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Not always a Merry Christmas: Christmas and Mental Health

Christmas is usually a happy time of year. But it’s also a busy time of year and can be especially stressful and challenging for people who suffer with poor mental health. Family tension, loneliness, breaks to routine, financial stress and pressure to attend functions and events, can often make matters worse. So whether Christmas is a wind-down time for your business, or if you’re heading into a busy trading period, it’s important to make employee mental health a priority.

If you’re anything like me, with Christmas just ahead, not only am I excited to take a break and enjoy some festive cheer but, from a work perspective, I’m also thinking… ‘How am I going to get everything done’? It’s no doubt that your employees are feeling this way too. Here are our best tips in bringing in the New Year whilst maintaining a positive wellbeing work culture.

Thank employees – thanking employees makes it clear to them that they are important and can help to improve productivity and morale. Thank them with a Christmas party, awards, gift or something to ensure their efforts are celebrated.

Prioritise – ask employees to identify what is absolutely necessary to have completed before the Christmas break, and let them know that it’s okay to put smaller, less important tasks on the to-do list for January.

Time off – no doubt the leave requests have already been approved but for those employees who will continue to work throughout the Christmas holidays, be flexible with working arrangements or try to give staff some unexpected time off to be with family and friends. And in the lead up to Christmas, take note of those working extra hours and ensure they take entitled leave.

Have processes in place – if you’re running on skeleton staff throughout the Christmas period, ensure appropriate policies and procedures are in place so that employees can be reassured that they are managing queries correctly whilst covering for colleagues, and unnecessary stress is not created.

Mental health initiatives – remind employees of Employee Assistance Programs or other mental health and wellbeing initiatives to ensure they know there is help available and they are supported.

Manage your expectations and be realistic – Christmas is a time for everyone to switch off and relax. You’ve encouraged your employees to turn off their email notifications, leave their phone in the draw and unwind the best way they can. So let them. And you should do the same.

Although this time of year can feel as though work is piling up rather than winding down, it’s encouraging to understand that by allowing employees to rest and recuperate over the Christmas break, they will be refreshed, energetic and engaged upon their return. Don’t add to the stress of Christmas by creating unrealistic deadlines or pressures – understand the benefits and commit to a mentally healthy workplace instead, as the company’s bottom line will benefit in the long run.

Related reading:
Steps to preventing psychological injuries in the workplace
How to promote corporate wellness when it’s not your primary role
A simple guide to talking to employees about mental health


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