How to Boost Morale While Lowering Stress This Holiday Season

With four in 10 restaurants closing, more than $240 billion in losses by the end of the year, and one in six employees still out of a job, the restaurant industry has suffered more than any other industry since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

We’re also about to enter one of the most stressful seasons for restaurants as the holidays draw near. Stay ahead of the stress and conflict by acknowledging there will be more tough days ahead. Don’t let it get the better of you. Here are tips to manage stress and boost morale in an unrelenting year.

Be genuine. These are hard times and your employees are likely to share some bad news from their personal life with you. Instead of reacting with platitudes that everything will be okay, set the tone with transparency and empathy. If they’re telling you their babysitter just quit or that their partner lost their job, empathize with them, tell them you’re glad they are here, and ask how you can help.

Stay engaged. Acknowledge that you don’t have the all the answers to every complex problem. Instead focus on what you can control—how you show up to support one another. Operations of all sizes are using the following to stay engaged with staff throughout the pandemic:

  • Hosting a weekly zoom call to understand how team members and their families are coping and what challenges they’re facing.
  • Arranging daily contactless meal pickups for employees and their families.
  • Establishing employee assistance programs that offer up to six free counseling sessions.

Be aware of your energy. In stressful situations, practice mindfulness in order to stay present and nonreactive. Otherwise, the stress is likely to escalate and get blown out of proportion. Here are some steps you can take to better manage your reaction:

  • Take three deep, slow breaths before you say anything
  • Roll your shoulders back to release tension
  • Spread your fingers or toes in order to use a physical action to reset your system in order to calm down

Reframe conflicts.  We think of conflicts as negative but take a minute to consider that they can be neutral and a natural part of living and relating with other complex individuals in complex situations. Instead, embrace the idea of conflict as a means towards finding a solution. Here are some tips to change the tenor of conflicts:

  • Intentionally assign positive intent to the other party
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt
  • Check your assumptions about what you think they mean with their words

Actively listen. When we’re given a chance to speak, we’re given an opportunity to feel heard and we automatically feel more understood. Really listening is an act of holding space for that person—a signal that they matter. Good listening is essential to building trust as well as genuinely motivating and engaging people. Here are some ways to ensure you are listening effectively:

  • Reflect back what people are saying by paraphrasing them
  • Ask them to elaborate on a point that they’ve made or clarify something
  • Acknowledge their points with phrases such as “I hear what you are saying about…” to reinforce that you’ve listened carefully

It will be an unusual holiday season to say the least, but by using the tools above, you can show your team members that you truly hear them and what they say matters.