Everybody has to deal with stress at work at one time or another, and that’s often amplified as the year comes to a close. Combine the pressures of meeting end-of-year work objectives with the whirlwind of activity during the holidays, and it’s easy to understand how people can feel burnt out.

This season, that holiday stress at work is exacerbated even more by the coronavirus pandemic. Loved ones may have gotten sick, lost their jobs, or dealt with anxiety or depression. Working from home has left some people feeling isolated and alone. People whose kids are distance learning and partners are also working from home may struggle with the added distractions and responsibilities that come with everyone being stuck at home.

There are many ways to help your employees stay focused and feel supported during this hectic season. It’s especially important to maintain connections with your team while everyone is working from home. It’s especially crucial with your team working from home. Maintain connected so that your employees feel valued and appreciated, not overworked and worn out. Here are some helpful holiday stress tips you can pass on to your team to help them not just survive, but thrive, this holiday season:

I. Anticipate some of the holiday stress factors your employees may be facing

Managing work and home responsibilities requires a delicate balancing act during the holidays, and it’s even trickier when work and home are both in the same place.

Your employees may have extra work to finish. Perhaps they need to meet a deadline or sales goal before the year closes out. They also may need to wrap up loose ends before taking time off during the holiday. Then there are the extra holiday obligations outside of work: gifts to buy, chores to complete, (virtual) events to attend. Your team members may feel overscheduled and overwhelmed, and that stress can spill over into their workdays.

There are other sources of worry, too. Some employees may feel financial stress during the holidays after racking up big credit card bills to buy presents. Others are agonizing about the country’s economic future while coronavirus is still a threat and how it may impact their jobs.

Family relationships can also cause anxiety. Perhaps an employee is hosting their in-laws from out-of-town and has a lot to do before and during the visit. Meanwhile, another employee could be struggling with estrangement from family members, which can be especially tough during this season of togetherness.

If your employees are having trouble managing holiday stress at work, they’re not alone. In a poll, 66% of employees who participated said they felt additional stress at work during the holidays. American Management Association asked its readers to rank their main holiday stressors. The top ones include:

  • Finishing work before the holidays
  • Balancing extra demands at home
  • Interacting with stressed customers


Your team members may not be able to control all the stress factors that enter their lives during the holidays. That said, they can control their response to them. Your employees will suffer if they can’t manage their stress in productive, healthy ways.

II. The damaging effects of stress

Too much stress is dangerous because of the toll it takes on people. It’s exhausting grappling with stress in the heat of the moment, but its cumulative effects can also cause long-range issues with physical and mental health.

Our immediate reaction to stress is the fight-or-flight response. When our brain perceives a threat to safety, the hypothalamus triggers the release of epinephrine hormones from the adrenal glands. These hormones elevate the heart rate, pulse rate, and blood pressure. Breathing becomes more rapid, and there’s a rush of adrenaline as stored blood sugar and fats hit the bloodstream. Once the threat has passed, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands (HPA axis) work together to calm the body.

But what if the stress seems never ending, as it does for many people during this pandemic? If stress is prolonged or constant, even at low levels, the HPA axis won’t function properly. That can cause long-term issues, including anxiety and depression, headaches, heart disease, irregular sleep, weight gain, impaired memory, and digestion problems.

Stress can also exacerbate mental health conditions, especially around the holidays. Data from a National Alliance on Mental Illness survey indicated that 64% of people with a mental illness said the holidays made their condition worse.

That same survey also looked at the impact the “holiday blues” can have on people. The “holiday blues” are defined as short-term mental health issues that, if left unaddressed, can lead to clinical depression and anxiety. In the survey:

  • About 75% of the people said the holidays made them feel sad
  • 68% were dealing with financial worries
  • 66% experienced loneliness
  • 63% felt too much pressure
  • 57% suffered from unrealistic expectations

Stress is obviously a pervasive problem, and your employees aren’t immune to it. Because of the immediate and long-term issues presented by chronic stress, it’s important to monitor your employees for signs that they may need help and offer them strategies for coping with holiday stress at work.

III. Signs of stress to watch for in your employees

Checking in regularly with your team members is one of the best things you can do as a leader at your company, especially when they’re working from home, and you don’t see them on a day-to-day basis. This gives your employees the opportunity to share concerns and problems. During regular check-ins,you can see for yourself how they’re navigating the stressors of the holiday season.

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Behavior changes can alert you to a potential problem with stress. An employee may turn dismissive or rude, be quick to anger, or show irritation. Everyone can have a bad day once in a while, but stress-related behavior shifts are noticeable over a longer period of time.

Stressed employees may look different, too. One sign of chronic stress is a disheveled, even slovenly, appearance. Even though working from home means more casual attire, team members should still look like they’re following proper hygiene. If a well-groomed employee suddenly looks more unkempt, it could indicate they’re dealing with stress overload.

