How to support employee mental health during the holidays

The rise in COVID-19 cases and ever-changing public health mandates in the second year of the pandemic has led to higher rates of depression reported among healthcare providers and staff..

Working 12-hour shifts in short-staffed medical facilities, many of which are at near or full capacity, while trying to be involved in holiday activities and traditions outside of work, takes an enormous toll on the mental wellbeing of healthcare workers.

Currently, there are around 670 age-related residential care facilities with approx. 37,000 beds providing care for approximately 33,000 aged-care residents each year. Following a research commissioned by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) in March 2021, it was revealed that senior doctors in New Zealand’s southern hospitals reported a 20 per cent increase in rates of burnout over the past five years. A 2020 survey by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners revealed more than 30 per cent of respondents were at high risk of burn out.

How can employers help to make this season better? 

Compassion, flexibility and creativity are key to supporting employees through this potentially difficult time. For managers and supervisors, it is important to be understanding of what employees are experiencing in their personal lives right now.

Have realistic expectations and encourage your teams to do the same for their colleagues and direct reports. Establish policies, whether formal and informal, that let employees know you have their back.

Ask “Are you ok?”

A simple “Are you ok?” can go a long way towards making someone feel wanted and important. . 

In 2019, a survey found 83% of aged care nurses thought some basic cIntentionally check-in with manager on a regular basis to ask, “Are you OK?” The best way to help employees is to start by asking how they are doing. Employees may choose not to engage, and that’s fine too, but it’s important to approach that conversation. Additionally, consider asking what kind of support would be helpful to your employees, and reinforce that the door is open if and when they’d like to talk.

Lead by example 

To be a good example to other employees, prioritize self-care, and set boundaries. Be vocal and open about what you’re doing to take care of yourself and avoid burnout.

To help decrease the stigma of mental health challenges, be transparent about personal struggles or experiences. Doing so can help other employees feel comfortable talking about how they’re truly doing during the pandemic and this holiday season.

Highlight available resources

The aged care sector is a large oIt’s important to make employees aware of available mental health resources and encourage them to use such offerings. The most commonly desired workplace features are an open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go or who to ask for support, and training to help managers have productive behavioural health conversations

Remember, everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important to remain sensitive to the fact that some employees may be carrying on as usual during these times, while others may be struggling. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt employees’ lives across the country, creating additional stress, worry, and disappointment for many. Supporting employees during difficult times such as these has never been more important.