In 2022, it was reported that half of employees in the UK find December to be the most stressful month of the year, with many suffering from so-called ‘Festive Fatigue’. As 1st November marks Stress Awareness Day in the UK, a leading workplace mental health consultancy is calling on businesses to kickstart their wellbeing support ahead of the festive rush, to ensure employees have a happy, healthy festive season.

As the festive period draws nearer and Christmas plans start to form, many employees may be left feeling more like the Grinch than Cindy-Lou Who. According to one 2022 survey, half of employed Brits find December to be the most stressful time of year, with 79% citing the cost-of-living crisis as a key stressor, 55% stressed about being able to afford Christmas presents, and 18% fearing new year redundancies.

In general, over 51k more people were in contact with mental health services in December 2022 than in January 2023, while latest figures suggest that 914k people in the UK are currently suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

To mark National Stress Awareness Day on 1 November, a leading workplace mental health consultancy is calling on employers to ensure they’re able to spot the signs of burnout, stress, depression and more, as well as to review their mental health offerings so that their employees have adequate support if they need it. 

Calling for action is Katie Buckingham, Founder and Director of Altruist Enterprises – a passionate, expert provider of tailored mental health and wellbeing training, consultancy and support for businesses and schools. On the need for more support for employees during the festive season, Katie comments:

“There is always more that can be done in the way of support for employees, but we have recently noticed an uptick in people getting in touch with us towards the end of the year, with questions about employee wellbeing and mental health. We decided to do a little digging and were somewhat surprised to see the wider trend in employees struggling as we move into the Christmas period!

“I think the assumption is that we’re all looking forward to the festivities and some much-needed time off but, thinking about the current state of the world, it does make sense that people feel increasingly stressed during this time of year. Worries about actually being able to get time off, being able to afford gifts or even travel to see loved ones, taking on more hours to earn a bit of extra cash or to tie up those never-ending loose ends, it can all get a bit much.”

In the hopes of empowering more businesses and employers to support their employees’ mental health, Katie has shared the following five tips that can be implemented quickly and effectively ahead of the festive season:  

  • Implement a wellbeing hour – Employees might feel led by others when it comes to taking time out of their workday to practise self-care or take a minute to themselves. By implementing a dedicated hour each week for employees to do exactly that, everyone feels like they have the space to look after themselves without being the odd one out.
  • Encourage random acts of kindness – This doesn’t necessarily mean rewards for those who are the most kind to their colleagues but can be something as simple as making people aware of how beneficial it is to their own wellbeing to be kind.
  • Organise a casual employer-paid work social – Employer-paid socials are a great way to encourage co-workers to get together outside of their usual work environment. Some people might only be attending for a free drink but regardless, it’s important to make space for employees to get together in a casual, work free environment.
  • Be realistic with workload – Whilst the end of the year is an obvious deadline, consider how realistic this is for your employees and which activities can be completed in January instead. This will help relieve pressure on employees and leave them feeling far more at ease ahead of Christmas.
  • Conduct a deep dive into your wellbeing offerings – such as Altruist’s two minute online mental health audit – to re-evaluate where you’re at now and take the steps to develop your 2024 wellbeing strategy.

Elaborating on these tips, Katie adds:

“It’s important that workplace wellbeing and mental health initiatives are non-prescriptive. Wellbeing is individual and what helps one person may not help another – For example, team socials can be difficult for some people. So, make sure you’re not scolding people for skipping activities, or asking them to explain their absence. A range of support means that everyone’s preferences are catered to. If you’re unsure, an employee survey is a great way to gather ideas.”

“In sharing these tips and stats, I hope that more businesses feel educated and empowered to take the mental health and wellbeing of their employees into their own hands. Supporting employees during stressful periods – such as the runup to Christmas – can reduce long-term sickness absence due to burnout but can also increase employee loyalty and retention. After all, who doesn’t want happy, healthy employees?!”

To find out more about Katie Buckingham, Altruist Enterprises, and the services they offer, visit https://altruistuk.com/.

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