The holidays can be a trying time. At a time when you are expected to be jolly, you may find it shameful to feel anything but that.
And yet, the reality is that this time of year can be difficult for some of us, for varying reasons. For one thing, loneliness at the holidays is always a big concern. With all the festivities that are happening around us, especially Christmas, there is this connotation of inclusiveness and togetherness that can be a stark reminder for some of their own lack of company. The holidays have come to symbolise family, and so for those who may have fractured familial relationships or have lost loved ones, it can be difficult not to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment to have to admit to your own isolation. Research conducted by Mind confirms this, with over a third of people (36%) being too embarrassed to admit they are lonely at Christmas time.
There are also those who may be suffering with religious trauma. This time of year can be very triggering for those who have been brought up in strict religious households but have been on a journey of faith deconstruction into their adulthood. Being forced to take part in religious-based traditions in order to see their family can leave them feeling emotionally drained, and can lead to them feeling the need to pull away during this time.
And lastly, this year is particularly hard on us all financially. The commercialisation of Christmas is a consistent reminder that this is a time for giving and spending, but with the cost-of-living crisis touching the majority of us – Go.Compare Energy found that one in six UK households will not be putting up lights this year to save money – this can lead to increased feelings of stress and guilt at not feeling you are able to provide a ‘perfect’ Christmas. More than two in five people have reported feeling stressed during the holiday season, and just over a quarter of people (26%) say that the Christmas season actually makes their mental health worse, according to a YouGov survey.
Inevitably, all of these stresses and wellbeing concerns are going to leak into working life – so how can employers look to offer that little bit of extra help during the holiday season?
My biggest piece of advice would be to actively ask questions and actively listen to what your staff have to say. When in a managerial role, it can be very easy to fall into the habit of asking closed questions to staff, such as “Do you have any plans for Christmas?”. Nine times out of ten the answer will be ‘yes’ even if that is not the truth, so managers need to take it that next step further. Follow up with, “Oh, what are you up to?” – this immediately signals that you are genuinely interested and want to listen, and therefore you are now more likely to receive an honest answer.
Supporting the financial and emotional wellness of your staff can be difficult – you may already feel like time is escaping you – but placing that focus on your team members is a pillar of the managerial role. Even if you don’t have the answers, showing that you care enough to ask the right questions can make all the difference.
It comes down to taking accountability for your staff and making that effort to be self-aware during what is a potentially trying time for some members of your team. Making them feel comfortable, safe, and like they can confide in you will promote openness in your workplace culture and help ensure that performance can be maintained, as well as your staff being properly supported. Even if it is something as simple as sending out a group text or email on Christmas Day – it’s not a necessity, but one minute of your time could make someone feel that little bit less lonely amongst the festivities.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020