Welcome back to the holiday season! My experience with wellness around this time of year brings to mind the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The holidays allow for a convergence of stressors at home and the workplace, all of which can prove detrimental to employee wellbeing. I find it imperative for employers to create a supportive and safe work environment for their workforce during this time by anticipating and countering the effects of these stressors.
The first things that come to mind, while seemingly innocuous, are the gift boxes of chocolates and baked goods sent by business partners or baked by employees (there goes your healthy eating initiative). These tactics have worked well for my clients over the years:
- Dipping into remaining carrier wellness funds before year-end and offer fresh fruits or other healthy snacks around the office
- Creating a policy around when employees can bring in baked goods
- Donating some of the business partners’ gifts to local shelters
- Encouraging more activity breaks, stretching or walking outside if possible
Add to that shorter, colder winter days which could trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I find that now is a great time to plan team-building events and other positive social interactions. Be sure all the lights in your office are working and bright, inducing a little “light therapy,” especially if outdoor walking isn’t advised. Make sure you’ve shared information for Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or behavioral health benefits (telemedicine if you have it).
And of course, the end of the year comes with work quotas and deadlines which, when combined with the additional stress outside of the workplace, can leave employees on the brink of burnout. Before an incident occurs, remind your frontline managers to have an open-door policy and be flexible with employees. Deadlines still need to be met but are there some policies you can adjust to temporarily meet the demands of the season while looking out for employees’ wellbeing.
Offer flexible schedules, considering:
- family travel
- holiday traffic
- working remotely
Reduce end-of-year quota stress by:
- identifying clear work goals for year’s end
- recognizing employees’ efforts and accomplishments
- providing frequent, short 1-on-1 feedback sessions
Again, if you need to use up carrier wellness funds now is a great time to offer onsite massages, have healthy fruits and snacks delivered to the workplace or host simple team-building events for your employees to take a short break from work obligations and promote creativity. Skip the alcohol-based events and come up with activities that promote healthy coping with the festive and sometimes stressful season. An experienced wellness consultant can assist.