Supporting mental health

For employees across the UK, the month of January and the winter months are often considered the most challenging. Whether returning from sustained periods of rest after the festive period or trying to recalibrate to a change in pace after a stressful commercial peak, there’s a certain lull to the start of the year. This slowdown can lessen productivity and event impact employee retention.

1. Encourage mental health breaks

Readjusting to sudden changes in the environment, such as being required to hit the ground running after an extended period of leave, can be hard to adapt to. Consequently, mental health should be a priority for every business leader. Flexibility is also a key tool in an employer’s arsenal, and will ensure their workforce achieves its full potential.

Creating a safe space at work can be as simple as encouraging employees to take short breaks between tasks as they acclimatise to their new normal. Although small, such steps make all the difference, helping to boost productivity and take the edge off the sharp change in pace.

2. Rebuild team connections

At the end of Q4, there is often a rearrangement in team dynamics that can blur the lines between responsibilities. Many members of staff take leave and shifts in workforce modelling (e.g. ‘skeleton staff’ or seasonal support staff) cause duties to change. This means it’s important for team members to be able to reconnect and fall back into their roles easily.

Making time and space for employees to socialise with each other can help to foster a culture founded on an instant and integrated support system. In this example, relationships with colleagues supports individual wellbeing.

3. Establish work routines

Aside from being pegged as the most depressing month of the year, January is also a month where many people set new goals and resolutions. Introducing ‘year ahead’ sessions for teams can help workers to get back into their routines faster. If these sessions are used to highlight key milestones, they may also contribute to increasing employee retention rates. They do this by building motivation and highlighting opportunities for future achievements to work towards.

4. Examine ways of working

For businesses operating in fast-paced, high-pressured environments, re-examining ways of working (or ways of returning to work), could prove rewarding. For instance, prevent employee burnout by implementing processes that actively battle against anxiety. Similarly, ensure employee performance is balanced with employee wellbeing through regular one-to-ones. These outcomes are best achieved by ensuring that work is distributed equally, encouraging an open environment, and taking time to connect with employees.

5. Celebrate work successes

Sometimes the best way of combatting negativity is by focusing on the positives instead. For those employees who simply feel deflated upon their return to work, little ‘pick me ups’ throughout the month may help to reinvigorate and energise them. This can be as simple as:

  • Reflecting on key wins from the months before
  • Discussing moments they’re looking forward to in the new year
  • Acknowledging and celebrating the ‘small’ successes throughout the month

Collating the quick wins can be crucial for staff wellbeing and employee retention. It can help alleviate any anxieties of not performing well due to ill mental health by highlighting what is being done well.

Returning to work after periods of both rest and chaos can be daunting. Therefore it’s important for businesses to lead by example and support the workforce as fully as possible. By implementing integrated welfare approaches, staff members are much more likely to feel equipped to battle their winter blues. As a result they will also appreciate their place of work.