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Supporting Employee Mental Health During the Holidays

How to Support Employee Mental Health During the Holidays

The holidays can be hard on workers. In fact, nearly two-thirds (61%) of employees say they are “negatively affected” during the holiday season, according to Monster’s Holiday Work Life Balance Poll. Nearly one in five (17%) say their overall well-being declines during this time of year.

Mental wellness can suffer in particular. According to one study, three in five Americans say their mental health is negatively impacted by the holiday season. Among them, 52% reporting increased depression, 60% reporting increased anxiety, and 70% feeling more financial stress. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), financial stress due to gift-giving expectations, and the pressures of social and family commitments can take a toll on mental health.

"There's a lot that happens at the same time during this time of year. We don't take care of ourselves. We feel vulnerable, we feel stretched and sometimes we feel triggered." Paula Allen, senior vice president of research and total well-being at LifeWorks, a digital mental health firm, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Employers have a crucial role in supporting their team’s physical and mental health during this period. This involves understanding the unique stressors of the season and taking proactive steps to mitigate their impact.

"This time of the year, we're trying to balance remaining work goals, and then preparing for our new personal goals, but what tends to happen is we get out of balance." Karen Rech, a senior EAP trainer at healthcare company Health Advocate, told Benefit News. "We can help manage some of that and shift how individuals and teams adapt, in order to manage the workload for the rest of the year." 

Here’s how employers can help, starting with a few concrete support measures:

1. Mental Health Resources:

To help employees cope with mental health challenges during the holidays, offer accessible mental health support. Provide counseling services, support groups, or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These resources aid in reducing stress, supporting employees facing mental health issues, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance.

Access to mental health professionals allows employees to get help when they're stressed or have mental health issues. This access makes it easier for them to seek assistance and feel comfortable talking to an expert. Employees can reach out to these professionals for support and guidance.

These common mental health services are beneficial for their well-being and overall mental health. Providing mental health benefits establishes a supportive workplace, contributing to long-term employee well-being.

2. Financial Wellness Programs:

The holiday season often brings financial pressures that can affect employees' mental well-being. Employers can help by introducing Financial Wellness Programs. These programs may include workshops or accessible resources focusing on budgeting and financial planning.

By offering guidance on budgeting and financial planning, these initiatives help employees manage holiday expense better. Workshops designed for financial planning equips employees with practical skills to handle costs. These programs can help in reducing financial worries and fostering a sense of financial control.

3. Flexibility and Understanding:

During the holidays, you have to understand that employees might feel additional stress affecting their work. To help, be more flexible with performance expectation. Understand that this time can be overwhelming, affecting focus and productivity. By reducing performance expectations, you demonstrate you're committed to supporting employee mental health.

Being flexible reduces pressure on employees, allowing them to manage their workload better. Recognizing these challenges fosters a supportive workplace culture, making employees feel valued and understood during demanding times.

4. Awareness and Education:

Help your employees manage seasonal stress by organizing workshops or sending out helpful information. These sessions and communications focus on handling depression, stress, and coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Workshops offer practical tips for recognizing symptoms and self-care techniques. Emails and newsletters provide ongoing advice and resources for better mental health during the holidays.

5. Encourage Time Off:

Encourage employees to take time off during the holidays. Nearly a third of workers say they get only one or two days off during the holidays. Actively promoting and facilitating more extended breaks is essential during this period.

By advocating for vacation days, employers prioritize their employees work-life balance. This can help with reducing stress and allows employees to recharge, leading to healthier minds and better connections with friends and family.

6. Providing Support Without Unintended Stress

To prevent unintentional stress, be cautious about well-intended activities that might add pressure. For instance, minimize mandatory social events that can strain schedules or finances. While checking in with employees is supportive, ensure it doesn't feel intrusive or controlling.

Employers have a crucial role in assisting their teams during these challenges. By prioritizing both mental and physical wellness and being aware of potential stress triggers, employers guide their teams towards a healthier and happier season. A comprehensive wellness strategy for the holidays not only supports employees but also grows a positive and productive workplace environment.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.