The final months of the year are full of traditions shared with family and friends. However, in 2020, many Americans are re-evaluating those traditions as COVID-19 collides with the holiday season. In a recent survey conducted on behalf of Cambia, 75 percent of respondents said the pandemic has made them feel stressed, overwhelmed, sad or frustrated when thinking about the holidays. As the pandemic continues, we explore how employers can best support their employees during this time to build a healthier and stronger culture in the workforce.
1. Discuss How This Year is Different
“There’s an underlying message that people are finally starting to understand: This pandemic is not going away anytime soon,” said Cambia Executive Medical Director Dr. James Polo.
75 percent of respondents selected COVID-19 when asked what was prompting their emotions towards the holiday season, given the plethora of challenges we’ve faced this year. Dr. Polo recommends that as individuals are handling their own sense of stress, they also think about what they are doing to help others around them. For employers, this can include staying connected, communicating with employees and being flexible.
2. Stay Connected
When asked what the most important part of the holiday season was for them, over 80 percent of survey respondents cited spending time together.
One respondent elaborated that “Holiday traditions are an important part to building a strong bond between family, and our community. They give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us. They connect us to our history and help us celebrate generations of family.”
“The biggest thing that folks have to do to struggle through this pandemic is continue to maintain social connections,” said Polo. “As humans, we all need to feel a connection, even if it’s virtual. For employers, this may look like asking coworkers how they’re feeling at the beginning or end of a virtual meeting or scheduling “coffee breaks” via a virtual meeting to talk about something other than work projects.”
3. Offer Flexibility
COVID-19 has upended the typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. With individuals dealing with new working environments and challenges, flexibility is key. For example, letting employees know it’s okay to take a break from the computer to be with their children or take a walk. Customize approaches to address challenges employees are facing and learn to be both generous and realistic.
When asked what respondents plan to do with their free time this holiday season, many shared they will be taking time off from work to watch movies, cook or bake, and spend time with family.
One respondent admits the most important thing to them during the holiday season is to “enjoy some time off from work to recharge my batteries for the new year.” Flexibility is crucial to a positive work environment at any time – but is particularly important amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the holiday season.
4. Encourage Well-Being & Connectivity
Here are four actions employers can take to make their employees feel less stressed and more connected:
- Think about what your employees want and value.
- Start a wellness webinar for employees to join at a certain time each day to promote mental and physical well-being.
- Build a culture of connection through daily check-ins, whether it be “icebreakers” or weekly trivia games, that connect colleagues across the organization and remind them of each other’s lives outside work.
- Encourage teams to take time to celebrate holidays and birthdays with virtual get-togethers.
With employers supporting their employees, a healthier and stronger culture in the workforce is built. These strategies are not only applicable to the workforce but for all of us as we find safe and satisfying was to celebrate the holidays.
“One of the key things to understand is that the future will get better,” Polo says. “It’s not going to be the same, but the things that are missing are not going to be gone forever. They will eventually come back.”