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The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone. People worry about shopping for gifts, entertaining with dinner spreads, travel and reconnecting with old acquaintances. As with any source of stress, the fallout may carry over into the workplace and negatively impact productivity.

Fortunately, any human resource consulting firm will tell you that there are ways to keep your employees engaged through the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This will require cooperation from both sides.

Unclear expectations take major blame
According to the American Management Association, about two-thirds of 600 full-time employees surveyed said they experienced extra stress during the holiday season. Additionally, 44 percent of executives reported a decline in productivity around this time of year. When it comes to the workplace, factors that may aggravate stress include shortened deadlines, unique end-of-year demands, and difficult customers or clients. Outside the job, employees may be preoccupied with financial problems and seasonal depression.

Workplace consultant Anne Grady told Workforce magazine that managers and supervisors can minimize the impact of employees' holiday stress on productivity. One of the keys lies in being clear on what's expected of workers.

"Frustration doesn't come from having too much to do; it comes from unclear expectations," Grady told the news source. "Make sure you and your team are on the same page when defining success. As long as they are meeting their requirements, give them the autonomy to do their work their way."

Flexibility makes a difference
If employers want to meet employees halfway in coping with holiday stress, there are several ways to go about it. Grady suggested using time off, opportunities for working from home and flexible work hours as incentives for good work.

The AMA had other tips for employers who cannot afford to provide time off. Specifically, employees may find relief in being able to take care of personal business, such as online gift shopping in the workplace. Easing up on restrictions for non-work-related computer use may be very much appreciated, and some companies even go so far as to send out newsletters with tips on where to find shopping deals online.

Additionally, it's important not to forget the little things that can make an office feel more lively. These include a relaxed dress code and holiday decorations. Furthermore, in preparation for the post-holiday blues, employers should invite their workers into the planning stages for the upcoming year. This will help create a sense of inclusion and engagement.