For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere the mornings are cold and dark, the fairy lights and street lights sparkle, and radio DJs playing far too much Wham!, Mariah Carey and The Pogues. It can only mean one thing: Christmas is just around the corner! As it approaches, office dynamics can change dramatically with people getting excited, making plans, and looking forward to the work Christmas party as well as having a few days off!

So how should small businesses ensure their employees get a healthy dose of festive cheer without paving the way for more serious holiday hiccups? We’ve broken down what’s festive and what’s foolhardy in this guide to the holiday season for small businesses.

Encourage (and give out) greeting cards

Giving greeting cards to your staff is such a simple way to show your appreciation for their hard work. If you have the time (and few enough staff) to personalise each card, that’s great, but even generic holiday wishes are better than nothing.

Gently remind your employees to bring their own Christmas cards in as well - maybe even make a postbox for people to leave them in - as it’s a good excuse for them to think about doing something for each other, especially if you have anyone who’s new or struggling to find their feet.

Relax the work uniform

If your small business is customer-facing, why not relax the dress code on the shop floor or in your restaurant so that your employees can add a bit of festive cheer to their outfits, be it a Christmas jumper, a pair of tinsel earrings or a Santa hat. This may help your employees feel more festive and happy, while customers always like seeing signs of festive spirit and camaraderie among employees. 

Decorate the workplace

Many people will see decorating a tree or room with tinsel and baubles as a shared happy experience so encouraging employees to do just this together will help boost team morale and encourage people to take a bit of pride in their work. You could even encourage staff to decorate their own work space and have a prize for the best desk or area.

Reward your employees with treats

A recent study showed that 67% of employees who had access to free food were ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ happy in their jobs, compared to 56% who don't get such treats. For many small businesses free food all year round for staff is just not affordable, but maybe it's feasible for a few weeks at the end of the year.

Holiday snacks are plentiful and inexpensive in the shops so bulk-buy as much as you can. Equally, you could forsake tradition for something a bit different, like providing hearty soups or hot samosas for lunch a few days a week - what better to warm them up on a cold day!

Use the chance to network

With people (hopefully) in a good mood before their holidays, and a relaxed office atmosphere, the run-up to Christmas can be a perfect time to get to know employees and colleagues a bit better. Asking about festive plans is a ready-made conversation starter and the connections you make now could stand you in good stead for battling the January blues together.

Have a few drinks together

If you are hosting a party after hours, be sure work finishes before the beer and wine starts flowing and perhaps have plans to move away from the workplace quite quickly after a few drinks to avoid any accidents in the office!

While treating your staff to a few Christmas drinks is a great way to show appreciation and encourage a relaxed socialising among team members, it's always a good idea to separate the work and party space as much as possible, if only to avoid a big clean up operation the next day!

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.