Without a doubt, this year’s festive period is going to look completely different to what we’re used to. Thanks to the COVID pandemic, we’re all going to have to go without plenty of the traditions and rituals that we usually enjoy around this time of year.
While we still don’t know how the big day itself will turn out, adding this to a year that’s already been filled with uncertainty and change, how can we provide additional support to employees through this time?
“Whilst it’s important to remember that people are responsible for their own wellbeing, workplaces are also responsible for managing psychosocial risk factors and protecting employees’ mental health from the adverse effect of these,” says mental health consultant, Kirsty Lilley.
“Now more than ever it’s crucial that workplaces devise a culture where employees can access the support and help they need if they choose to.”
Understand What You Are Trying to Achieve
“It is important to understand what is meant by wellbeing,” suggests Kirsty.
“Some workplaces don’t fully grasp the concept of wellbeing, and it ultimately means different things to different people.
“As an employer, you will need to identify what you mean by it, what good looks like and how you can improve your own workplace wellbeing.
“It’s vital that workplaces and managers are knowledgeable on the support services that are available to staff, so they can feel confident enough to signpost people to various strategies of support if and when they are thought to be needed.
“Encouraging people to take rest, breaks and holidays, as well as weaving the focus of wellbeing into team meetings and companywide communications, are vital ways of ensuring your wellbeing policies are at the forefront.”
Ask Employees What Will Help Them
“We know this Christmas is going to be different,” Kirsty continues. “Workplaces need to acknowledge this, and ask their employees what they need, and what will help them at this time.”
“Instead of a traditional top down approach, where employers give their staff what they think they will need, it’s important to develop a culture of asking people what would be helpful for them.
“Doing this will also give a voice to minorities in an organisation, or any groups that are often marginalised or not involved in these kinds of conversations.”
Celebrating Should be Voluntary
Like everything else, the classic work Christmas party is going to look very different this year, and even though it could be held virtually, it’s important to ensure that there is no pressure for your employees to attend.
“Making it voluntary will alleviate the pressure to attend, and remove the stigma surrounding those who are unable or unwilling to attend, for whatever reason,” suggests Kirsty.
Christmas Isn’t For Everybody
“One thing that often gets forgotten around this time of year is that Christmas isn’t for everybody,” explains Kirsty. “We live in an ethnically diverse country and we seem to position Christmas as a huge milestone for all of us, when in many cases, it isn’t.
“For others, celebration might be far from their minds as they could be having to deal with grief and other difficult emotions at this time.
“Do bear this in mind when communicating your festive plans, as you don’t want to alienate and isolate any of your employees,” Kirsty advises.
There Needs to be Boundaries
As with everything, there does need to be boundaries.
“Some people may not be comfortable with their workplaces getting involved in their Christmas plans or emotional wellbeing, so we mustn’t assume that”
“For some, celebration might be far from their minds as they could be having to deal with grief and other difficult emotions at this time“
“Wellbeing is still a relatively new concept in the workplace, and we don’t want to march people into things that they find inappropriate or unnecessary,” warns Kirsty.
“Therefore, it needs to always be optional.”
Are you able to communicate your plans for 2021 now?
“Giving your employees something to look forward to will go a long way towards ensuring their maintained buy-in and engagement.
“In uncertain times like these, where job losses are all too common, wellbeing commitments and business plans will help people feel secure and motivated.”
“Now more than ever, burnout is high among employees,” Kirsty signals.
“Thanks to the restrictions we’ve faced, so many of us have cancelled annual leave and holidays, and without the opportunity to travel, opted instead to stay and work.”
We are living in an incredibly stressful environment – a global pandemic – and our bodies and minds need time to repair, rest and get ready for what’s still to come.
“Those who are working from home may be especially afraid to look as though they’re not doing anything, as we have the added pressure of unemployment and job losses,” cautions Kirsty.
“With this in mind, we have to ensure our employees’ wellbeing is not being put on the backburner during this year’s festive season.
“It needs to be playing a vital role in our operations, especially at this time in the year, with heightened emotions and the real uncertainty of what Christmas 2020 an beyond will look like,” Kirsty concludes.
Business Aspects Magazine thanks Kirsty Lilley for her contribution.