Communicating compassionately about wellness during the holiday season

It can be a tough time for many employees, but you can help.

It’s no secret that the holidays can be a stressful time of the year for many. Personal issues arise and pain points related to the workplace are amplified. No matter the cause, smart content and mindful timing help substantially.

Steph Lund, CEO of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, believes that considerate cues from leadership can play a big role on how that stress is managed, especially with the knowledge that personal issues can affect professional performance at high-intensity times like year-end.

“Leadership needs to be balanced in their external pressures when managing their employee stress,“ Lund said. “This comes down to day-to-day internal communications and ways of working so that the employee can be heads down in client objectives and not view these pressures as a form of distraction.”

But leaders aren’t just naturally born — they’re made with careful training. Mark Mohammadpour, founder and CEO of Chasing the Sun, agreed that managers need to be prepared to help guide employees through times of stress, particularly around the holidays.

“We can’t just add a layer of responsibility for managers and tell them to go talk to people without preparing and training them for the moment first,” Mohammadpour said.

“A lot of that comes down to empathy — if there’s a benefit or way that can help mitigate stress, even if it doesn’t relate to you, it’ll relate to someone in the organization,” he said.

Celebrate culture, don’t try to initiate it

However, comms pros should be careful to not overload people with information in a time like the holidays—even if it’s about wellness. It’s a balancing act that’s related to the new reality of the workplace, said Nicole Swickle, founder of Honest Interactions.

“There has been a shift in the workplace that welcomes showing up as our whole selves,” she said. “This means supporting employees across all dimensions of wellness: Physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, financial, occupational, and spiritual.”

“Feelings of loneliness, anxiety, financial stress and time constraints are only amplified during the fourth quarter. Use the end of the year to celebrate company culture, not initiate it.”

Working with HR

Even if comms is responsible for spreading the wellness message around the holidays, you’re ideally not working alone. The HR department should ideally work hand-in-hand with comms to ensure that the messaging around the holidays and year-end have information about paid time off, benefit usage, and more.

“HR has a unique perspective into employee needs,” Johnna Muscente, vice president of communications and PR at Corcoran said. “Comms can support these efforts by helping to ideate wellness campaigns, activating plans through ERG groups and, once a plan comes to fruition, effectively communicating initiatives.”

Beyond assisting with the actual communication, HR can also help you get organized and pick the correct comms channels for wellness messaging during the holidays.

“With a number of employee touchpoints at our disposal, it’s important to align on key platforms for communication, creative and messaging, and cadence for notifications,” said Swickle. “Meet people where they are and feed them informative but digestible content that puts them first.”

Lightening the spiritual load with action

While thoughtful wellness messaging around the holidays is powerful, any cultural commitments must be supported by actions. This means providing benefits, workshops, and other resources for employees that actively reduce stress around the holidays. This expectation should be built into any company.

“Ideally there is a robust annual programming schedule with a cadence that feels complimentary to the organization,” said Lund. “If that isn’t something the company can build into their infrastructure, they should look to an outside consultant to help develop and manage it.”

“One of the best things we did this year was put out our first-ever mental health-focused company survey,” Lund continued. “The questions touched on everything from wellness programming to internal communications about our company, culture, and wider business. This allowed for our leadership to get a first-hand understanding of what our staff needed from the culture and leadership in order for them to feel mentally safe and prepared.”

Can workplace wellness initiatives stop every holiday stressor? Perhaps not —- but they can provide support that gives employees the resources they need to feel happier and healthier during a hectic time of the year.

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