Kirsty Lilley, mental health expert at CABA comments
This year, we’re hoping for a Christmas that’s a little more normal than the last. But while we’re excited to return to the traditions and rituals that the pandemic put a stop to in 2020, there’s still plenty of uncertainty to get to grips with, and some of your employees will be needing support.
While 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. Now more than ever, it’s crucial they devise a culture where employees can access the help they need, if they choose to.
Here are a few ways you can support your employees’ wellbeing this winter:
Understand what you’re trying to achieve
Firstly, it’s important to understand what we mean by wellbeing. Some workplaces don’t fully grasp the concept, and it ultimately means different things to different people. So, 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. 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 what will help them
While this Christmas is likely to be more cheerful than 2020’s, there will still be some for whom everything isn’t completely back to normal. Workplaces need to acknowledge this, and ask their employees 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, personally. Doing this will also give a voice to minority groups in an organisation, or any groups that are often marginalised or not involved in these kinds of conversations.
Celebrating should be voluntary
While the classic work Christmas party is less likely this year to be held virtually, it’s just as important as ever to ensure that there is no pressure to attend if any members of your team feel uncomfortable. Making it voluntary will alleviate any sense of pressure, and help to remove the stigma surrounding those who are unable – or unwilling – to attend.
Christmas isn’t for everybody
One thing that often gets forgotten around this time of year is that Christmas isn’t for everybody. 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 circumstances. Bear this in mind when communicating your festive plans, as you don’t want to alienate and potentially even isolate any of your employees.
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. 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. Therefore, it needs to always be optional.
Are you able to communicate your plans for 2022 now? Giving those employees who might be struggling 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.
More than ever, burnout this year has been high among employees. So many of us have cancelled annual leave and holidays, and without the opportunity to travel, opted instead to stay and work. However, 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.
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 will look like.
For further support from CABA, visit https://www.caba.org.uk/help-and-guides