Neelam Kaul – Global Leadership Coach

Christmas is a time of relaxation and celebration. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, however for many city workers I have come across, it is often a great source of stress. According to experts more people become depressed or anxious during the holiday period than any other time of the year.

The reality is that many city workers feel exhausted, stressed, report a lack of motivation and feel hungover during most of this period. It can be difficult to maintain motivation with end of year deadlines and major distractions at this time of the year.

Employees seem to really feel the additional stress. This can be from being overwhelmed by responsibilities, unrealistic deadlines to finish of projects, colleagues taking leave before year end, demanding clients and office parties. All leaving you with even less time for anything.

Employers also note that productivity declines in the weeks before the Christmas holidays. This maybe from carefree and relaxed employees getting into the festive spirit but unfortunately a large part of it is from burnout and not festive cheer.

Below are a few tips for employers and employees to help you avoid being “Stressed In The City” over the festive period:


  • As an employer you can allow your team to remote work and have more autonomy over their work schedule especially at this time of year. This saves time commuting in and out of work when they can use that time to work or run personal errands. This helps them cope with the demands of the festive season.
  • If your Christmas party is on a weekday then consider giving staff a few hours to recover so they can come into work later but be productive while they are in the office. Relaxing the dress code is always welcome.
  • Offer flexible holiday schedules so people can take off time when they need for their holiday preparations and celebrations. Another option is to let employees carry forward holidays rather than the traditional “use or lose” policy of 31st December.
  • Make end of year goals realistic for your team. Be mindful that you are not overloading your team unnecessarily when some things can wait until January.
  • Make a point of communicating with your team and find out how they are coping as they wrap up things for year end. Even ask them if they do actually want to participate in Secret Santa! (As that seems to cause an additional headache for many!)
  • Give bonuses early for holiday shopping.
  • Offer a shopping day between November to January.
  • Show appreciation for all your employees, especially those who work during the holiday period.
  • Give every employee a gift



Plan and Prioritise

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve, set realistic goals and strip your to-do list.
  • Having unrealistic deadlines only adds to the stress of this busy period. Look at your to do list? Can some tasks wait? Prioritise and focus on one thing at a time or group similar tasks together.
  • Schedule 10 minute slots every few days to declutter your desk or inbox. This will give you a sense of control and help you upon your return after the holidays.

Minimize Distractions

  • Minimize email and phone distractions by turning off notifications and checking at set times. Even book yourself an empty meeting room where you can focus on tasks without interruptions.
  • Make sure you allow realistic time frames for tasks. Do not make back to back plans and be careful not to underestimate how long tasks take or you will soon find yourself drowning in commitments.

Learn to say “No”

  • Learn to say “No”. If you do not have time to commit to meetings, projects or provide your input make it clear. Consider making a counter-offer and compromise. It is important to set boundaries and manage expectations but still be seen as reasonable and approachable.

Health & Wellbeing

  • Take breaks to recharge and replenish your energy levels. Being away from your desk helps collect thoughts and clear your head so you can focus better when you return.
  • Exercise where possible, eat well and try to reduce caffeine/alcohol that will only stimulate the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Get a good amount of sleep

Finally make a conscious effort to unplug and switch off once you have put on your “Out of Office”.

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