Seasonal good spirits may be in short supply this year. For a start, COVID-19 cases are on the rise, we face restrictions on socializing, shopping and eating out, and we're being asked to limit family gatherings to members of our immediate household.
Add to this possible worries over family finances, the physical health of older family members, the mental health of school-aged children, and the potentially debilitating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The upshot? "Your employees, especially those who are working remotely, may be feeling stressed, isolated, depressed and overwhelmed, affecting their mental well-being and ability to work safely and productively," says WSPS Mental Health Consultant Krista Schmid.
How can you promote good mental health in your employees over the holidays, and maybe even spread a little joy? See Krista's six suggestions below.
- Reach out. Whether you're a team leader or a supervisor, have one-on-one chats with employees leading up to the holidays and provide an opportunity for them to share what's going on in their lives. "Each person may be dealing with very different circumstances, including illness or grief," says Krista. "Listen with empathy and compassion."
- Double up on support.
- Adjust work expectations over the holidays to what the employee can handle. Offer flexible hours where possible to help employees manage their work and personal responsibilities.
- Encourage employees to take vacation time. "Work is sometimes essential for people struggling with depression to ward off negative thoughts," says Krista. If employees have unused holiday time because of COVID workload, offer them the option of carrying it into 2021.
- Fully explain your EAP program or other mental health resources available. Employees may not know the extent of coverage. Do you offer financial wellness programs or substance abuse programs? Do benefits extend to family members?
- Connect employees with community resources that can help, even if you have an EAP program. Start with 211. It's a gateway to community, social, non-clinical health and related government services.
- Encourage self-care, for your employees and for yourself - read blog post The Importance of Leader Self-Care.
- Consider creating peer and buddy support programs to promote social connections. These programs help ensure affected employees don't feel alone at work and have at least one safe relationship they can count on. If someone is struggling with work, relationships, or everyday stressors in their life, a peer supporter may be able to help them find the resources they need to manage their overall well-being.
- Join a WSPS pilot program designed to help employees struggling with social connections. You can help employees who feel isolated or lonely to build healthy social connections by participating in a study testing the impact of a new app, Hugr Authentic Connections. Employees who choose to participate would receive free access to the Hugr Authentic Connections app and program. WSPS and Howett HR will launch the study in January 2021. Space is limited, so contact Krista Schmid at firstname.lastname@example.org today for more information.
- Say thanks. Boost morale by telling employees how much you value their contribution in these challenging times. Brainstorm ways to recognize employees and show appreciation. For example, consider a holiday bonus to help tide people over. Send care packages or gift cards to those who work remotely so they know they are not forgotten. Hold contests for gifts of food or other items. A personal thank you to each employee goes a long way.
- Organize virtual holiday parties. While workplace gatherings are off the table for now, there are ways to promote camaraderie, inclusion and fun virtually:
- team celebrations, such as ugliest sweater contest, best decorated home office, holiday sing-along, and recipe swaps
- games like charades, Pictionary, bingo or trivia
- company-wide Secret Santa, holiday costume contest, or virtual escape room
- holiday toasts honouring remote workers and highlighting major accomplishments
How WSPS can help
- COVID-19 mental health resources - they can help you in providing mental health support to your team (PDF)
- insightful posts from our Psychological Safety Blog, published by WSPS with Howatt HR