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How to Reduce Employee Stress During the Holidays

By: Holly Edwards Posted on November 19, 2018

The holidays can be an exciting time for your business, since more reservations and events mean more revenue. But, with the holiday season comes added stress — with your employees sometimes feeling the brunt of it.

Often, they’re tasked with working longer hours and picking up more shifts to accommodate patrons and ensure your restaurant or event space meets its holiday sales goals.

How do you reduce employee stress during this busy time? We chatted with JoJo Hill-Alto, assistant general manager of Bar Mercado in Atlanta, Georgia, to find out how she keeps her staff happy during the holiday season.

Want to listen to JoJo’s full interview? Click play below!

Take time to celebrate

Burnout is common during the holidays. When your staff is trying to get everything done day in and day out, it can be hard to take a break. JoJo emphasizes the importance of celebrating the little wins and giving back to your employees during the holidays.

“One thing we do to bring everyone together is have a family meal [during the busy holiday season],” says JoJo. “One of our chefs prepares a meal, and everyone takes a break — the chefs stop cooking, servers stop working. We all sit down for about 30 minutes and just chat about what’s going on in their day-to-day lives — school, upcoming events, recent vacations. It’s a way for us to connect to our staff, relax and spend some one-on-one time with them.”

How to reduce employee stress during the holidays

Focus on team-building activities

You don’t want your employees to feel resentful against one another or like they’re carrying the weight of your holiday business all by themselves. Team-building exercises help remind them that you’re all in this together.

One way that JoJo helps her employees work together during the holidays is through teaching.

“We’ll assign every server one menu item — like a wine, cocktail, spirit, or something from our food menu — and they get together with our chefs, bar managers, or sommeliers, and they get information about it,” she explains. “They then teach other staff members about the region, the ingredients, and cooking methods. It’s a way for them to connect with each other and hold each other accountable. It allows them to respect each other and grow together as a team.”

Related Guide: How to Prepare for Holiday Event Sales

Hire additional seasonal employees

Hiring short-term employees to help you manage the holiday rush at your restaurant or event space can take the burden off your full-time staff. The process of looking for seasonal employees is a little different than the normal recruitment process you may be used to.

Keep expectations clear in the job description. Make sure to state that it’s a seasonal job in the title of the posting and list out all the duties you expect the candidate to be able to perform. If possible, include the number of hours and dates they’re expected to work.

You’ll want to hire candidates who are quick learners and have positive attitudes because they’ll be thrown into the deep end during your busy season. Seasonal work is ideal for high school or college students looking to make a little extra cash during the holidays. Don’t forget to ask your current employees for referrals — they may know someone perfect for the job.

How to reduce employee stress during the holidays

Make the most of it

Working in the restaurant or hospitality industry doesn’t offer the luxury of regular work hours, especially during the holidays. Your employees may have to work on days they weren’t scheduled, or even on a holiday like Christmas or New Years Eve. So, it’s important to incentivize and show your appreciation for those going the extra mile.

“Last year on Christmas Eve, we got together and made a feast for everyone that had to work,” JoJo says. “Everyone had such a good time that we decided to make it a tradition. It’s really great and it’s something we didn’t offer during our normal meals. We had candy and decorated tables — we just made it really special for everyone that was spending their Christmas Eve with us.”

Give back through charity work

Did you know that volunteering can help counteract the effects of stress, anxiety, and even depression? You only have to dedicate a few hours or a day to give back to your community, and the benefits are endless.

Volunteer opportunities can range from helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity to donating time to your local animal shelter. When all is said and done, it really pays to be a business that gives back — for you and for your community.

“I’d really like us to get involved in the community in some type of way,” says JoJo. “Volunteering is really important to me personally. It’s a great way to get to know people in your community, and also let them know that you care and that you’re present. I’ve been trying to find some local farms or a school we can link up to, or some way to get our staff involved and get them excited about giving back.”

How to reduce employee stress during the holidays

Listen to your employees

This one may sound simple, but truly listening to your staff members and what they have to say can go a long way.

“Make sure you’re touching base with your employees,” says JoJo. “If someone seems off, we pull them aside and say, ‘Hey, is everything ok? I know you had a big test, how did it go?’ I think staying connected and really listening to what your staff has to say make all the difference. People are more willing to open up when you talk to them like a person and not always like an employee.”

One last piece of advice that JoJo would give to other restaurant managers who are struggling to maintain employee happiness throughout the holiday season?

“One of the most important things, not just during the holidays but all the time, is to really be present with your staff,” she says. “The holidays can be very stressful at work and at school. Kids are finishing up with finals — they have a lot going on outside of these four walls. So, it’s important to remember that.”

Now that you know how to keep your restaurant or hospitality employees happy throughout the busy holiday season, request a tour of our event management software to see how you can streamline events all-year round.


Holly Edwards
Content Marketing Specialist

Holly Edwards is Gather's Content Marketing Specialist. She crafts blog posts, social media content and thought leadership pieces that help restaurants and other venues streamline their planning process and host successful events.

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