A holiday is typically a day for rest and relaxation — and with the 2021 holiday season coming up, it’s more crucial than ever for companies to help their employees find the time, space, and tools they need to decompress after a particularly stressful year.

As we approach the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout is on the rise. According to a recent survey from Indeed, two-thirds of workers say the pandemic has worsened employee burnout. The same study shows that more and more people, across all age groups, are reporting increased levels of stress and burnout compared to the previous year. There may even be a gender divide as well. The Hartford’s July 2021 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey found 68% of female U.S. workers now report experiencing burnout at work, compared to 52% of male workers.

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Source: Indeed.

Employees are facing stress from all sides: worries about work, health, and finances. In the same study from Indeed, 27% of respondents credited their stress to being unable to unplug from work, 33% were worried about paying monthly bills, and 25% were stressed about health concerns. Luckily, there are things employers can do to help.

Evolving the Employee Experience in 2021

Why it’s important to show employee gratitude this holiday season

Work plays a major role in employees’ lives, and employers can implement a number of measures to help their staff through this challenging time. As you review your employee policies, resources, and benefits for the year, here are some reasons why it’s important to prioritize employee gratitude right now.

Invest in employee appreciation to boost employee retention

Burnout doesn’t only affect productivity and overall employee wellness — it can lead to employees quitting en masse, leaving their current jobs for greener pastures. With “The Great Resignation” well underway, companies that don’t show they put employees first will lose them to companies that do.

Today, a Gartner survey reports that 91% of HR leaders are increasingly concerned about employee turnover, and that nearly 50% of employees hired over the last 12 months had two additional job offers. The job market is heating up, and job-seekers have options.

There’s a “cascade effect” to resignations as well. As humans, we’re social creatures – and when our friends and colleagues start leaving their jobs, it signals that we can, too. A recent article from BBC quotes Will Felps, a management professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, “A core idea behind our turnover-contagion research is that people are herd animals. We take our cues from others. It’s like in the wildlife documentaries, where a herd of water buffalo will bunch up at the edge of a river they are collectively considering crossing. They’ll wait for a few brave ones to jump in and make it across before doing so themselves.”

Not only can resignations spark a cascade effect, lower overall morale and productivity, they can have a real financial cost for companies. According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can add up to one and a half to two times the employee's annual salary. That doesn’t include the additional time spent recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees.

Boost morale to prepare for the holiday rush

The holiday season at the end of the year is a busy period for many industries, due to an increase in sales, customer service needs, or even planning for the year ahead. Industries from hospitality to retail and more are expecting a major increase in sales and foot traffic. Are you making sure your employees feel supported, rested, and ready for this busy season?

Additionally, with the current global port and supply chain issues due to the pandemic, this holiday season will have another layer of complexity. Book sellers, Costco, grocery stores, and other retailers are all already anticipating major supply chain challenges, resulting in stock shortages, a tsunami of customer service calls, and other unexpected issues in operating business as usual during the holiday rush. Boosting morale and increasing retention through well thought-out employee appreciation initiatives can help employees deal with the surplus of work leading up to and during the holidays, leaving them better equipped to handle challenges when they appear.

Use employee appreciation to support employees emotionally

The holidays can be stressful for employees on a personal level as well. Not only is there the typical pressure to see family, we’re still experiencing a pandemic so making decisions about who to see in person, when, and how to get there is an even more fraught process. The delta variant remains a concern, and holiday travel costs are expected to rise, according to The Wall Street Journal — adding a financial squeeze to an already stressful process.

The holidays are also a notoriously difficult time for people experiencing mental health challenges. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), reports that 64% of people with an existing mental illness said that the holidays make their condition worse. This is largely due to high expectations for celebrating holidays, an increase in loneliness and stress, and less time spent outside. While NAMI reports that for the majority of people, the “holiday blues” are luckily temporary, the effects can be serious if they persist long enough. 

