Tis the season to be jolly - but are your employees?

In a bid to stop the Coronavirus from taking away the Christmas magic, the tinsel take-over started early for many this year but what about those that find the festive period anything but merry?

Last year, statistics revealed that a whopping two in five Brits found Christmas more mentally challenging than the rest of the year (YouGov, 2019). This year, throw the pandemic pressure into the mix and it’s likely that this statistic is soaring as we speak.

So as we prepare for a Christmas like no other, we’re asking employers – are you placing your staff’s wellbeing at the forefront of festive activities?

It’s the most wonderful stressful time of the year

As we near the end of what’s reported to have been one of the most stressful years in history for the global workforce (Workplace Intelligence, 2020), the last thing employees need are the extra pressures that the festive season brings.

It may be known as the season to be jolly, yet in reality Christmas can be a significant source of stress, pressure and conflict for many. From present buying, dinner planning and a never-ending to-do list, to the high expectations, obligation to be happy and a significant lack of sleep, we’re not surprised that it was previously considered to be one of the six most stressful life events.

Along with the typical seasonal stress triggers above, this year there’s the added impact of the Coronavirus that’s likely to be leaving many of your employees feeling isolated, experiencing financial anxiety, processing grief and doing all they can to shield loved ones.

All is calm, all is bright – or is it?

One thing we’ve learnt this year is that many employees are seriously skilled in masking their mental health problems, particularly in the remote working world. Research recently conducted by QBE revealed that one in four UK employees are hiding mental health challenges from their employers.

So while your people may look like they’re in the festive spirit with a perfectly-decorated tree conveniently featured in the background of your virtual meetings, it’s important to be mindful of the stressors they may secretly be struggling with. A few key warning signs to watch for amid the Christmas lights include:

  • Changes in work habits

Do your employee’s have a sudden lack of drive? Don’t be quick to dismiss this as simply because we’re coming to the end of the year.

  • Social withdrawal

Are your staff shying into a shell and avoiding those virtual Christmas get-togethers?

  • Markedly decreased energy levels

The shorter days and dark night are enough to make anyone feel lethargic, but are your colleagues appearing continuously tired with several sneaky yawns during your Zoom calls?

Management teams have a duty to recognise and acknowledge poor mental health symptoms and more importantly, know what they can do to improve employee wellbeing.

The key to helping your people cope at Christmas

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." (Elf, 2003) – If only it was that easy!

So what can employers do to support staff wellbeing during the festive period? Here’s our top three recommendations:

1. We suggest starting off with an empathic approach to understanding your employee’s festive fears with the simple question – is everything OK? Failing that, if your staff are unlikely to share their true concerns, you could offer an anonymous wellbeing assessment to find out how they’re really feeling at this unpredictable time.

2. Provide genuine health and wellbeing initiatives that support the needs of your people. From isolation and bereavement to financial pressures and health anxiety, the Christmas challenges will vary for every employee. That’s why it’s so important to offer a wide range of resources that cover all areas of wellbeing.

3. Help your employees build emotional resilience through quick and effective online training courses. Such support can help to better manage challenges and maintain good personal wellbeing in the face of adversity for example the unprecedented, Covid-19 Christmas.

Although the festive period sees a peak in stress levels for many, mental health support and employee wellbeing should be offered in the workplace, all year-round. Key Wellbeing can help you create a permanent mentally healthy workplace culture, get in touch to find out more.