While for most people, Christmas conjures images of joyful celebrations and indulging in delicious food and festivities, for many, Christmas can be a source of stress and sorrow.

As Christmas approaches it can remind us of loss, feelings of loneliness, isolation, or being separated from important people due to work commitments, conflict, finances for example. Some people are anxious about potential conflict that seem unavoidable at this time of year and Christmas can put huge financial pressure on people, with expectations to buy presents and provide for their families generously when there may not be the funds to do so. There can often be additional work pressures at this time, or alternatively stress around affording time off during shut down periods.

We notice in many businesses a rise in complaints around absenteeism, poor performance and workplace conflict leading up to the Christmas break.

It’s important to keep performance issues completely separated from any discussions around mental health and illness. See our article Managing Mental Health during the Performance Management Process.

A reminder about the signs to look out for:

Make time to frequently check in with your employees and be aware of the common early warning signs that may indicate someone is struggling with mental health.

Warning signs can include:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Emotional behaviour and/or mood swings
  • Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with simple tasks
  • Less communication between colleagues
  • Arriving late to work
  • Frequently calling in sick

What is the role of the employer in mental health at Christmas?

A positive and supportive work environment is shown to be beneficial for an individual’s overall health and wellbeing. So, leading up to Christmas it is important to check in on the people in your team, and pay close attention to any changes that may indicate someone is struggling with their mental health.

There are many simple ways to encourage positive mental health and wellbeing during this time of the year. Avoid drawing attention to any one person in your team and encourage your employees to:

  • Plan ahead and ask if they need assistance to complete tasks, or manage priorities to take the pressure off getting everything done before the end of the year.
  • Limit alcohol intake at end of week drinks or Christmas parties.
  • Take their allocated breaks and get fresh air and sunshine where possible.
  • Talk about any concerns or issues they are having, whether that be to a manager, an EAP provider or other counselling service.

If you are noticing people in your team affected by poor mental health and you’re not sure how to navigate the situation, get in touch with us for assistance.