How Managers Can Support Employee Mental Health After the 2022 Holiday Season

Poor employee mental health may be difficult to spot during the holiday season. That's why it's important to provide every resource they can possibly utilize.
Employee Mental Health

Popular culture believes the holiday season is the “happiest season of all.” Ironically, many people find the holidays undermine their mental health, compromising emotional wellbeing and even work performance. 

In fact, work plays a significant role in mental health, and employee mental health plays a major role in productivity and performance. Employers need to help their employees manage their mental health, improve their mood and stay productive over the holidays.

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That response should account for the complex and varying reasons why employees might struggle with mental health around the holidays. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 24% of those with a diagnosed mental health condition said the holidays worsened their condition “a lot” and 40% said the holidays worsened their condition “somewhat.” Major reasons for feeling sad or unhappy around the holidays included financial stress, loneliness, too much pressure and unrealistic expectations, comparisons with happier times and inability to be with loved ones.

Employers may believe they have stepped up to the task of addressing workers’ mental health, but employees do not always agree. McKinsey found last year 65% of employers report employee mental health is supported well or very well, but only 51% of employees agree with 67% saying it is a challenge to access care. Similarly, 23% of employees report implementing a mental health awareness campaign in the last year even though 79%, or almost four in five employees, say such a campaign would be valuable.

These discrepancies reflect the need to raise awareness about mental health resources available to the workforce. The Kaiser Family Foundation found 81% of employers surveyed offered employee assistance programs and 44% offered self-care apps. Sometimes, these programs are mentioned during onboarding but rarely brought up afterward, so employees never take advantage. Workers also might feel too embarrassed to reach out.

To combat these deterrents to employee mental health care, employers should actively educate their workforce on existing resources. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provide educational resources and host global campaigns throughout the year highlighting the importance of employee mental health.

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A mental health awareness campaign will also help employees feel less alone. For those who lack close family, the holidays may feel isolating. For those with overbearing or dysfunctional families, the holidays can cause immense stress. A successful workplace campaign will normalize these feelings and make employees comfortable with reaching out to a mental health professional.

Employers also need to address burnout, which can worsen existing employee mental health issues, especially around the holidays. Employees who know mental health has impacted their performance may hesitate to take vacation at the exact moment when vacation is most important to their wellbeing. Though every employee’s need will differ, using PTO can increase time spent with family and relieve pressure at work. Employers should encourage employees to use their PTO over the holidays, using staggered PTO schedules if the entire team cannot take time off at once.

Management can also provide additional time off beyond the federal holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Day such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. If business operations between Christmas and New Year’s Day are non-critical, employers can also consider closing the office or work as needed during that time, so all employees can spend time with family, rest and recharge. If employees or entire teams cannot take time off over the holidays without compromising business operations, ensure time off can be scheduled for January or February.

Finally, employers should be proactive about connecting and checking in. As managers become busy with their own families and obligations, they may forget to check in with their teams. Remind frontline managers to express gratitude for employees, celebrate the holiday as a team and stay realistic about deadlines to avoid undue pressure. Send out emails pointing workers back to employee mental health benefits and resources in the community.

Employers cannot solve employee mental health issues. Still, they can provide support through awareness campaigns, reducing burnout and checking in with workers, making the holidays happier for everyone.

 

Niki JorgensenNiki Jorgensen is a director, service operations with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources offering the most comprehensive suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace. For more information about Insperity, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.