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How to Set Expectations for Employees During the Holidays

How to Set Expectations for Employees During the Holidays

The holiday season is always synonymous with travel, anticipation, and a certain level of stress for employers and employees alike. This year will look very different from years past, perhaps with even more stress and uncertainty as employees plan for the holidays amidst a pandemic that’s showing no sign of slowing down. As workforces enter into this uncharted territory this holiday season, the need for HR preparednessand flexibilityis paramount.


5 Considerations this Holiday Season

The biggest challenge this holiday season is navigating the usual hustle and bustle while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 among your workforce and taking care of business needs. Employers should consider the following issues that might come up this holiday season:

  1. Traveling Risks: While there’s a lot of risk for employees to consider when traveling during the holidays, employees will probably still visit loved ones. Furthermore, employers can’t prevent employees from taking non-work trips during the pandemic. The biggest risk here applies especially if your employees have returned to in-office work. If your employees are travelling to high-risk areas this holiday season, are they returning to the office? Does your company have a quarantining policy in place, and if so, are they still able to work from home? 
  2. Remote Work Issues: Even if your employees are used to working remotely by now, the holidays could mean that they’re working from a new location. Is their internet speed at their relative’s home fast enough, especially if the whole family is using it? Do they have a private place to get work done? Employers can best support employees who are working from different locations by coming up with a game plan for where they’ll be working from, checking in regularly, and remaining flexible as issues arise.
  3. Time Zone Differences: If employees are able to travel to visit family during the holiday, it’s very possible they might be traveling to a different time zone. If one of your employees is traveling to a location on Pacific Standard Time, but your company is located in Eastern Standard Time, that means the time difference is three hours. If your team meets daily virtually or has important scheduled calls, be sure you have a plan to either accommodate the different time zones or set reminders for the employees working on different time zones to avoid missed appointments. Employers can help support employees in different time zones by rescheduling meetings at hours that work best for everyone (instead of early morning) and taking note of the dates when each team member is traveling so their expectations can be aligned.
  4. Holiday Parties: Holiday parties are usually a highly anticipated time for companies to thank and celebrate their teams. However this year, employers will want to rethink their holiday party plans. For employers wanting to celebrate their teams and the holiday season while keeping them safe, alternatives include virtual parties or postponing the celebration.
  5. Time Off Planning: Setting expectations with time off will help your employees plan for the holidays as well as ensure that business needs are met, especially if Q4 is your company’s busy season. Be sure your employees are aware of their PTO policy, especially if it includes any blackout periods. Since paid time off is offered optionally and at employers’ discretion, employers have the ability to block off periods of time when no PTO requests will be approved as long as the policy does not conflict with any state or local laws or union employee contracts. If you’re able to create flexibility when it comes to employees taking time off during the holidays, be sure you clearly communicate those expectations.


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