Christmas is fast approaching. It is worth taking a moment to think about what Christmas means for different people. It is easy to think that it is a happy time and get swept away with all the advertising cheer, bling and noise. For some, it does not resonate that way and as an employer, perhaps we should take a moment to stop and look around and ensure that we are including everyone in the business. In this blog we will highlight some things to consider around the Festive period, which we hope will make you conscious of others who may not be feeling the Christmas cheer and therefore how you might alter your company’s approach.
Christmas is a Christian festival and not everyone will hold those beliefs, either because they hold a different faith with associated traditions and celebrations or they have no religious beliefs. There have been discussions and moves that employers should recognise different religious-related holidays, however, the time off in and around Christmas and New Year is a statutory holiday and there are conditions relating to those legal provisions which means that the time off or time off in lieu has to be given. In the past we have been aware of people wanting to work through the Christmas period however we have taken the view that if the business is on shut down, clients or customers are largely on shut down and that there is not sufficient work to be done or covered during that time, then it is difficult to justify having someone at work. That argument may not hold for all businesses and many people do have to work over the Christmas period, for example, hospitality and emergency services. So, you may have to be prepared to have a business case, if you are challenged.
Not always a joyous occasion.
For some Christmas is synonymous with family time, “traveling home for Christmas”! This can be a difficult and painful time for some people, either because they have become estranged from family, have lost a close family member or friend, just don’t have close family ties or simply it is the turn of their partner’s family to share time together. We must therefore remember that whilst a period of celebration for many, it can be a lonely time for some with painful reminders of gaps and losses in their lives. I am sure we can all identify with a moment of sadness during all the noise and chatter.
It is an expensive period and especially in the adversity of the financial times we find ourselves, it can be stressful to make the wages stretch further to buy presents, food and entertainment. So, there may be people who are dreading that additional expense and perhaps hiding that from those they love and support with an expectation that it is their responsibility to deliver “a great Xmas”. Managers especially need to be conscious of this, and very wary of anything that might put additional financial strain on employees – expensive ‘Secret Santa’s’ for example.
Christmas and alcohol.
Christmas is associated with parties, drinking, and “having fun” which for most is great, but for those with addictions or a difficult relationship with alcohol or other substances, it can be quite a challenge as they fight their inner battle to remain abstinent in the face of a lot of temptation and this may influence their behaviour. They may seek to avoid celebrations, providing excuses or becoming withdrawn. Of course others may not consume alcohol for religious or health reasons, so again we must all ensure that everyone is included and made to feel welcome.
It is also a time when boundaries become blurred and behaviour not normally associated in the workplace can surface. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that your staff feel safe and supported at all times. You want your team to enjoy activities, have fun and be positively engaged with the business and their colleagues.
What should an employer do?
As an employer you are not expected to find a solution for these scenarios but you can be mindful of the different stresses and strains that Christmas can have on people, so:
- be respectful of their wishes, inviting and encouraging people to get involved in your activities but not coercing or making people feel awkward,
- being careful about the use of alcohol in and around the workplace,
- finding activities that will be accessible for most
- and perhaps reaching out to individuals with something that is meaningful for them.
- Take decisive action on any inappropriate behaviour early and make sure that individuals are able to come forward with any concerns
Perhaps we should take the view that the winter break and holidays is a time for kindness, a time to rekindle personal energy through rest and time away from the stresses of work, a time when for many the business closes down and when you come back your inbox is not full, a time to think of others and respect that it may not be all “ho ho ho”. A time to be mindful, show generosity of spirit and a respect for individual circumstances.
If you have any concerns or queries about how to handle specific situations in your business or team, you can always contact to a member of the Gravitate team who will be happy to have a free consultation with you. Just contact us to set something up.