Even employees who are handling everything reasonably well may have to contend with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a seasonal depression episode caused by a natural response to spending less time outside and in the sunlight. For all of the fun that comes with celebrating the holidays, winter can also be an incredibly challenging season for many people. Showing gratitude at work can go a long way in helping employees feel like they have a diverse support network in the face of emotional and mental health challenges – leading to a stronger and more resilient staff in the long term.

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Employee appreciation ideas that make a difference

As you develop your company’s game plan for promoting employee wellness over the holiday season, there are a few effective strategies to consider. Keep reading to learn creative ways to show your staff you care — and build a stronger workplace culture in the process.

1. Kickoff the season with a fun Halloween party

Halloween is a great way to start the holiday season without the immense pressure that comes at the very end of the year. Bringing your team together before the stressors really ramp up sets a positive, lighthearted tone for the last quarter. Wearing costumes and encouraging employees to find creative ways to bring the Halloween spirit into the office or over Zoom is fun for your entire team.

To really show your employees they're appreciated while ensuring they don't burn out, consider holding office parties and Halloween events during working hours. The goal of this event is to bring everyone together as a community while respecting your team's personal time. You can reward your employees by giving them a few hours off on Halloween afternoon so they can go trick or treat with their kids or enjoy the festivities with friends. 

Since your team is likely split between working from the office and remotely, addressing both needs is key to successfully kickoff the season. Here are a few ideas to make everyone feel they’re part of a community:

Ideas for Celebrating Halloween remotely:

  • The Costume: A lot of people feel like the essence of Halloween is wearing a costume. Holding a virtual Halloween costume contest is a great way for your team to socialize, come together, and get to know each other. Selecting a theme is always a great option because it helps employees narrow down their costume choices. Encourage your team to get creative and have fun making their costumes.. Award the winner with a Doordash Employee Gift Card to show your staff you appreciate the effort they made to bring the Halloween spirit to life.
  • Pumpkin Carving: Carving pumpkins is an age-old (and very popular) Halloween tradition. With DoorDash for Work, you can have pumpkins sent to the office or your remote employees homes from their nearest grocery store. Then everyone can carve them together as a great seasonal team-building activity. Once everyone has joined in the fun, pictures of everyone’s pumpkin art can be shared internally throughout the organization, and perhaps publish the winning pumpkin on your company's social media platforms once everyone has voted for their favorite.

In-office Ideas for Celebrating Halloween:

  • Trick or treating: Your team members can have bowls of delicious snacks and candy on their desks. A great option is for team members to trick or treat around the office, getting to meet their coworkers, especially those who joined remotely during the pandemic, and learn where everyone’s located now that they’re back in the office. Make sure to offer bags for everyone to take their candy back home as well. If one of your employees forgot to get their store-bought candy, they can easily get some delivered from a grocery store with the help of DoorDash for Work.
  • Hold a Healthy Halloween Lunch: It’s a fact. During the holiday season, people tend to consume significantly more junk food. To counterbalance the poor nutrition that your employees are likely to ingest during the holidays, hold a healthy Halloween lunch. With DoorDash for Work's Group Orders, you can order from numerous restaurants that specialize in nutritious meals. Everyone can pick their individual meal from a restaurant that serves healthy food and get it delivered at the same time so everyone can eat together.

2. Offer Free Delivery to Help Employees Save Time On Errands

Busy is an understatement during the end-of-year holiday season rush. At a time when  37% of the global workforce says their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this, it’s important to offer your employees the support they need and make them feel appreciated. 

In fact, in a recent DoorDash survey 49% of those surveyed said they’ve had at least one work failure, including missing a deadline, a call, or other work matter, due to a need to prep food for themselves or family. And these numbers will likely ramp up even more during the holidays. 

During this challenging time of year, it's important for leaders to find ways to improve morale and promote a sense of employee appreciation. According to a 2019 employee happiness survey, 45% of employees said they link gifts to their value at work. Giving your team an early holiday gift they can use year-round can go a long way. For less than a $100 gift card, you can give your employees free delivery for a full year with DashPass for Work. Instead of waiting for the end of December, give it to them at the start of the Holiday season and make their lives easier when they need it most.

