Helping Employees Get Through the Holidays

By Tom Morrison posted 12-16-2021 11:19 AM

  

We often think of the holiday season as a festive, fun-loving time. There are decorations, parties, cookies, gift exchanges, and sometimes year-end bonuses! Everyone should be having a great time. However, that’s not always the case.

The end of the year can cause greater stress, anxiety, and depression. Each person deals with the holidays differently and it is important that HR professionals understand how to assist employees. Here are several reasons why holidays can be hard:

 

  • Work pressure to finish the year strong, meet sales goals, or complete projects.
  • Employees who suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may find dread in the weeks prior to a major holiday.
  • Losing a loved one is always difficult but is often made even more so when confronting the first, or second holiday without them.
  • Some employees find they are running on empty by always putting others first and ignoring their own wellbeing.
  • Financial stresses can be triggered when people believe they must give gifts to others or buy extra food for a party, even if it means putting themselves into debt.
  • Family gatherings (enough said).

 

The list can go on and on. While we can’t do anything to stop the holidays from coming, there are steps we can take to recognize potential concerns in our employees.

Look for changes in behavior such as missing deadlines, tardiness, or attendance issues. Mood changes such as irritability, deteriorating engagement with others, an increasingly bad attitude, or comments about hopelessness, sadness, or harming oneself can also be signs of a worsening impact on mental health. In addition, difficulty concentrating, boredom, and work performance issues can be signs of concern. Once noticed, it is important to support the employees and provide needed resources, but don’t try to “fix” the problem. These are not issues we can solve, rather, we should provide encouragement and tools that can help manage stressors and assist employees through the holidays.

 

  • Listen to the employee. Sometimes they just need to come to talk to about how they feel and for you to acknowledge their feelings.
  • Offer support by talking about their concerns and suggesting possible temporary measures that may help them over the next few weeks. This could be taking a personal day, extending upcoming deadlines, and offering to assist them through a project.
  • Acknowledge a grieving family member. Everyone goes through grief in their own way, so just because a loved one passed away many months or even a couple years ago doesn’t mean the holidays will be any easier. Here is an excellent resource to understand the grieving process during the holidays: Healing Through The Holidays | AFSP 
  • Refer an employee to an Employee Assistance Program. They can help with mental health issues, as well as provide resources for emergency financial aid, food assistance programs, and other social services.
  • If someone is showing signs of increasing depression, provide the needed resources, and help them seek help if needed. This article can help employers better understand depression in the workplace: Workplace Mental Health - Depression

 

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa can be happy and joyous times. But it can also be hard for some to cope. Don’t skip the holiday parties and lunches for fear of alienating someone, but don’t forget about, and marginalize them either. Sometimes it is the little things that can help someone get through a tough day.

A handwritten note, some decorations, a hot chocolate station and holiday cookies can help provide the right atmosphere for the office. Just as important, is letting someone know they don’t need to participate if they don’t feel like it. Let them know you are there for them, whatever they decide.

  

Written by Chad Sorenson, President of Adaptive HR Solutions, MTI’s Official HR solutions partner.

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