Employee Mental Health in the Workplace at Christmas Time

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Employee Mental Health in the Workplace at Christmas Time
  1. Office/Workplace Christmas Festivities & Staff Mental Wellbeing over Christmas

To maintain employees’ mental health at Christmas, employers should be mindful that not everyone celebrates Christmas, be that because they are not of the Christian faith, or they may not be religious at all, and for some, workplace festivities can make them feel excluded and lead to them feeling depressed at Christmas.

Workplace Christmas stress takes many forms, but its especially challenging for workplaces in retail and hospitality, for whom the Christmas trade is vitally important, but it is essential to be sensitive to the diversity of your workforce, even if the Christmas tree has been up on the shop floor since October.

Remember, not every workstation needs to be decked out in tinsel, and if you are having any Christmas activities in the workplace, to protect these employees’ mental health over Christmas, you should make clear that Christmas decorations on desks are optional, and no one is pressured to get involved.

  1. Holiday Requests Can Create Emlopyee Christmas Mental Health Issues

The Christian celebration of Christmas is not the only religious festival to fall at this time of year. The Jewish Festival of Hanukkah also falls in December.

To uphold the mental well-being over Christmas for all staff, please appreciate both Hanukkah and Christmas are key events in the calendars of each religion, and employees will very much want to ensure they can partake in attending religious services and spending time with loved ones.

When it comes to allowing time off work to observe any religious festival, surprisingly, there is no automatic right to take time off. However, if you receive an annual leave request for religious observance, which cannot be accommodated and could course employee Christmas stress,  it is important to ensure that the company has a compelling business reason for refusing such requests.

To avoid placing yourself at risk of a discrimination claim and creating any related Christmas mental health issues with your employees, please ensure you seek advice from our experts before turning down a request for annual leave for religious observance.

  1. Collections and Christmas lunches Can Lead to Staff Christmas Mental Health Problems.

Christmas depression statistics are at an all-time high. We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis which is resulting in record numbers of people needing the support of food banks and facing record-high utility bills. This situation will no doubt affect mental health in the workplace during Christmas for many companies.

Money can seriously test employee mental health over Christmas. Whether you are religious or not, there is huge pressure at Christmas to spend money, and many are finding the daunting costs associated with Christmas overwhelming.

If you usually run Christmas collections for gifts, Secret Santa or ask staff to bring in food items for an office buffet- consider if that is appropriate this year or if changes can be made to place less pressure on staff and their mental health at Christmas.

For example:

  • Ask staff what they want to do-you may find that everyone is thinking the same thing, but no one wants to be the first one to speak up. You may get some interesting suggestions!
  • If you do want to have a Secret Santa, consider lowering the spending limit.
  • As bizarre as it sounds, does a Christmas meal have to be before Christmas? We all want to support the hospitality sector after they have suffered a hit during the pandemic, but prices can be steep (and places busier) at Christmas, so many people opt to put celebrations on hold until after the new year.
  • No one wants to cancel the fun, but rather than having a Christmas buffet in the office, you may decide to make donations to a local food bank- again, ask staff what they prefer to do.
  1. Respect the Different Cultures of Employees

To improve mental health in the workplace during Christmas, be mindful of the language used at work. Not everyone wants to celebrate, and some just prefer to keep things a bit lowkey.

If someone doesn’t want to attend the Christmas party, wear a Christmas jumper or contribute to the boss’s collection- they aren’t ‘scrooges’ ‘the Christmas Grinch’ or a ‘party-pooper’- if you hear this, act on it, it may be ‘banter’ in the eyes of some but to others it can be upsetting affecting their mental wellbeing over Christmas and could even be discriminatory.

Christmas

  1. Communication with Employees Regarding Mental Health and Christmas

Employees will not feel able to open up in work environments with a poor attitude towards mental health.

It’s essential to keep good lines of communication open, mainly when supporting employees with mental health problems. This is even more important with many employees continuing to work remotely, for whom loneliness and having issues with mental health at Christmas can be even more prevalent.

You can only act on what you know about, so good communication gives an opportunity for employees to inform their employer if they feel under pressure, whether that be in their home lives or if they are having issues with mental health in the workplace during Christmas.

It also allows the employer to assess workloads and ensure that employees are not being unfairly overloaded, creating additional workplace Christmas stress.

  1. Be Observant Towards Employees’ Mental Wellbeing Over Christmas

Employers are not expected to medically assess their staff or be an expert in mental health, but they do have a duty of care if staff are feeling depressed at Christmas.

If certain warning signs of poor mental health in the workplace during Christmas are becoming apparent such as employees staying late frequently, appearing not to take time away from the workstation for breaks, looking tired, being irritable or generally appearing distracted- don’t ignore it; check in on them.

You may notice a sudden decline in someone’s mental wellbeing; this could be due to the pressures associated with the time of year- often, employees just need someone to talk to and confide in. However, do make sure that employees are encouraged and given the appropriate time off to seek any medical support they need.

  1. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

Talking to employees about their mental health, whatever the time of year, is difficult, and employers are just as likely to be suffering as well as their staff.

Many employers are investing in providing access to EAPs for their employees. These services are ideal for supporting staff mental health in the workplace over Christmas as well as providing confidential advice and support on a wide range of areas such as

  • Family- carers, child custody, and relationship problems
  • Health- both physical and mental health; many offer counselling services to assist with combating symptoms of depression and anxiety, bereavement, stress
  • Financial matters
  • Addiction

Contact, our Experts at Avensure for information on Zest- Avensure’s EAP programme.

And finally…..we don’t need to cancel Christmas, but there are many ways an employer can be proactive in supporting employees with mental health problems, particularly at this time of year.

For further advice about employee mental health and Christmas, our experts are always on hand to provide bespoke guidance and advice on this and all employment law/HR matters.