Don’t Get Snowed In! Shoveling Your Staff Out of Year End Exhaustion

Look up, it's sweaters!

Boost Morale Holiday Season Morale in the Office With Some Ugly Sweaters and Good Food

It’s the end of the year. Small business owners across the nation are grappling with invoices, inventory, and deadlines. A never-ending pile of to-do’s has owners and employees struggling to operate at 100% efficiency. Lists grow longer, days grow shorter, and, despite the cheer of the holiday season, smiles begin to fade.

The cold of the season permeates staff this time of year. Stress, increased expectations, and quickly-vanishing paychecks wreak havoc on employee morale. Toss in a few scheduling conflicts and pressure to work through the holidays, and you’ve the perfect conditions for decreased productivity.

Weathering the year-end storm requires strategy, focus, and an authentic, well-executed plan:

1. Radiate Positivity with Proper Planning

Nothing reads “I am too busy to care” better than a last ditch effort at increasing morale.

Poor planning results in smaller budgets, less options, and transparent intentions. Try not to wait until Christmas to plan the office Christmas party. Account for employee holiday expenses when evaluating yearly budgets and allowances.

Can’t make a holiday party happen this year? Schedule something for January or February. The event may not speak to the holiday season or provide a break from year end activities, but it will motivate staff by propelling thoughts to the future and relaxing days ahead.

2. Huddle Against the Cold with Team Building

One of the most rewarding aspects of working for a small business is the closeness and family-like dynamic that develops between coworkers. Build on this strength by providing opportunities for employees to enjoy each other’s company in fun, unique ways.

Organize a Secret Santa or an ornament exchange. Does your business consist of multiple departments? Create a little harmless competition by hosting an Ugly Sweater Party and entice participation by announcing the team with the ugliest sweaters gets a free lunch with the boss!

3. Generate Warmth with Gift Cards

The best gifts are personal, well-thought-out representations of appreciation. Small businesses are famous for fostering long-term relationships, but at the end of the day, work is still work. People work to make money, and one of the best ways to show appreciation for a job well done is to give the gift of—you’ve got it—money.

Far and wide, gift cards are known as a universal, welcome sign of gratitude. They require fairly little effort and don’t need to be expensive. Control costs by purchasing cards from retailers who sell a majority of their items for under $10. Coffee and sandwich shops, for example, sell drinks, snacks, meals, and treats for $4-8 each. Consider purchasing gift cards from a number of retailers and allow associates to choose which one they’d like.

4. Shake Off the Ice with Décor

Some small business owners have storefronts full of beautiful, festive light displays and seasonal wares. Others work behind closed doors, separated from clients and the general public. Regardless of how many customers you have walking through your doors, consider setting up a holiday display to shake up the office scene a little bit.

Allow staff members to take time to decorate their cubicle or work area. Set up a tree, hang a few strands of lights, or simply put out a dish of holiday candy. The change of scenery can be a welcome sight for tired eyes and requires little financial commitment, especially when decorations are stored for future seasons.

5. Fire-Up Spirits with Organized Time Off

Work-life balance is critical to sustaining a productive workforce. Prepare for the year-end rush by explaining expectations well in advance.

Create cooperative opportunities by allowing associates to work together to choose holiday schedules. Remain fair, consistent, and clear.

Does your workforce have yet to master the collaboration required to choose their own holiday schedules? Choose a “first pick” method and stick with it. Offer long-term incentives by giving priority to those with seniority, or promote a welcoming atmosphere by offering first choice to the newest members of your staff, or simply even the playing field by rotating time off equally.

Whichever the method, be sure to communicate ahead of time and try to remain as flexible as possible. If the season simply doesn’t allow time off, offer breaks earlier in the year or create a window of vacation opportunity during less-demanding periods of time.

6. Melt the Chill with Comfort Food

Host a potluck. Cater a holiday party. Take your staff out for soup and sandwiches.

Food generates conversation and relaxation, especially when combined with an hour away from the desk. Grab some cookies, bagels, a basket of fruit, or a tray of veggies with dip. The busier the day, the less likely your staff will have the chance to grab time for lunch. Reserve at least one hour out of the busy season to take a break and enjoy the delicious offerings of the season.


Take time to acknowledge the hard work of your employees and reassure them the year end rush won’t last forever. Appreciation, kindness, and a few well-executed versions of the above-mentioned efforts are surefire ways to ignite a chilly, overworked staff. Enjoy the holiday season by giving back to those who give to you year-round. Melting away stress is easy when everyone, including the boss, is smiling.

Image: iStockphoto

About The Author

Jennifer Ludwigsen is a freelance writer with a colorful variety of skills gained from her time as a U.S. Army medic, mother of two, and ingenious life-lesson learner. She currently works for the largest medical group in Illinois in multiple administrative capacities, serving both the executive team and the vast practitioner and patient population. Jennifer has leveraged technology in multiple facets of her life to enhance her corporate day job, evening parenting job, and late-evening freelancing job. Connect with Jennifer on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website, Concentrated Creativity.