It’s easy to forget that the festive season isn’t one long Christmas party. For many people and for many businesses it is a time of increased work and increased stress. For a season supposedly defined by fun, it can end up a matter of endurance.
Many employers will think to put on a Christmas party or an office Secret Santa to boost spirits over the period.
But there is so much more you can do over the festive season to support your employees. And to encourage them to support their colleagues too.
In this post, we will at some of the ways you can support your employees and make sure they return to work refreshed and happy in the new year.
We all know Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, full of fun and festive cheer. Long, languid days spent with loved ones, relaxing and recharging as a reward for an almost endless year.
Or so the constant Christmas adverts, seasonal TV specials and festive films tell us anyway. In reality, it is often an unbearably busy time, full of financial stress and unavoidable hard work.
For some, the stress of trying to match all these tinsel-trimmed idylls of a perfect festive season is crippling. The pressure to pile big, expensive Christmas presents under the tree can see people losing sleep over their finances while those without family can end up spiralling into loneliness.
Anyone with an uneasy home life won’t be looking forward to a few days locked in with the causes of their trouble. And suffers of domestic abuse or violence will be justifiably scared.
All around, the assumption that is Christmas is always wonderful can put too much pressure on people. And that’s before you get to the stresses of a Christmas workload crammed into a month full of holidays.
There is an obvious moral obligation and legal duty of care that all employers have towards their staff. Supporting your employees over the Christmas period obviously falls under this. Most UK employers will also want to reward their staff for a year of hard work and the support they’ve shown to their business.
But don’t forget that having a supported, motivated team will have real tangible and measurable benefits for your business too.
The last thing you need to start the new year is for your staff to return to the office, frazzled, unable to concentrate and unable to cope. Their productivity will be seriously reduced, and the quality of their output will take a dive too.
It is an unavoidable fact that burnout will take its toll, on your workforce and your business.
Of course, there will be a limit to what you as an employer can do. Your business will still have demands and they may even increase. It is a season of celebration but that doesn’t mean you can afford to have your workforce kicking back for a whole month to indulge in festivities.
However, there are plenty of steps you can take to help your employees fully switch off and recharge over the Christmas period.
If the reality of Christmas can be a lot more stressful than advertised, one thing everyone could do with more of is freedom.
Giving employees the option to work flexibly in the run-up to Christmas will help ease some of the pressure they are under. Working from home will cut out travel time, giving them more time to spend on the necessary preparations in the weeks leading up to the big day.
Parents won’t have to worry about childcare during the school holiday, while the flexibility to start later or finish later could help people who have family or other commitments in the run-up to Christmas Day.
You can make it clear you still expect a certain amount of work to be done and establish what the minimum staffing levels should be. But as long as these needs are met, try to allow your staff members a little more flexibility.
The run of bank holidays over Christmas means that your staff will have far fewer working days in December/January. That’s before you get into the amount of annual leave people will book over this time.
Acknowledge this when setting December workloads and adjust accordingly. Forcing your staff to overwork over the holidays will just lead them to burnout.
Working from home over the last two years has seriously blurred the boundaries between work and relaxation. Take this opportunity to redraw them.
Remind staff that their hard work is appreciated and their reward is a festive period without work. Your employees can only comfortably switch off if they know it’s expected. Reassure them that their workload won’t be building up in their absence and that they need to spend their holiday having festive fun not worrying about work.
Lead by example and resist the urge to send out any non-essential emails or other communications. Encourage employees to turn off work-related notifications and switch on out of office responses.
Then do the same with yours!
Few businesses can afford to grind to a complete halt over Christmas. But it is incredibly important for your employees and for your company that they recharge over the holiday so support them to the furthest possible extent.
Mental health isn’t the only aspect of people’s wellbeing that can suffer over Christmas.
The festive spirit can be synonymous with indulgence that can take a heavy toll on physical health. Throw in the usual winter illnesses such as colds and flu, and you have a cocktail that can make for seriously ill employees, whatever mental wellbeing support you have in place.
One way to help keep your staff physically healthy is to support their mental health. Anxiety, depression and stress can all have physical consequences as well as lowering immune systems and making you susceptible to viruses and infections.
Other steps you can take to support your staff’s physical health, can be more direct.
The COVID booster campaign may be well underway but don’t this eclipse the importance of the traditional seasonal flu jab.
As a consequence of social distancing, the 21/22 flu season is shaping up to be a bad one, so protect your employees by investing in workplace flu vaccines.
Having the vaccines available at work will make them more accessible for people with limited time outside work, it will also eliminate potential waiting lists on the NHS.
Gym membership discounts, sponsored workplace sports teams and activity packages can sometimes fall forgotten in the world of employee benefits. Winter is the perfect time to raise awareness of the offers your business provides.
If you don’t already provide these, Christmas is the perfect time to launch them as a counterpoint to Christmas parties.
Small-scale awareness initiatives can help remind employees about the importance of heal. And while no one is saying you should take turkey off your company canteen tables completely, now is also the ideal time to widen the healthy choices you provide.
With the prospect of impending time-off and general Christmas spirit, it would be easy to expect employee engagement and employee morale will naturally be high.
But, that isn’t always the case. The spirits of the season don’t always translate into a focused mind, especially when you consider the stresses we’ve already discussed.
Luckily there are plenty of things you can do to help keep your employees engaged and their productivity up over Christmas.
Predominantly it is a question of balance. Accept that your workers may be less productive in December and then balance out their necessary workload by organising Christmas activities for all your workers. These could be big events such as a Christmas party or New Year celebration. The dream reward for most employees would probably be an extra day of annual leave or a pay bonus.
Another great suggestion is to arrange some holiday volunteering or charity work. This could be as simple as putting together a Christmas hamper, or as involved as a day spent helping out at a charity premise. Giving back to the community can give employees a warm glow of purpose or achievement, that can’t be found in the workplace.
Of course, these ideas are not always practical for businesses, especially among particularly small or large companies. Few employers can risk the loss of business that comes with closure days and many workers understand this.
But if you can’t stretch to such significant rewards, don’t abandon the opportunity to reward your employees with festivities. Try a couple of smaller-scale activities instead – if you pitch them correctly they will still make an impressive impact.
If you want your staff to perform at their best, you need to support your employee’s health beyond the Christmas season. An easy way to ensure they have the help they need all year round is by implementing one of our wellbeing programs in the workplace.
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