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Employee Care Through the Holidays

Employee Care

Your employees are grateful for their jobs, but they’re suffering. We recently reported on the fresh burnout employees have been experiencing this year. The average U.S. workday has increased by 40% during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means a normal American workday right now lasts 11 hours. By mid-April, more than 40% of workers reported being burned out, drained or exhausted from their work while 23% reported they feel depressed, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Further lockdowns and extended surge operations through the holidays are making it worse. While we often cover fringe benefits, growth opportunities and other enticements this time of year to retain employees, 2020 is different. And what your employees need to stay on board may seem simple enough: It’s your attention, compassion, and support.

HR has often measured the cost of burnout by the rate of employee turnover. But this year, the cost is much more visceral. Workers may be less likely to quit their jobs, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for their burnout. A study by software company Limeade found that among burned out employees, 44% resent their employers, 52% had trouble sleeping at night, 34% had a disinterest in socializing, and 26% consumed more alcohol than usual.

Why don’t they tell you they’re struggling? A surprising 47% of workers who have disclosed a mental health issue report experiencing a negative workplace consequence for doing so. How can you combat this issue during the holidays and into 2021?

  • Encourage the use of PTO and vacation time. Just having the time available isn’t enough. Most workers don’t take the time they’ve accrued without reminders and encouragement from their managers to do so without judgement.
  • Consider adding additional time off. SHRM reports that some employers plan to expand their time-off policies this year due to the pandemic. It can be a valuable gesture, especially when exempt employees have been working extra hours and usual perks like bonuses may fall short.
  • Offer mental health resources. A Mind Share Partners study found nearly 40% of global employees said that no one at their company had even asked them if they were doing OK since the pandemic began (nearly 40% of those workers haven’t been OK). Find out ways to reach out and offer tangible mental health support to employees in this Harvard Business Review article.
  • Be responsive and creative. Employees need more and different ways to connect and feel supported through the holidays. For instance, caregivers will need more support than ever. Some companies are getting creative by offering things like a weekly children’s story hour over Zoom for coworkers to help entertain burned out parents. Others are sending holiday care packages to employees with grocery store gift cards and other everyday essentials.

“During this holiday season, keep the humanity of your employees in mind,” Tyler Arvig, a doctor of psychology and associate medical director at R3 Continuum, a behavioral health and security services company, tells SHRM. “Holiday gatherings typically serve as important anchors for families and may be one of the few times where families are able to be together during the year. It is a time of togetherness. Except for this year, when it won’t be. It will be a time of isolation. That, for many, will be very devastating,” he adds. Pivoting from perks and performance to true employee care can make all the difference.


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