With DashPass for Work, you can help your employees cut down their to-do lists. By giving your team a DashPass membership, they can enjoy $0 delivery and reduced service fees for meals, prescriptions, diapers, or last-minute getting the cranberry sauce they forgot to pick up for their Thanksgiving dinner! This is why Fortune 500 software company, Synopsys, chose DashPass for Work. “It’s difficult for me to have dinner ready for my family on a daily basis. This benefit allows me to order food without worrying,” explained Julie Nelson, an employee at Synopsys.

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3. Encourage leaders to show individual appreciation on an ongoing basis to their team

Showing appreciation to your employees is a crucial part of helping them stay engaged and motivated during the busy holiday season. When employees don’t feel appreciated, it will usually reflect on the quality of their work and productivity. In fact, a recent survey found that 71% of employees aren’t engaged at work; only 19% of them are satisfied with their job, and just 10% look forward to work each day. 

However, 85% of employees surveyed said that being  “meaningfully recognized” by their bosses would inspire them to go above and beyond their basic job duties. While showing your entire team appreciation for a recent goal or project that was completed is great, individual employee appreciation can also go a long way. Even though your team might be divided between working from the office and home, reaching out to staff members individually can make a difference. 

Expressing your message in a card is a timeless classic approach to show employee appreciation. Showing your employees know you care in a written way has been proven to be tremendously effective. In fact, research shows that leaders who wrote letters of appreciation to others resulted in the foundation for a strong, collaborative relationship. A thank you note is ideal to leave on your staff member's in-office desk or mail it to your remote employee's home. 

Another tip to show your team they're appreciated is with a gift card. Who doesn’t enjoy gifts? With DoorDash's Employee Gift Cards, you can include a personalized note and your employee can celebrate by ordering from their favorite restaurant no matter where they are located.

4. Add a stipend for Expensed Meals for employees who have to work overtime over the holidays

Speaking of meals, your employees will likely be working overtime during the holidays. With the logistical issues, customer service is going to be overwhelmed. Additionally, many businesses will also have to solve last-minute supply chain, accounting, and numerous more challenges that come with the holiday season. 

As burnout runs rampant, ensure you’re doing your best to keep your employees healthy and with their head in the game. Even though the human brain is only 2% of our body weight, it's the primary consumer of glucose in the body using 20% of glucose-derived energy. That’s a large percentage for a relatively small part of your body. 

Having a healthy meal as well as a lunch break is a key factor in keeping your team’s energy levels stable and their minds sharp. Take the burden of meal planning, prep, and dishes off the table with free meals if employees work past 7pm. With DoorDash Expensed Meals you can set a food ordering budget for employees to expense meals anytime, anywhere they work. No need for employees to save receipts; meals are automatically expensed to the company account so your team can easily access restaurants for a business lunch and more.

This is why South Carolina Connections Academy, an accredited tuition-free online public school for K-12 students, offered all of their teachers and staff members a flexible spending budget for their virtual lunches and staff meetings. While their employees were working remotely because of the pandemic, offering them Expensed Meals  was their way to show their appreciation for the hard work the team put in every day. Implementing this perk helped keep the staff connected and engaged during long teaching days.

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Get started with holiday meal solutions to feed your team

Keeping your team fueled and feeling appreciated has never been easier than with DoorDash for Work. By making it easy for your team to access food delivery you take a task off their to-do list during this hectic season. This comprehensive meal benefit program will make your employees' lives easier while providing numerous healthy options from over 450,000+ restaurants.

Looking for ways to make your employees feel appreciated this holiday season? Contact us to find out more about purchasing employee appreciation gifts using DoorDash for Work or check out our webinar on how to bring everyone together with festive holiday fun.

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Kristen Van Nest
Kristen Van Nest

Kristen Van Nest is an L.A.-based writer with bylines in Forbes, HuffPost, and VentureBeat to name a few. She specializes in helping B2B tech companies explain the value of their solutions, how they relate to market trends, and strategies businesses can use to grow. In her free time, you can find her ordering in dumplings and writing funny content to make people laugh.