It’s that time of year again when the festive music gets piped into stores and holiday decorations adorn windows and doors. People everywhere try to get into the holiday spirit. They give generously to charities, purchase gifts for friends and family members, and look to the new year as a chance to set new goals and chase new dreams.

If you manage employees who have to work during the holiday season, you know that not everybody feels the festive spirit. Employees who work in retail, at gyms, in restaurants, and in hotels and leisure establishments can feel especially down during the holiday season. Although it is the busiest time of year for many of these businesses, employees are unhappy about having to miss holiday gatherings with friends and family.

As a manager, you care about your employees’ health and mental well-being. You want them to enjoy both the holiday season and the increased business. In addition, with so many added customers and clients during this time of year, you need your employees to be focused. That means you need them happy and motivated in order to offer the best service possible.

Tips to motivate your employees

Though it probably isn’t possible to give all of your employees their dream schedules during the holidays, there are some things that you can do to ease the burden of working while it seems as if all of their friends and family are celebrating without them. The culture of the business and the relationships their colleagues form the basis of ways that you can motivate employees over the holidays. Let’s look at several ways to keep your employees inspired and engaged during the holiday season.

1. Recognition

Increase your public recognition of employees who are doing a great job. You probably already have an employee of the month program or award, so build on that during the holidays and celebrate a new person every day. Be specific about what kinds of things that employee has done well and make the recognition fun. For example, if one of the room cleaners at your hotel helped a family of guests locate a missing item, give that person a “Best Detective” award.

2. Pamper Them

You might already offer your employees perks like free snacks or extra breaks during busy times, but consider new ways to pamper the people who keep your business going during the holidays. Some businesses hire a masseuse and give their employees complimentary chair massages in the break room. Other companies buy gifts or fill stockings for the children of their employees. Still other companies give out gift cards to nice restaurants or movie theaters so that their employees can still enjoy their off time during the holiday season.

3. Feed Them

Holiday traditions often revolve around food. When employees have to work during important family gatherings, they may feel upset or frustrated. Many businesses feed their employees during the holidays. This includes bringing in a large, catered lunches and dinners and giving employees time to eat and rest during their shifts. Some companies even hold their own Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners for employees. This shows your team how much you appreciate them and lets them participate in some of the classic food-related traditions.

4. Game-ify Sales Goals

Keep your employees’ minds off of what other people are doing during the holidays by making it fun to come to work. One way to do this is to make a game of sales goals. To do this, let your employees know about hourly or daily targets you’d like to hit. For example, if you run a restaurant and you would like to see dessert sales increase, you might tell the wait staff that the first person to sell five desserts can pick his or her shift for the next day. Or, if you work in retail, you might set a team goal of signing up fifteen people for the store’s credit card. When that goal is reached, someone on the team gets to throw a pie in the face of the manager, which might be you.

5. Arrange Charitable Activities

One way to build better engagement and motivation during the holidays for your employees is to engage in collective giving. Even though you may be having your busiest time of the year, it will mean a lot to your employees to show that you are willing to take time off to give back to the community. Schedule your employees to do a shift the local food bank together, walk dogs at a shelter, visit a retirement community, or read books to students in a nearby school. Helping your community alongside their colleagues will help employees feel the holiday spirit.

6. Schedule Breaks

During slower times, you probably let employees take their breaks when they feel like it. But it can be hard for them to find times during the holidays to take a break because they’re so busy. Use a scheduling program to help pre-plan employee breaks. This shows employees that you are thinking about them ahead of time and making sure that they have time to regroup during their shifts. Hold them accountable for taking these breaks so that they rest up and can be their best for your customers.

7. Encourage Vacations

You may not be able to approve vacation time during the holidays, but you should let your employees know that you want them to take vacation time either before or after the holiday season. When you encourage them to take their vacations, you are letting your employees know that you care about their mental health. Vacation scheduled after the holidays are something for your employees to look forward to and can help them navigate the stress of the season.

8. Be Understanding

Along with the holidays comes the worst weather of the year (in many places), terrible traffic, shorter days, flu season, and a whole host of other factors that can make it difficult to be fully engaged at work. As a manager, it is important for you to be at your most understanding during this time of year. If an employee is late or is behaving in a way that is out of character, talk to him or her about what is going on. You’ll likely find out that some outside circumstance is causing the problem. Help your employee figure out ways to overcome the issue without being judgmental or overly harsh.

9. Evaluations

Employees are always looking for honest feedback. They want to do their best, and that doesn’t change during the holiday season. Offer employees frequent evaluations during the holidays so they can hear your appreciation for their hard work and your gratitude for their commitment to the business during a time that many are focused on family and friends. Frequent evaluations during this time also allow you to fix minor problems quickly so that they don’t become stressful or impact the employee’s frame of mind and performance.

Take Aways

For some, the holidays are a particularly happy time of year. For others, the holidays are stressful. Working during the holidays is never easy. As a manager, you understand what your employees are going through because you are right there with them. Keep the atmosphere at work fun and focused on the great job your employees are doing. And offering free food doesn’t hurt either.