December 2, 2019
Can you believe it’s December already? With a late Thanksgiving this year, suddenly we’re in full-on holiday hecticness. But this season brings opportunity too: you can become even more valuable to your members by helping them deal with holiday stress.
Now, you’re probably wondering why an association would even think about that role. Because associations are professional membership organizations, you usually don’t cross the line between your members’ professional and personal lives.
Or do you? Think about it: members join with the hopes of building relationships with peers, prospective employers, mentors, and/or clients. Some of these relationships stay strictly professional, but many become friendships. The association becomes a home for not only professional pursuits but for personal relationships too.
Some members maintain a wall between their personal and professional lives, but that wall has crumbled for others. After all, the personal and professional affect each other. A member who deals with a major change in their personal life is more prepared to handle changes at work. Confidence gained by leading a project at work leads to more confidence in their personal life. And, stress outside of work can affect professional performance—and vice versa.
We’re now in one of the most stressful times of the year, the holiday season. You can’t eliminate holiday stress for members, but you can help them deal with it.
#1: Help Members Find Support from Their Connections and Community
When people get together at conferences, they don’t always talk shop. They get to know each other by talking about their kids, pets, vacations, hobbies, and favorite Netflix shows. There’s always been room for the personal in a professional association.
Think about ways to engage the whole member—their professional and personal needs and interests—throughout the year. Your online community is a natural place for this engagement. Provide “off-topic” discussion forums where members can get to know each other better by talking about non-professional topics. At this time of year, they’ll appreciate a place to share gift ideas, recipes, vacation activities, and their favorite stress-busting activities.
This strategy is supported by science. “Strong social and emotional support is a powerful stress buster,” according to the American Institute of Stress. Remind members of the power of peer support. No one can relate to their current stressful circumstances like someone who’s in their shoes, someone who “gets” them and their professional world.
#2: Time Saved is Time Gained
By hosting discussions about professional and personal topics of interest in your online community, you also help members save time. Think of additional ways you can help them guard their time. For example, don’t send out surveys this month. If possible, put regular volunteer duties on hold.
Like you, members are dealing with lines and crowds everywhere they go. Make interacting with your association as easy as possible by following these best online practices.
#3: Suggest Opportunities to Give Back
Scientists have found that volunteering or “giving back” releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.” Even Scrooge learned how good it feels to be generous with time and money at this time of year. Not surprisingly, December is the biggest month for charitable donations.
Suggest ways your members can give to others this season, perhaps a cause related to your industry or profession, and remind them how good they’ll feel doing it. You could even organize a community service project. But, don’t ask for too much of their time, perhaps only an hour or less. You don’t want a stress-reducing activity to become stressful.
#4: Give Members an Excuse to Take a Break
Encourage members to take a little time for recharging during their busy day. Schedule virtual coffee chats or happy hours so they can take a break with other members.
Ask for topic suggestions and share the agenda ahead of time. Publicize work-related discussion starters—in case their boss asks what’s going on—but put holiday-related personal items on the agenda too. You could open with a discussion on strategies for finding more time during the day, but close the conversation with clever gift ideas. Or start with how to say “no” at work, but end with holiday self-care tips.
#5: Provide Stress Relief Resources
You can find plenty of articles and posts online about reducing stress, but they’re written for a general audience. Do your members a favor by reviewing several articles, gathering advice, and writing something with your members in mind.
For example, since healthcare professionals may work 24/7 throughout the holidays, address specific challenges related to their heavy workload. Or, if you’re in the bakery or other food service industries, provide advice related to fatigue and burnout during their busiest time of the year.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Hopefully, focusing on your members’ holiday stress will give you ideas for coping with your own, but, just in case, we have some suggestions for you.
Spend time with people who get you. Are there any informal or formal association events you can attend in the coming month? If not, reach out to your network and schedule an after-work meetup. You need the opportunity to vent together, have some laughs, and maybe even get some good gift ideas.
Find time for exercise, even if it’s only a brisk walk around the block at lunch. It will do you good.
Take a break outside of working hours for your own “me” time, maybe a longer walk, massage, manicure, solo movie or dinner—just avoid the mall at all costs.
Guard your time. You don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation.
Get your sleep. You need a rested brain to deal with holiday and end-of-year deadlines.
Read a few “coping with holiday stress” articles. Start with this oldie but goodie from Associations Now, it’s full of good advice.
And, put this Self-Service and Member Happiness white paper on your holiday reading list. You’ll get ideas for ways to your help members save time throughout the year. Happy holidays!