The holidays are fast approaching; and some employees will have to work. This can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.
Halloween hasn’t even passed yet, and the stores are putting out their Christmas displays. At the same time, the travel industry is promoting deals for Thanksgiving. Like it or not, some employees will have to work on the holidays. But to avoid conflict, damage to morale, and frustrations, plan ahead, communicate, listen, and promote fairness.
Among the key steps to take:
- Rotate holiday work schedules. Discuss holiday scheduling well in advance so there are no unpleasant surprises and no one finds themselves in the position of having to cancel plans late in the game. Try to create an equitable system of determining who will work on holidays, such as rotating Christmas and Thanksgiving coverage. It’s okay to partly base holiday coverage on longevity, but this can cause hard feelings and lead to turnover for newer employees; so find ways to make it fair. For instance, maybe workers with 10 years or more with the organization only have to work holidays every other year.
- Identify those individuals who actually like to work holidays. Believe it or not, you might have some workers who actually enjoy working holidays. An employee survey can help you find those individuals. Of course, it’s important not to take advantage of them. Don’t expect them to work every holiday and not give them something in return for their sacrifice. For example, you can give them their birthday or Mother’s/Father’s Day off.
- Create a festive atmosphere. Give workers – especially those who will be working holidays – a say in things like decorations, holiday meals/snacks, and events (e.g., cookie exchange, live holiday music, ugly holiday sweater party).
- Recognize all holidays but don’t make participation mandatory. Find ways to recognize holidays such as Hannukah and Kwanza. Make holiday celebrations open to everyone, but don’t make it mandatory to attend parties or other events.
- Offer some form of compensation. Consider overtime pay or bonuses, gift cards, special gifts, or extra time off after the holidays to show appreciation for the sacrifices workers are making.
- Remember families. Holidays are about family for many people, so consider ways to involve spouses and kids. Think about events like visits with Santa, family holiday photos, a kids’ holiday party, and/or inviting family in on Thanksgiving for a dessert party. Enable staff to share meals with residents who don’t have or can’t be with their families during the holidays.
- Be positive. Instead of focusing on how hard it is to work over the holidays, stress the positive, for instance, how much it means to residents to have friendly, familiar people around on these special days. Express your appreciate in both words and deeds. Having some management onsite on holidays, helping out and joining in on the celebrations, also can boost morale.
Long-time certified nursing assistant Karren Ganschinietz, suggests to facility leaders, “Step back and look at the whole picture. You can’t tell your teams that health care is 24/7 and expect employees to be there when you’re not.” She also recommends asking individual staff if they prefer to ask Thanksgiving, Christmas day, Christmas night, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and so on, so everyone has some say in the holidays they work.
The key to all this is fairness. Employees want to be treated fairly and know that holiday schedules aren’t grounded in favoritism or punishments. At the same time, when employees must work holidays, let them know you appreciate their sacrifices.