MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

How SMEs Can Look After Employees’ Wellbeing During The Festive Season

The festive season can be hard for SME employees.
Santa Claus preparing for Christmas and connecting with a laptop, he is working at his desk at home

The festive season is, for the majority, a time of relaxation, happiness and good wellbeing. But that is not the case for everyone.

Those who work for smaller businesses, work extra hours to make up for lost time and any lost revenues.

This is especially the case following the COVID-19 lockdowns, which saw many businesses closing their doors for months.

SME Employers Need To Look Out For These Signs

The added pressure and stress around this festive period could lead to issues with wellbeing.

This could include low mental health and burnout.

RedArc, the nurse-led wellbeing service, is reminding SMEs to look out for signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and mental health concerns among their staff.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “The effects of the pandemic will stay with us for a long time to come, and sadly for some, life will never be the same.

“If we add in additional work pressures as small businesses try to make up lost ground, and the financial and emotional strain of Christmas on home life, it’s understandable why some employees could feel overwhelmed at this time of year.

“Small business owners can often do more than they think to help stressed-out staff, but under pressure themselves, they may not always take stock of how their employees are feeling.”

Tips To Help Manage Employee Wellbeing During The Festive Season

RedArc’s first word of warning is that SME owners and managers should avoid viewing things through their own lens.

They need to appreciate that people react differently and cope in their own way.

Christine Husbands explains: “A large new order or a big client win is great from a profitability point of view but might be the straw that will break the camel’s back for a team already working at capacity.

“Be mindful of this before speaking to staff.”

Employees need to take time to talk to employees and listen to their concerns.

Simply being heard and understood is enough to make some employees feel better about a situation.

A well as dealing with specific workplace issues or situations, always take time to ask how things are with employees outside of work.

It could be that home life, relationships, family or other out-of-work issues are affecting them.

Encouraging a flexible and understanding workplace through the company is key.

A sympathetic boss’s efforts are wasted if an employee’s day-to-day line manager doesn’t take the same approach.

Watch Out For Unusual Behaviour

RedArc also warns employers to look out for signs that an employee may be struggling, even if they do not raise any issues when asked.

Unusual behaviour can take many forms. These include slow to respond, poor timekeeping, lack of motivation or unusually short-tempered or withdrawn.

Employees could also have physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking, extreme fatigue due to lack of sleep.

There may be evidence of misuse of alcohol or drugs.

Christine Husbands advises: “Small businesses usually know their team exceptionally well and so should be fairly quick to identify changes in their staff.

“If behavioural changes are identified, the employer should approach that individual and sensitively explain what they’ve noticed.

“Employers may have to ask how the member of staff is several times before they get a genuine response, as most people will initially say they are fine.”

How To Approach Employees Struggling During The Festive Season

RedArc suggests that it is important to have these conversations with the employee at a location and time to suit the individual.

Asking them to attend a meeting in a much-needed lunch break or during a busy shift could only serve to exacerbate the problem.

It’s also important not to make assumptions or pre-judge a situation either in terms of the problem or the solution.

Employers need to be mindful of thinking they know best or taking responsibility for the issue.

They should only do this if it is something in their capacity to control.

Asking the employee what help they think they need is often best. It makes them feel valued and encourages them to take some responsibility too.

Employers should familiarise themselves with their employee benefits programme in order to steer their staff towards any expert help available.

There are also excellent charities for circumstances when an employer has serious or immediate concerns about a member of staff.

These charitable organisations include Mind, the Samaritans, For Men to Talk or WISH for women’s mental health.

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