It’s December! That means a month full of skipped workout routines, holiday cheer, binge eating and holiday parties. The coming weeks offer a lot of challenges to employers in terms of productivity and focus. And when everybody troops back in the New Year, these challenges are amplified.

Employers know how important it is to have a healthy and engaged workforce. Working towards that is of utmost priority, especially to HR personnel. Why? Because the negative effects of our busy holiday routine can tip-toe its way into work, especially in January!

A Virgin Pulse survey found that employees are 70% more stressed during the holidays. Supporting their mental health and wellbeing has become a growing responsibility – one which gets more hectic over the holiday period. So, what can you do when your employees feel out of tune at the workplace?

Let’s first look at the reasons as to why you should be concerned:

Reduced productivity

Good nutrition, rest and exercise ultimately leads to improved productivity and reduced healthcare costs. Try it yourself. Go into work after you’ve stuck to a healthy lifestyle for a while, you will naturally feel more energetic and be able to focus better.

End-of-year burnout

The year ends with a lot happening, not just at the workplace but also at home. It can be challenging for employees due to a variety of reasons – financial, family, health worries or levels of stress.

Lack of focus

It goes without saying that the holidays have many distractions around them. The same Virgin Pulse study found 64% of respondents say holiday-related stress caused them to be distracted at work. This ultimately diminishes employees’ quality of work by about the same amount.


Holidays have an impact on the whole organization in terms of bandwidth and time. The folks not on holiday are also expected some of the slack caused by vacationers. This makes for a tough few weeks.

How to promote healthy habits at the workplace during the festive period?

  1. Provide tools for support: In-house support services like EAP (Emotional Assistance Programs) can go a long way to curb stress during the holidays. Make sure the services are accessible, promoted and well-resourced, with all the information available for staff.
  2. Start early: Make sure new initiatives are planned and ready-to-go on launch day. This could be in January or even in December. Communicate these initiatives early, so that when the post-holiday blues hit, your staff is mentally prepared and receptive.
  3. Time and productivity management: Offer perks like flexible working opportunities or time periods for festive errands to help staff tick them off their to-do list.
  4. Encourage discussions: The festive period is a time when many take their annual leave. Encourage discussions and transparency about what you expect in terms of work, during this time. Make sure the tasks are set out and the seasonal challenges are accounted for. This can take the stress off your employees and promote overall well-being.
  5. Return-to-office plan: The ‘January blues’ are a real thing. Have an action plan to get everyone ‘back into the swing of things’, by setting in place a return-to-office plan, which includes blocking out the initial days for important tasks. A few fun activities on return can also help them ease back in to work.

Promoting good health doesn’t have to be a one-off boring activity. 

December might be a busy month, but ensuring that your workforce is engaged year-round, should be your top priority. Having a focused engagement effort that identifies the stressors at the workplace and addresses them is important. There are many ways to tackle the holiday blues, we all know the usual – healthy food options, setting up a gym and consultations with nutritionists. Here are some innovative ideas that you can implement to make employee health fun!

Healthy eating ideas:

  1. Host a potluck: Encouraging employees to bring healthy food from their homes instead of ordering from restaurants. A healthy potluck can encourage healthy eating at the office. This will give a boost to their energy, productivity and also keep morale high during the holiday season.
  2. Team outings: The holiday’s maybe the best time to organize a team outing for all employees. Book a restaurant with healthy food options and not something that is unhealthy.
  3. Competitions: A nice way to bring in the holiday cheer is to host a healthy baking competition (Sugar-free or low-carb options). This will help employees manage their holiday cooking prep in a healthier way.
  4. Donation box: Instead of spending money on unhealthy snacks and foods, promote a practice of donating the same amount to charity. It will serve as a positive stimulus for employees and promote positive behavioural change.
  5. Detox week at work: Conduct a Detox Food Week – where employees have access to fresh juices and fruits for a healthy cleanse.

Ideas for holistic wellness:

  1. Awards and challenges: The biggest motivator of all could be an award for producing healthy results during the festive period. Maybe you can try our Fit for Life challenge now and have a reassessment in the next few months to see how far your workforce has come fitness-wise.
  2. Themed wellness week: Having specific wellness challenges based on a holiday theme is a great way to motivate employees. Bring in the experts on healthy eating to speak for you. In addition, you can also offer in-house perks like yoga, meditation and massages.
  3. Workout groups: Initiate workout groups among people who live in the same community or area. This will encourage people who haven’t worked out before to try something new and also serve as a boon to regular gym goers, adding to their motivation.

Let’s face it – staying healthy is a growing challenge in our fast-paced society. Even though we cannot control what happens at our employee’s homes, we can do our part to make our workplaces healthy and productive. Let’s remember what the holidays are all about – showing appreciation for the hard work done and giving the best gift of all to your employees – good health.

We can help you inculcate healthy habits at your workplace this festive season.

Reach out to us to make a positive return on your wellness program by prioritizing health not just for the festive period, but for the whole of 2019 and beyond!

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