Health and safety

Giving Compassion: Mental Health at the Holidays

December 21, 2017

It’s coming on ChristmasThey’re cutting down treesThey’re putting up reindeerAnd singing songs of joy and peaceOh I wish I had a riverI could skate away on

—Joni Mitchell, “River”

Although Joni Mitchell’s “River” often plays on the radio in December, the song strikes a decidedly different note when compared to the typically upbeat string of pop tunes and carols heard this time of year. From the appropriately titled album Blue, Mitchell’s song reminds us that not everyone’s holidays are merry and bright. While many employees will eagerly decorate the office, bake treats for co-workers, and look forward to the annual holiday party, other employees may be much less enthusiastic about festivities in the workplace.

It’s important to note there’s a difference between employees experiencing a temporary period of holiday stress and employees with a mental illness who may find the season a particularly difficult time. According to one survey, 39% of polled employees said it was more challenging to manage their workloads during the holidays, making them resistant to taking on more work-related holiday obligations.

We should never presume that employees who appear disengaged from holiday fun are merely Scrooges; many have valid reasons for not embracing the holidays. For some, this time of year brings up painful memories or makes them more aware of recent events, such as a divorce or a death in the family. Other employees may not celebrate one of the dominant December holidays, and could feel overwhelmed by enthusiastic co-workers. Others still may feel overextended at this time of year, with both work and family demands requiring more of their time, and their credit cards taking a hit to pay for gifts and celebrations. For some employees, this may continue into January blues when the bills arrive and the days seem even colder and darker.

The holiday season can put a lot of pressure on employees across the organization. With both personal and professional obligations ramping up at the end of the year, the season may be particularly challenging for those living and working with a mental illness. It’s important to maintain open communication with your employees, implement policies, train and mentor your managers and supervisors, and finally promote available services to employees.

While it’s best practice to monitor your employees for indications of personal difficulty throughout the year, it may be challenging to spot the usual signs of struggle when viewing them through the glow of twinkling lights and glittering garlands.

How should you respond if faced with an employee who may be struggling to cope this holiday season? HRdownloads™ offers unlimited training, policies, and other HR tools that can help you support employees who may be feeling less than festive. Just remember, this season, compassion may be the most valuable gift you can offer your employees. 

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Source: Accountemps Survey: Many Workers More Stressed During the Holidays.