5 Tips for Working Human During the Holidays

December 21, 2021 Aaron Kinne

Celebrate Christmas Tree Ornament“The holidays shouldn’t be a time to recharge,” according to organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant. “They should be a time to celebrate.”

And while Grant’s point is that an organization’s culture shouldn’t leave its employees burned out at the end of the year, his advice serves as a timely reminder for each of us to unplug and kick back during the holiday season.

With this advice as a backdrop, here are five tips that will help you work more human during this special time of the year – while celebrating the humanity that unites us all.

1. Make vacation time your time.

How often have you or a loved one felt the need to “just check in and see what’s going on at work”? Seems innocent enough, right? But the reality is that vacation time is your time – and you should own it 100%. It’s a time to be present with family and friends, and not get distracted by happenings at work.

This is especially true for managers who might be tempted to send “just a quick email” to members of their team. In doing so, they’ve invaded the employees’ rightful vacation space and compelled them to respond. After all, what employee won’t feel the need to answer a manager’s email as soon as possible?

Want a bottom-line reason why it’s important to disconnect from work during the holidays? Check out the research findings reported by bestselling author and happiness expert Shawn Achor in his Harvard Business Review article – findings that I believe still ring true. As he notes, “Taking a vacation can actually increase the likelihood of getting a raise or a promotion.”

2. Celebrate diversity.

In her article, “How to Make Holiday Celebrations More Inclusive,” Dori Meinert, managing editor of SHRM’s HR Magazine observes, “Developing a greater awareness of which religious holidays are important to employees — and how people prefer to celebrate (or not) — can have significant benefits for workers and employers alike.”

Hers is a reminder that the holiday season represents a wide range of celebrations – from a diverse spectrum of cultures and religions. It’s a perfect time for individuals – and organizations – to celebrate what makes us different, while embracing our common humanity. Organizations can seize upon this special time of year to bring the entire work community together. In the end, it’s all about sharing joyous occasions among a work family. “People intrinsically seek joy,” notes Alex Liu in Harvard Business Review (HBR). “And joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience.”

3. Make gratitude the center of your season.

“Whether you’re giving thanks or accepting them, gratitude binds us together with the good work we do for each other,” notes HR expert John Rossheim in his Workhuman® post. He went on to share eleven reasons why we should let “gratitude reign” during the holidays. According to Rossheim, gratitude promotes initiatives, inspires the prosocial, engenders responsibility, and – perhaps most relevant – wards off burnout.

He concludes by reminding us that, “The best way to infuse gratitude and appreciation into an organization – and reap its benefits – is through peer-to peer employee recognition.”

In fact, gratitude is such a powerful tool for both humans and their organizations that we made an entire podcast mini-series around it. Check it out here.

4. Give back.

One of the most meaningful ways to work human during the holidays is to give back to your community – either individually or in conjunction with your team members. For instance, consider spearheading a team-building event at work, where you and your peers raise money or collect items for a charity. I can tell you from firsthand experience with my Workhuman peers… this is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating things you can do at this time of the year.

And don’t forget to give back to your co-workers. Derek Irvine, Workhuman’s SVP strategy and consulting, suggests in his post for HRZone, that you can “help an overloaded colleague who might be trying to juggle looking after kids with conference calls with some of their work.” Likewise, Workhuman evangelist Lynne Levy advises reaching out to a co-worker who is struggling and might need a mentor.

5. Look to the future.

Why do I include planning as a way to work human during the holidays? Because it’s about possibilities. Potential. Setting goals. And as such, it is an energizing and uplifting force that will get you and your team members excited and engaged as they look ahead to the coming months. As Lynne Levy notes in her Workhuman post, “Really engage employees in the [planning] process and take into account how they want to grow and develop.” She advised managers to break large, overarching mileposts into smaller “micro-goals” that are more digestible and manageable. And, she reminds us, as employees achieve their micro-goals, “make sure to recognize their success and growth.”

So there you have it –five tips for working human during this holiday season. Make it a time to be truly present with your family and friends, while celebrating the humanity that unites us all.

We at Workhuman wish you a happy holiday season, and best wishes in 2022.

About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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