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Workplace mental health during the festive season: Part II

Human Resources Clinic

Many business operations ‘relax’ or change over the holiday period. This is particularly evident in the Business-Business (B2B) sector where many decision-makers are on annual leave, offices enter ‘festive shut-downs’ or shift focus to seasonal projects.

For employees, this may mean that their day-to-day roles change. It may be increasingly difficult to sell to organisations when key figures are on annual leave, for example, or to engage with channel partners who have closed shop for a week. If your staff still have targets to work towards or are struggling to perform their normal roles, this can add to seasonal stress.

Management must encourage transparency and discussion about expectations during this time. It may be that targets need revisiting or adjusting, or role responsibilities re-defining. Ensure staff are aware of what is expected of them, setting out tasks to be completed and raising seasonal challenges. Even the act of listening and acknowledging concerns can go a long way in promoting better employee wellbeing.

Managers on annual leave can result in fewer ‘checks ‘or support networks in place for those continuing to work. Organisations, therefore, must set out clearly where boundaries lie, in terms of working practices, and communicate these internally. Make sure employees have the necessary collaboration tools they need to complete tasks, regardless of location. Organisations must ensure there is a defined hierarchy of who is available to contact, should they need help. This also protects those on annual leave who may worry about ‘switching off’ from the office, if they have team members or colleagues still working.

Uncertainty and ‘January blues’ can hang over employees and cause undue stress and worry during the holidays. After time off, many also find it challenging to get ‘back into the swing of things’, making for decreased productivity at the opening of January. Prevention is better than cure! Work with management to make department and individual plans for the return to the office, including blocking out the first few days to deal with backlogs or urgent tasks. Encouraging employees to create a key ‘to-do-list’ for their first few days will benefit the organisation in many ways.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees. Businesses are required to consider reasonable adjustments for their employees (at all times of the year) under their duty of care responsibilities within the workplace. During the festive period, the need for support from employers is more evident than ever! Managers need to take preventative measures to mitigate unnecessary stress over the festive period. There is a need to be asking employees the question, ‘is everything ok?’ and ensure they know it’s OK to talk. Then, should the answer be ‘no’, there is a need to have the right support available. Supporting employees’ mental health during the festive season can mean that a business retains talent, and increase its reputation around good diversity and inclusion policies. If organisations do not care about their employees’ needs, they run the risk of high turnover and will not remain competitive against other employers. It’s a business imperative in today’s increasingly competitive landscape to provide a psychologically safe and supportive work environment for employees.

By alleviating undue pressure, addressing stress triggers and communicating openly about mental health and well-being, managers can play a key role in addressing employee concerns. With an employee wellbeing plan in place, you can ensure that when your staff are at work, they’re mentally at work – and when they’re off, they’re able to relax and recuperate, and enjoy the holiday season fully.

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