How do leaders tackle the holidays in 2020?
2020 has been tough, and many employees are feeling overwhelmed and disconnected this holiday season. This year, more than ever before, employers should repeatedly connect with their employees throughout the holiday season.
According to a recent article from the Society for Human Resource Management, “A report from employee experience software company Limeade, Workplaces in Crisis: Employee Care Missing the Mark, was released in October. Based on input from 1,000 full-time US employees, the report authors found:
- 49 percent report having less energy for nonwork activities.
- 42 percent said they were less interested in socializing with friends.
- 42 percent were having trouble sleeping.
- 33 percent reported using more alcohol or other substances than usual.
“2020 was not the year we expected,” said Meghan Stokes, vice president of clinical services at BHS, an employee assistance program and well-being provider headquartered in Baltimore. “We’ve used up all of our surge capacity. That’s what we rely on to get through crisis. When that’s drawn out and there are more stressors, it’s never replenished. We are exhausted.”
These feelings are likely to be exacerbated over the holiday season. But there are steps that companies can take to support staff as the virus continues to rage and the holiday season is upon us.”
We have all had to shift operational mindset, adapt to new rules and regulations, and embrace change with flexibility and grace this year. Some organizations have had to furlough or lay off workers who are now facing financial hardship. Other businesses are increasing or cutting hours, placing added demands on employees.
Many companies have switched to long-term remote work environments, so employees may be feeling more isolated than ever trying to adhere to State safety regulations for social distancing and home gatherings. Most employees have added demands this year with children in virtual learning environments, sheltering in place with dual spouse work demands, living 24/7 with immediate family members, and additional external “out of control” anxiety and fears about the future.
What can managers do to support their employees during this season of giving? Consider the following:
One-to-One Meetings: Proactively check in with your employees by setting up frequent one-to-one meetings and ask questions about how they are doing. Managers should practice active listening with openness and compassion. Allow employees to provide feedback on where they stand on work-related matters and how they are coping with the holiday season on a personal level. Every employee will embrace the holidays differently. Listen and validate feelings, while tackling year-end business demands. Treat information shared in these meetings as confidential and provide additional support when necessary.
Increase Work Schedule Flexibility: The time crunch for the holidays can be challenging. Allowing employees flexible work schedules, 4-day work weeks, and use of PTO or other leave time could benefit productivity in the long run. Encourage employees who have not taken much leave this year to take some time off, if possible. “Companies like Indeed.com and Cisco have given extra days off to their employees. Other companies should follow suit, or even better: invent a mental health holiday, which is what The Wall Street Journal suggests.
“Employers should invent a holiday. Don’t just offer extra vacation days, which anxious employees aren’t taking anyway. Make it a company holiday, so employees can take a break without guilt or fear.”
Schedule Holiday Virtual and In-Person Work Events during Regular Office Hours: By doing so, this allows employees to use their valuable free time to take care of personal holiday responsibilities and activities. Workplace holiday events that occur during “after hours” can add stress to already busy schedules.
Promote Employee Virtual Hang Outs: Encourage employees to hold voluntary virtual meet-ups or social activities like ‘game night’ or meals together. Employee-led activities also tend to be more effective than HR or management-led ones.
Acknowledge Those Who Have Dealt with Loss This Year: Sadness during the holidays is common for those who have experienced the death of a loved one or a pet, a failed significant personal relationship or other loss. Employees could be facing more loss than usual because of the pandemic and may not be spending as much time with family and friends who can support them.
SHRM recommends acknowledging those losses to let employees know you remember what they’ve been through by asking, “How are you doing?” or saying “I know this time of year can be hard.”
Remind Employees about Outside Assistance Programs: It is a good time to remind employees about the help that is available through employee assistance programs (EAP) if your company utilizes these services. Many EAPs have 24-hour phone crisis support and allow for confidential short-term counseling. Additional help an EAP can provide includes referrals for programs that offer specialized care, services that help manage stress, and programs for substance abuse. Regional and national teen and adult Suicide Prevention Hotlines are also available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255 (national).
Actively Promote Self Care: The fatigue of this year is unprecedented. Managers should role model and encourage employees to set boundaries with work commitments, as well as maintain a well-balanced diet and get daily exercise, plenty of rest and hydration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “poor mental health and stress can affect an employee’s job performance, productivity, communication with coworkers and daily functioning.” Company leaders should address work/life balance and self-care routines to combat increased stress this year.
Company leaders should empower their managers to dedicate more time to employee engagement activities during this holiday season. Reprioritize year-end goals and deadlines, moving less critical ones to first quarter 2021 to help alleviate added pressure and stress on valued managers and employees. Send gifts to employees at their homes in lieu of corporate parties, and write genuine notes of recognition, praise and encouragement through internal organizational channels. Employers who can afford year-end bonuses should reward 2020 hardships with monetary generosity.
Click the link to view the recent blog: How to Throw a Fun and Fabulous Virtual Company Holiday Party or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance, and benefits.
This article does not constitute legal advice and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making decisions about policies.