Emma Smith, HR Business Partner at Burness Paull LLP and member of the Lawscot Wellbeing steering group, shares some seasonal tips for employers on how to support staff wellbeing.
If the pandemic has proven anything it’s how important it is to take a person-centred approach to people management. Employers can’t control the course of Covid-19 but they can make good choices when it comes to proactively managing the other sources of stress and worry that might lead to employee mental health issues.
Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, the likelihood is we will be living with some level of restriction on our work and personal lives for the next few months and while the run up to Christmas is an exciting time for most, it’s also important to recognise the potential impact that winter months can have on mental and physical health.
Here are some top tips on how to support employees through the festive season and beyond.
- Acknowledge that things are different but try to create a festive environment – encourage people to decorate their home work space, host a virtual mince pie and coffee morning or organise a secret Santa.
- The festive season usually means lots of social and family gatherings so the social isolation many of us have been feeling is likely to be more pronounced in the run up to Christmas which makes it more important than ever that we are ensuring regular communication. Try to schedule in regular non-work related team or individual catch ups and if technology allows try having these as ‘walking meetings’ to encourage people to take a break and get outdoors.
- In a normal year up to one in 15 people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) between the months of September and April and this year it’s likely to be even more – look out for changes in behaviour and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of SAD. You can find some useful information about SAD on Mind's website.
- Lifestyle and environment, including technology and dietary stimulants, have the biggest impact on our immune system health so encourage people to take longer lunch breaks and get some fresh air before it gets dark – perhaps start a festive step challenge or a ‘festive photo’ competition where people take photos of their winter walks/local light/xmas tree displays etc.
- Promote a ‘clear home desk’ policy to ensure people are shutting down and switching off from work in the evenings - rest, relaxation and improved sleep quality are also important for boosting our immune systems.
- Remember Christmas can be a time of additional worry and stress for some people so make sure you communicate regularly on the physical, mental and financial wellbeing support you have available or signpost to external support and resources.