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Silly Sweaters Aside, Workplace Holidays Will Be Different This Year

The holiday season will be much different in 2020, meaning that managers and HR staff need to potentially rethink policies on time off and staff get-togethers in an era of Zoom and working from home.

“It’s still super important for companies to do something in terms of community building and bringing employees together,” HealthKick CEO Erika Zauner told HR Dive.

Perhaps the most important move is for leaders to check in with staff more often to gauge their stress, anxiety and mood. Many of the practices established at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic may have slowly been swept aside, but with a traditionally stressful holiday season being supercharged by the events of this year, and many celebrating without family and loved ones, it’s especially important to open the lines of communication.

Remote work burnout is real — a poll conducted on behalf of the radio program Marketplace found a quarter of employers have given workers additional time off during the pandemic — and likely to be worse during the winter. Some companies have even instituted mandatory recharge days and shut down the office to make sure employees were taking a needed break.

While attitudes have changed this year, traditionally, American workers have been reluctant to take the days off they’re provided: a study in 2019 by Mental Health America found 55% of workers feared they’d be punished if they took a mental health day.

Many companies and firms have also tried to show gratitude for work during a difficult year by holding virtual events, repurposing money spent on holiday events for gifts and shared experiences.

One of the best gifts this year might be time off. Due to a variety of circumstances, including canceled travel plans and simply having less to do, employees are planning to take less time off; a survey by isolved, an HR software firm, found that 38% of employees plan to take less time off this holiday season. Employers can also look to provide additional flexibility for a still-hectic time of the year, including more flexible time, shifting meeting times and subsidizing child care expenses to help parents and caregivers.

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