The Christmas period means a seasonal slowdown in some industries, but for many December is the busiest and most stressful month of the year.
If it’s not an increase in demand as people rush to get things done before Christmas itself, it’s the need to get everything signed off and finished before the end of the year. All of this can mean that your employees struggle to get much of a festive break at all.
As you might expect, these ‘working holidays’ are not very healthy for your workers.
The technology that we now take for granted can keep us permanently connected to the office. This is a boon in many ways; remote working, for example, is now a viable option for many people. However, this also means that employees feel increasingly unable to take a break.
Combined with fears about job insecurity and increased presenteeism, a lack of boundaries between work and personal time could be the reason that a rising number of employees are reporting stress and mental health problems.
Recent government figures highlighted a 24% rise in the number of days lost to stress, depression and anxiety in the UK from 2009 to 2013. Meanwhile, in this year’s CIPD absence management survey, 40% of the respondents reported a rise in stress-related absence over the last year.
A stressed workforce is not good for business, and not only because of the direct cost of absence. Employers have a legal duty to provide their employees with a safe working environment. This means that you must take reasonable care to prevent personal injury, including any mental or physical harm that may arise due to workplace stress.
An employee could raise a case against you due to a stress-related injury. Should it come to this, the courts will consider whether the stress of the workplace was reasonably foreseeable in the given case, and whether or not the employer took the appropriate steps to address the issue.
Earlier this year the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidance on how to promote mental wellbeing at work. The report illustrated six key principles for senior management and HR teams to follow in order to reduce work-related stress:
Assess and manage the demands placed on employees
Allow employees some control in how they carry out their work
Promote positive relationships
Ensure employees understand their role
Manage organisational change
The Christmas period will be a high point for employees taking working holidays as the enforced time off through bank holidays and office closures leads to people working unregulated hours in order to catch up or get ahead.
It is to your own advantage to make sure that you know how much work your employees are doing, and to make sure that they are taking the full holidays that they are entitled to.