Offering mental health support for your parent workforce during the holidays

The holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for working parents who often experience additional strains on their mental wellbeing. The financial pressure of holiday expenses, the emotional strain of managing family gatherings, childcare, and holiday expectations on top of end-of-year work responsibilities can easily pile up stress on your parent workforce.

Being aware of both surfacing and established issues amongst your workforce is a clear advantage to help prevent end-of-year burnout. Kooth’s Head of People UK, Holly Smith, provides six insights on how your organisation can stay ahead of the curve in addressing your parent workforce’s wellbeing needs during the festive season.

Benchmarking workforce mental health is incredibly powerful

1. Implement regular surveys and benchmarking

Regularly reporting insights and surveys can help leaders stay on top of stress or hidden wellbeing issues at work, while simultaneously giving HR teams the data to introduce or remind staff of support and benefits offered.

Benchmarking workforce mental health is incredibly powerful. It allows leaders and managers to track employee needs over time so that HR teams can target the specific types of support needed, at times when presenting issues are on the rise.

Two colleagues work together in a collaboration zone.

2. Encourage managers to have meaningful check-ins with staff.

Employers and managers will benefit from checking in with their staff to better understand and address individual circumstances. Though not everyone will feel comfortable sharing information about their personal situations, providing a welcoming space for discussion and forward planning can send an important message that the wellbeing of employees is supported.

How might the support they need change during the festive period?

Creating opportunities to think together with employees about how they can support themselves over the festive period can help individuals feel empowered, and able to support themselves. Additionally, employers and managers should ask themselves: What can I do to support my staff during this time? What do they need right now? How might the support they need change during the festive period?

Training managers should include how to talk to their teams about the different preventative mental health and wellbeing support options available through your organisation and how to access them – just as much as they need training on mental health first aid.

A woman leads a group discussion.

3. Signpost to relevant support services

If you know your employees are experiencing specific difficulties such as grief and loss, financial issues, or loneliness during this time of year, acknowledging any difficulties can help staff feel heard and validated. Employers may not always be able to help with specific issues or circumstances, but signposting staff to relevant support services can be really helpful over the festive period. This may be a crisis service, a mental health service, or a debt support service for those in financial difficulty.

You might not know the full extent of the difficulties the members of your workforce face

It’s important to consider that even with insights, surveys, benchmarking, and regular check-ins, you might not know the full extent of the difficulties the members of your workforce face. In these cases, providing general support signposting to external services during the holiday period to all staff via email, or another appropriate means of communication, could be helpful for the individuals who don’t reach out.

An artist in her studio

4. Provide flexible support and work options for staff

Special consideration should be given to certain parent groups who might be especially vulnerable, or in need of additional support over the holidays. For example, new parents, sandwich parents, single parents, or parents struggling with childcare. You can support these different groups with benefits that help with childcare options, individual or whole family support, buddy schemes, regular check-ins, or flexible working arrangements.

Offering some financial flexibility could be useful

Allowing your parents to work flexibly during the holiday season can help them balance the various pressures. Offering some financial flexibility could be useful, acknowledging that December can be an expensive month. HR teams often remind their staff of the benefits available at this time of year, which may include childcare options for parents who may be struggling with the extra financial strain and ‘busy-ness’ that Christmas can bring.

A man carries his child.

5. Provide digital support options available outside working hours

While many work schedules fluctuate during the holiday season, it’s especially important that employees have access to mental health support outside of working hours. Kooth Work’s research found that most employees want support that they can access easily outside of work hours, so digital support options are an integral component.

Ensure there are other means of support to access during the holiday season

Clinical counsellor, Gemma Campbell, says, “Work is often an important support system, source of comfort, and even a distraction for many working parents experiencing challenges at home. Ensuring there are other means of support to access during the holiday season can be useful and help employees feel less alone with any difficulties they’re managing.

“It can be useful to consider the digital support you can offer in advance of the festive period so you can tackle any difficulties in good time, and give yourself plenty of time to plan ahead with your employees.”

A man calls his colleague for support.

6. Finally, take time to recognise employees and celebrate their achievements

Although it’s important for employees to feel valued all the time, the festive season is particularly important to celebrate staff. Acknowledging employees’ contributions to your company’s achievements can go a long way to boost morale during a time when end-of-year objectives are pressing and burnout may be on the rise.

Employers should consider how they can thank and give back to their employees during this time of year with things like all-staff celebrations, individual or team acknowledgements, or financial rewards. A little appreciation can go a long way and carry a note of positivity and productivity into the new year.

You can read the full guide on how employers can support working parents here.

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