riverside Child & Family Services

The winter holiday season is commonly perceived as a time of joyous gatherings with friends and family. However, it is important to acknowledge that, for many, it can be laden with melancholy, anxiety, and grief. Financial challenges that may already exist can be further emphasized during this season, compounding these feelings. It’s also important to recognize that not all staff celebrate the same holidays, potentially leaving some feeling unsupported and unrecognized. Regardless of circumstances, holidays can introduce moments of heightened stress and fatigue. Our teams consistently work hard throughout the year to support the families we serve, and these efforts often face increased pressure during the holiday season. As leaders, it’s critical to consider this when making decisions affecting our frontline staff. While certain deadlines may be beyond our control, maintaining awareness of our staff’s well-being and providing support in managing these challenges is essential.

Helping staff maintain well-being to prevent burnout is an organizational imperative. It is critical to recognize signs of stress in your staff throughout the year, but paying particular attention during this holiday season is important. There are signs that can indicate your staff may be experiencing higher-than-normal stress or anxiety, especially during this busy time of year.

Holiday Season

Recognizing Signs of Stress:

  • Behavioral changes like irritability or withdrawal
  • Decreased frustration tolerance or unusual reactions to information
  • Changes in appearance, hygiene, or focus
  • Tension between team members or unexplained absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity or changes in work quality

These signs are early indicators that staff may be struggling. Checking in promptly can make a significant difference.

Strategies for Boosting Morale:

  • Promote cultural awareness by broadening conversations around diverse holiday observances.
  • Model self-care and stress management to set a positive example for the team. You won’t be able to focus on others if you are feeling stressed.
  • Avoid sending non-urgent emails after hours to promote work-life balance.
  • Collaborate with staff to incorporate wellness breaks into the daily routine.
  • Compile a list of supportive wellness apps and resources, making them accessible to all.
  • Facilitate a team brainstorming session on time management to share creative ideas.
  • Encourage employees to take time off when needed, emphasizing the importance of wellness days.
  • Assist staff in setting boundaries around their time and workload.
  • Motivate teams to work together in balancing tasks and responsibilities.
  • Review individual workloads; Are there systemic shifts that can be made to reduce work?
  • Encourage staff to review non-essential tasks with supervisors, determining what can be held off.

Celebrating Success and Providing Support:

  • Recognize and celebrate staff accomplishments.
  • Gather the team to mark the transition into a new year, incorporating fun team-building activities.
  • Familiarize yourself with Riverside’s EAP Program and refer employees when appropriate.

Holiday Season

Staying Attuned and Asking for Support:

  • Stay attuned to staff needs and team culture, especially during challenging times.
  • Recognize your own stress levels.  Are you experiencing fatigue or burn out?  How are you managing?
  • Acknowledge when teams need extra support and take immediate action.
  • Take breaks and encourage staff to do so.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for support; leadership skills thrive with a supportive network.

As we navigate the holiday season, let’s prioritize the well-being of our staff and cultivate a resilient, supportive workplace.


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