With the holidays fast approaching, employers are expected to infuse their workplaces with warmth and festivity. Holiday-themed activities and year-end functions; Christmas decorations and gift-giving: these can all be highly effective in building team unity, boosting morale and generating a feeling of optimism that carries into the new year. But sometimes, in the face of widespread change, a different approach is warranted. While the celebration of family and togetherness can be healing and restorative, it can also be a painful reminder of the absence of these things. The holidays can feel loaded for other reasons: people are asked to take stock of their situation; financial worries may come to the forefront; family dynamics can exert unwanted strain. COVID-19 has reshaped nearly every aspect of our lives, and as a result, some of your employees may be having a complicated holiday experience. With this in mind, we offer three meaningful ways to create a caring and reciprocal work culture this holiday season.¬

“Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.”

Harlan Miller

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Good communication is the cornerstone of good management. And there is evidence to prove it. Three major research studies conducted in 2021 arrived at similar conclusions: organisational growth is most directly linked to connection, communication, and engagement. But while offering engaging and clear direction is necessary for a stimulated, efficient workforce, it is equally vital to invite and reciprocate honest discourse. Amidst the (virtual) holiday get-togethers and celebrations, make it clear that your organisation prioritises the wellness of its staff. Emphasise that it is okay to take a mental health day; make yourself available if an issue arises; invest in pathways that empower your employees to register their concerns and coordinate with management to make concrete changes. Try not to be defensive; listen attentively and empathically. Your efforts will be rewarded in the form of an inspired and devoted workforce.

Health is everything

We believe that one of the long-term outcomes of this pandemic can be our emergence as a more unified, compassionate society. And management has a vital role to play in that future by establishing a health-first approach to all workplace dynamics. Employees want to excel and drive their organisations forward, but only if they are motivated by passion, belonging and an enhanced sense of well-being.

Ask yourself: what mechanisms are in place to evaluate, preserve and improve your staff’s health and wellbeing? What is your organisation’s leave policy; is absenteeism an ongoing issue in your workplace; are rates of productivity and engagement on the rise? Lead by example: maintain a healthy work-life balance and encourage your employees to do the same.

Consider whether more large-scale changes could be a productive way forward. Several UK organisations have shifted to a four-day workweek while maintaining productivity and reducing employee stress.

Finally, ensure that your organisation has physical and mental health resources at the centre of its benefits strategy. Comprehensive healthcare benefits are proven to reduce absenteeism and boost workplace productivity drastically. As an employee, there are few things more reassuring than the knowledge that there are services in place to protect oneself and one’s family.

Make it a better ‘new normal’

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the business world; hybrid and remote work models are not merely becoming normalised but elevated in many quarters. Comfort and flexibility, quality time with family, and the potential for improved work-life balance are all major contributing factors to employee wellbeing and engagement. While we’re all for a future where employees have greater autonomy over how and where they operate, remote work isn’t yet an alternative; it’s a mandate. And research is showing that not everyone feels suited to a non-office-centric model.

What are the most commonly cited challenges of the remote worker? To begin, increased pressure to produce. Studies show that, regardless of their level of performance, in-person workers tend to have higher rates of promotion and preference than their remote counterparts. Make sure that this does not apply in your organisation, and consider going the extra mile with personalised calls or thank you cards for those not regularly attending the office.

With myriad potential distractions at home, and an endless stream of work emails, Zoom meetings and Teams notifications, it can feel like one’s work-life boundaries have all but deteriorated. (Compassionately) imposing limits on those who can’t seem to turn their notifications off is a major step forward. This may come in the form of a gentle recommendation, a team meeting where healthy boundaries are discussed, or even in the creation of a peer accountability system, which encourages employees to check on each other to ensure they are taking time away from work.

Finally, FOMO. They call it a work ‘family’ for a reason, and just like a family, a sense of belonging often hinges on personal interaction. By ensuring that your remote workers are fully briefed on meetings and invited to out-of-work functions, you help facilitate an environment of inclusiveness. Or why not organise an appreciation event for remote employees, even if they are only returning to the office to catch up?

“As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.”

David Grayson

 

At MIT, we continue to innovate our service package to help our clients face down unprecedented work challenges. We are confident that 2022 will only deepen our commitment to our mission. Contact us today to book a free demonstration of our Benefits Portal and join other forward-thinking employers who rely on MIT to engage and inspire their employees.