December 4, 2013

HR Tips to Keep the Holidays Sane

stress at the holidays has gotten to this woman

There’s nothing like the holidays for combining fun and good cheer with turkey-sized helpings of stress and exhaustion. So how can we keep stress levels low and the management headaches minimal this time of year? Here are some ideas for limiting holiday-caused hassles within the office environment.

1. Review and remind employees about holiday policies ahead of time, and stay consistent with your practice’s employee handbook.

  • Make sure employees know exactly when the office will be closed, all relevant scheduling details, and when/how they can use time off, especially around paid holidays. These details, most of which should also be addressed in your medical or dental employee manual, make planning easier and will limit the last-minute questions or problems you have to field.
  • Clearly communicate that attendance at any office parties or holiday events is not mandatory.
  • As much as possible, schedule any parties or activities well in advance.
  • Don’t try to make changes to any holiday bonus policies at the last minute.

2. Be sensitive to those who celebrate in different ways and to different extents.

We all know not everyone celebrates the same holidays or in the same way, but it’s also important to keep in mind that some people don’t celebrate at all, or find the holidays depressing.

  • Non-participation in your office party, or during any seasonal volunteer or charity event, must not be penalized in any way. Employees have the right not to take part, and may have a number of reasons for their decision (time, cost, stress, family, etc.).
  • Likewise, employees may or may not wish to participate in company gift-giving for a variety of reasons – make sure it’s optional and that there is no undue pressure to take part.

3. As always, keep things religion-neutral, both in the office and at any company-hosted festivities.

  • Keep invitations, decorations and traditions secular.
  • Avoid prayers or other religious overtones at company-sponsored events attended by owners and/or managers.
  • If an employee requests time off for a religious reason, try to accommodate it if possible. Failing to do so can create discord and legal vulnerability.

4. Be aware of the special stresses that come along with this season, and be prepared for all contingencies!

Most of us have a lot to juggle at this time of year: extra family and social obligations, travel and expenses, cold/flu season, short-staffed offices, and numerous other burdens. Any one of these can take their toll.

  • If any employee coaching or management decisions are called for, make sure your actions are well-documented and in accordance with your overall policies.
  • Remember that a great holiday attitude starts with you! Doctors and management have influence when it comes to the mood of the office. Try to stay positive even if you’re stressed yourself.

5. And finally, follow the tips we provided last year on the office holiday party.

It can’t be stressed enough, if you’re planning on throwing an office party, click HERE to go read that article right away. Those pointers will help lessen your risk before, during, and after your company celebration. Here are a few highlights:

  • If alcohol will be involved, hold your holiday party off-premises. Consider scheduling it on a weeknight and limiting its duration. Make transportation readily available.
  • Limit drinking and its effects: use drink tickets and/or stick to wine and beer. Serve plenty of food, and make sure non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
  • Make it clear that workplace policies remain in effect during your party. Communicate party policies in advance.
  • No mistletoe! Find some other way to deck the halls: mistletoe invites harassment.

By the way, keep in mind that office parties are not a one-size-fits-all thing. If your company doesn’t wish to serve alcohol, or if you’ve had trouble generating enthusiasm for holiday events in the past, consider a less time-consuming holiday breakfast or lunch instead.

With a little extra planning it’s usually possible to achieve seasonal success without much if any extra stress. As always, you and any other office supervisors or senior administrators should provide good examples and stay on the lookout for problems – noticing any workplace issue early is crucial to keeping it small and dealing with it effectively. We hope these tips help to ensure that your holiday smiles stay right-side-up this season.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature, and is not intended to replace good counsel about a specific issue with either your attorney or your favorite HR expert. Have a question about a specific circumstance, or how your dental or medical office procedure manual needs to back up your holiday-related policies? Call CEDR anytime at 866-414-6056.


Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.


  1. Avatar says

    I was so happy to see that you included a segment in this article on being sensitive to others who celebrate in different ways and to different extents. Imagine that almost every workplace develops holiday traditions like gift-exchanges and get-togethers that seem totally natural to them, but may be foreign to a new employee. Allowing everyone to participate or refrain from participation without negative attention would make the workplace a much more enjoyable place for them to be.

  2. Paul EdwardsPaul Edwards says

    Thanks Luke….. Most offices have close teams and are used to things being how they have always been. the article is a small reminder to take a step back. Not only is it the nice thing to do but at times, it’s the legal thing to do.

Leave a Reply

Please note: CEDR Solutions specializes in providing expert HR support to owners and operators of independently owned medical and dental practices.