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5 Easy Ways for Small Biz Owners to Keep Holiday Stress at a Minimum

By: Lending Tree


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For small business owners, the holidays really can be the most wonderful time of the year: For retailers in particular, purchases surrounding winter festivities can account for nearly half of yearly sales, according to reporting from AP News. As lucrative as it can be, however, that boom can also lead to intense holiday stress. A sudden onslaught of customers can mean increased work hours, more complicated logistics and general chaos for small business owners and their teams.

Fortunately, with a little bit of forethought and planning, it’s possible to reduce your overall stress level this holiday — even while enjoying the increased hustle and bustle in your business.

1. Plan time off upfront

Work-life balance is critical at any time of year, and especially during the celebratory season — so important, in fact, that both autonomy and flexibility in work hours show up in the Surgeon General’s brand new Workplace Mental Health & Wellbeing framework, first produced in 2022.

Translation: Business owners and their employees deserve time off during the holidays, too — even if it’s the busiest time of year for your company. But when you’re staring down the weekly schedule, it can be difficult to squeeze in off hours for the hardest-working members of your team.

That’s why it’s a good idea to start planning for time off early, potentially as soon as late summer. Ask your employees to place their time off requests at least a month or two before the holiday swing hits so you have plenty of time to suss out who’s working when and give everyone the best shot to get the hours off they want. And don’t forget to include yourself in the accounting.

2. Set reasonable holiday hours

Given the potential for holiday sales, it might be tempting to keep your doors open around the clock to score more profits from after-hours shoppers. And in some special cases, like Black Friday, that approach may actually be worthwhile.

But these days, more people are doing their shopping online than ever. E-commerce sales are projected to grow by more than 10% this year alone, according to data from Forbes. While fulfilling online orders comes with its own workload, it can mean less energy-intensive face time with customers — and may also give you peace of mind in setting reasonable holiday hours for in-store shopping.

Even if your business model doesn’t translate well into digital sales, it’s still worth thinking twice before overextending yourself and your team with lots of extra holiday hours. After all, a friendly, well-rested team that’s truly ready to show up may actually be more valuable than an exhausted, even if constantly physically present, one.

3. Hire seasonal help

If you absolutely do need to extend your holiday hours — or simply need more help on the floor during regular business hours to keep up with the customer swell — hiring seasonal help can go a long way toward decreasing your team’s overall stress level.

Keep in mind, too, that there’s an exception in the ACA’s mandate requiring applicable large employers (ALEs) to provide health insurance for full-time employees in the case of seasonal employees. Seasonal workers are defined by the IRS with the following two conditions:

  • They’ll be working for six months or less
  • The job they’re hired for is performed at about the same time each year

Of course, providing your employees with benefits is a great way to keep them motivated to do the best job they can — and come back again to pick up hours next year.

4. Delegate responsibilities

As a small business owner, chances are you wear a lot of hats — sometimes too many. You may be your own bookkeeper, schedule-wrangler, project manager, and sales floor representative, just to name a few roles.

But the scientific consensus is quite clear: Human beings are not actually all that great at multitasking. In fact, according to the researchers behind one 2019 article published in Cerebrum, “Multitasking is almost always a misnomer, as the human mind and brain lack the architecture to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” Not only is trying to do it all making your life more stressful, it’s also decreasing the dedicated attention you have available for each thing you’re trying to get done.

Delegating responsibilities is an important stress management step any time of year, but particularly during the all-over-the-place holiday season. Along with offering you a less stressful workflow overall, delegating some of your tasks can help you find and focus on the areas you’re strongest at and put people whose strengths differ from yours in the right positions to make up for any weaknesses. When each team member is focusing more exclusively on a few things they do well, overall productivity is likely to improve at the very same time stress decreases, making for a win-win scenario.

5. Set reasonable customer expectations

Along with adjusting your own responsibilities and expectations, it’s also important to find ways to manage customer expectations for the holidays, too. Even under the best of circumstances, with a robust staff and a holiday business plan that’s running like a well-oiled machine, you’ll likely experience delays and overwhelm related to the season. Some of the factors creating that dynamic, like shipping times, are totally out of your control.

Once again, the answer lies in forethought and planning. For example, check out the holiday shipping deadlines published by the USPS (or whichever shipping service you rely on), and make it a point to inform your customers about those deadlines, too, with shop signage or a note on your website.

Be sure to incorporate a buffer for the work you’ll need to do behind the scenes to fulfill orders, as well; for instance, the USPS deadline for two-day Priority Mail Express is Dec. 20 for delivery by Christmas, but you might want to make your cutoff Dec. 19.

Although the holidays can indeed be a stressful (if successful) time for small business owners, a little bit of planning can go a long way toward making this chaotic time of year run smoothly. At the end of the day, remember: It’s possible not everything will get done and a ball or two will be dropped, but so long as you’re honest and authentic with your customers, chances are they’ll understand. It is, after all, the season of giving — and forgiving.

Published: December 19, 2023

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Lending Tree

LendingTree is an online loan marketplace for various financial borrowing needs including auto loans, small business loans, personal loans, credit cards, and more. We also offer comparison shopping services for autos and educational programs. Together, these services serve as an ally for consumers who are looking to comparison shop among multiple businesses and professionals who will compete for their business.

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