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13 Ways to De-Stress Holiday Vacations

It comes as no surprise that holiday vacations generate a lot of stress. Hectic travel plans, added expenses and family reunions can take the joy out of the holidays and return people to work more frazzled than when they left.


For many people, these are paid vacations, and managers need to make sure the company gets a good return on its investment. Employees need to come back well rested and ready to maximize their productivity.


When managers de-stress holiday vacations, absenteeism goes down along with workplace accidents. Quality control improves, and health care costs are reduced. Good stress control contributes to improved productivity and the bottom line.


Here are 13 ways you can de-stress the holidays and boost your net profit.


1. Avoid announcing job changes or new responsibilities just before employees leave for vacation. The amount of new work they’ll get done on the before the vacation is minimal, and they’ll have no one to talk with about their concerns while they are away. Wait until they return to break the good news.


2. Throughout the year, make announcements about ways to save money for vacations, and make sure your bank or credit union helps employees budget for this large annual expense. It’s easy to overestimate how much people know about simple financial management.


The extra attention can also help employees with their overall financial stability as they save more and reduce debt. It’s tough for employees to give 100 percent productivity while worrying about family money problems.


The announcements, training and special arrangements will also help employees recognize your interest in their welfare—good relationship-building and stress-reducing opportunities.


3. Have your front line managers and payroll clerks double-check for errors just before the holidays. Even if payroll has an excellent record, double-checking will prevent the inevitable stress-causing payroll error.


Dealing with bounced checks or overdrawn credit cards while on vacation is no way to reduce stress. If payroll is unwilling to verify records company-wide, maybe they will at least verify the records of your team members.


4. Consider distributing the job responsibilities of the vacationing employee to other team members during employee absences so they don’t return to overflowing inboxes. Just imagine what it would be like to return after your own vacation and find an empty inbox with plenty of time to catch up with voice mail and e-mail.


Treat this administrative workload as you would any other component of teamwork, and the entire team help de-stress the holidays.


5. Provide in-house orientations on how to organize for stress-free vacations. Don’t assume that everyone is skilled in planning vacations.


Arrange for local travel agents and travel planners to conduct seminars and work with employees who usually have to do all the work themselves.


6. Negotiate some preplanned vacation packages for employees. Many travel agencies have three- to five-day packages that can be customized.


Refer employees to specific travel agents who can assist with planning and expenses. Some agents and travel clubs will gladly do a presentation for the employees at your company.


7. Let everyone know the best ways to research travel expenses on the Internet—reliable discount sites, accommodations and destinations.


Negotiate additional discounts for company employees—another great opportunity to provide a free seminar. Invite family members. Make it a festive occasion.


8. Allow an extra half-day or full day to prepare for vacations. These preparations may include house and pet arrangements, servicing cars and buying tires, purchasing luggage and special apparel, making arrangements for children.


These distractions consume a good part of the last day at the office anyway. The expense to the company is negligible compared to the benefit to the employee—and the good will you build for management.


Large corporations might find some middle ground to get the benefit of giving extra time off without fracturing the company’s finances.


9. Counsel individuals two weeks before their vacation to make sure they get those job priorities out of the way. Ask them to tell you what must be done, and then monitor their efforts. They don’t need their last day at work filled with stress-filled deadlines.


10. Plan for the return of each employee by scheduling time to discuss individual vacations (relationship building) and to catch them up on what transpired during their absence. Keep a log of things you’ll tell them about so you’ll have a meaningful discussion—something more than “everything went as usual.”


If you work side by side with employees, this communication can be a part of your daily conversation. Either way, employees will be impressed with your personal interest and the fact that you stopped to catch up on things that are important to their families.


11. If you know the employee’s destination and have emergency contact information, do something special like sending their family a note to be delivered to their room. Postcards, flowers and fruit baskets build a lot of family loyalty.


12. Let employees have some input on the vacation’ schedule. Flexibility in scheduling a vacation does a lot to relieve stress.


13. Require one- to two-week vacation periods for high-stress jobs instead of allowing one- to two-day segments, which many people prefer. High-pressure jobs require one week to leave the job behind and relax, and the second week to rest and enjoy their time away from the office.


Remember, the purpose of the vacation is twofold: to benefit individuals and to improve their productivity. Since the company is paying for this break, it needs to be structured to benefit both parties.


Even if you object to some of these stress-busting ideas, you’ll want to find some way to get the value out of the company’s investment in the paid vacations. Try these strategies or get your own, and observe whether employees perform better after returning from stress-free vacations.


About The Author

Dale Collie is an author, speaker, former US Army Ranger, CEO, and professor at West Point. His McGraw-Hill book, Winning Under Fire: Turn Stress into Success the US Army Way takes strategies from the battlefield into the boardroom and beyond.


A Purple Heart recipient, Collie has succeeded in both the Army and the corporate world through his management and leadership strategies. In addition, Fast Company named Collie one of America’s Fast 50 innovative leaders.


For more on his book, speeches and seminars, visit www.couragebuilders.com.

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