The holiday season can feel like a roller-coaster. From parties and shopping to baking and preparing for guests, the demands of the season may seem endless.

These pressures can also rollover into the workplace. A 2009 poll of 600 full-time employees from Accenture’s HR Services revealed that 66 percent of respondents felt additional stress at work during the holidays.

There are simple and effective ways for employers to help alleviate employee stress this time of year.

Here are a few tips to help keep your employees engaged, balanced and productive.

1. Set limits on gift-giving efforts. Depending on the size of the department, employees may feel pressure to purchase or make gifts for everyone. To avoid this, set aside an afternoon for a department-wide Secret Santa party where each employee is asked to get gifts for one person. Limit the amount of money that can be spent to ensure an even playing field.

Scheduling the party during normal business hours will also eliminate additional after-work planning for your staff. Try not to make holiday parties mandatory. For some individuals, parties can compound existing stress.

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2. Be flexible. If appropriate, give out annual bonuses early so they can be used for holiday shopping. Some companies offer floating days for holiday days worked. Allow employees to leave early if they are traveling. Weather and unforeseen circumstances have a tendency to wreak havoc on travel plans.

While it’s important to be flexible, policies need to be consistent and fair. Consider a seasonal policy that lays out the minimum hours expected from each staff member during the holidays.

3. Encourage healthy team-building activities. Plan holiday-themed games and contests that get people moving. Think about setting up a lunchtime yoga class to help your employees decompress. Serve plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein during office holiday parties.

4. Give back. Survey employees on local charities they would like to support. Submit a holiday donation on behalf of the company to the charity with the highest amount of employee support.

Another option would be to leave an anonymous gratitude jar in a conference or break room. Encourage all employees to write notes about other staff or thank yous and place them in the jar. Read a few of the notes aloud at weekly staff meetings.

5. Show your appreciation. If your company requires employees to work overtime during the holiday season, thank them by bringing in a healthy lunch or snacks one day.

6. Promote time off. Encourage employees to take a vacation day or half day on a Friday in December to do their holiday shopping, decorate their house or just relax. This time away might result in more productivity when they return to the office.

7. Help build connections and support. If your company has an employee assistance program, let staff know about the resources available to them. A recent Society for Human Resources Management report revealed 39 percent of U.S. employers commit to reminding employees of employee assistance programs during the holiday season.

A healthy work environment requires consistency, communication and collaboration.

Fostering an atmosphere of shared responsibilities during the stressful holiday season will go a long way toward improving employee commitment and productivity year-round.

Holly C. Kortum, executive director of Kaiser Permanente of Southern Colorado,  can be reached at