Employees dealing with holiday stress at work may start forgetting to complete simple tasks. They could also have a hard time completing thoughts due to poor concentration. You may also notice a corresponding drop in their work performance.

Complaints of fatigue, sleeplessness, or feeling out of control are also red flags. These stress symptoms can also affect job performance and motivation; the employee may even miss work as a result.

In addition to touching base with your employees regularly, encourage coworkers to keep an eye out for each other. They may be attuned to a colleague’s changes in behavior or attitude, even during Zoom meetings. And always keep the lines of communication open. It allows your team members to share any concerns they may have, and you can offer holiday stress tips they may find useful.

IV. How to help your employees manage holiday stress at work

There are several ways you can reach out to your employees and share stress-busting solutions. Try Slack, email, your company’s internal communications or social channels, team meetings, or individual video calls—or use a mix of all of the above. If you’re looking for ideas, try some of the following:

1. Encourage your employees to get moving.

Introduce restorative breaks during the work day for meditation, walking, yoga, or other physical activity. The endorphins released by exercise are great stress busters. Pay for apps or streaming services that offer workouts they can do while working from home.

2. Enforce sick day policies.

When your employees are ill, give them a paid day off. Working from home is not the same as resting, which is necessary for recuperation.

3. Set a game plan as soon as possible.

Department leads and managers should take a hard look at projects and deadlines due during the holidays. Keep everything that is attainable and time-sensitive. Push off the rest until the new year.

4. As a next step, organize your team.

Call a video meeting and share upcoming deadlines with your employees and discuss their involvement in each project. Help your team members prioritize their tasks. Where needed, re-assign duties to lighten the workload. Before the meeting ends, make sure everyone feels the job is doable.

5. Help your employees to eat well.

People may cope with stress by devouring a pint of ice cream or working straight through the day and not eating until dinner. But a well-balanced diet can support employees who are coping with holiday stress at work. Research has found that nutrients such as magnesium, Vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids may minimize the effects of stress on a person’s physical and emotional health. Provide healthy meal solutions with DoorDash for Work products such as Expensed Meals (employees can order food whenever they’d like, whether at home or the office) or DashPass for Work (every order comes with $0 delivery and reduced service fees). If you’re back in the office, stock the break room with nutritious snacks and plan DoorDash Group Orders from restaurants specializing in healthy menu items.

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6. Promote wellness whenever possible.

This is a perfect time to utilize the services of your employee wellness program. Provide vouchers for free flu shots, send out health tips of the day on Slack, or have a wellness coach offer a webinar to your employees on staying healthy during the holidays.

7. Offer financial counseling services.

Extra holiday expenses can be budget crunchers. Schedule a webinar with a credit counselor or financial advisor, or give employees the opportunity to call a money expert and discuss their budgetary issues during a one-on-one session.

8. Providing mental health services is key.

Confidential counseling, whether in person, on the phone, or in a video chat, is vital. Remind your team members about these services and provide the necessary contact information, so it’s easily accessible.

9. Lend a helping hand.

Send an email with links to assistance programs your company offers its employees to help reduce stress in their lives. It can include referrals for child and elder care, identity theft protection, legal services, and more.

10. Be flexible on scheduling.

Everyone has a lot going on. Give your employees a couple of hours off if they need to take a sick child to the doctor, finish their holiday shopping, or pick up their parents at the airport. This restores some work/life balance and reduces the stress of trying to juggle it all. Alternatively, give everyone on your team a half-day off to complete their holiday to-do list.

11. Make life easier during the holidays.

Give your team members the ease and convenience of a DoorDash Employee Gift Card. It will be a welcome relief at the end of those busy days when the last thing your employees want to do is cook dinner.

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12. Bring in extra support.

If your company makes a big push in sales during the holiday season or has extra deadlines that need to be met, see if your operating budget allows you to hire temporary workers who can take some of the load off your team or offer Expensed Meals when your team has a big meeting to reduce the stress of meal prep.

13. Make holiday activities optional.

Secret Santa may be fun, but for some employees, the financial or social pressure of trying to find the perfect gift for a coworker can be too much. Plan a low-key holiday party via video conference where employees can stay in the comfort of their own home.

14. Spread some holiday cheer.

Make sure your employees know how much you value them. Take some time to show gratitude to your team members with a quick note or small gift.

15. Be a good listener.

Your employees will be more willing to come to you with their worries and stress if you’ve established open and trustworthy lines of communication. Carve out a block of time each day for open office hours. Here, employees can schedule a confidential call or chat with you. You can provide them with necessary resources—and they may feel better just having someone to talk to.

Let DoorDash for Work help you manage the holidays at your company. Our meal solutions are easy to order and manage, which means less stress for you, too. Whether they’re working from home or at the office, contact us today to learn more about how our products benefit your employees.

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