The season of good will

Graham James on how to maximise employee wellbeing this Christmas

The run up to Christmas is an exciting time, as employees look to take time off and spend time with loved ones. Yet it also comes against a backdrop of rising living costs, causing extra financial burden and increased stress and anxiety at work – which can deeply impact an individual’s performance and wellbeing.
Recent research by Champion Health shows that 71% of UK professionals are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress – with 34% citing financial pressure as the main cause. The survey shows that 48% of those experiencing financial stress report terrible sleep quality, while 7% say this is leading to anxiety.

Another survey by Instantprint revealed that 24% of employees felt their employer could be supporting them more during the cost of living crisis; 73% stated that employers should be doing more to support their workers with rising energy prices; and 4% admitted they weren’t being supported at all. It’s clear that businesses need to do more to support their employees to keep their spirits high.

Nearer the run-up to Christmas, a reward can also take the form of a half-day off, or a Christmas shopping day that doesn’t come out of holiday allowances
The employer’s role
The run up to Christmas will make the winter months a particularly bleak and worrying time for many, and increasingly employers are looking for ways to alleviate this stress.
Yet many are now ahead of the game: PwC found that 84% of reward specialists at large companies are taking action or considering ways to help employees during this time. Recent research further found that 55% of employees would feel more valued if they received non-financial rewards.
Employers can make employees feel empowered and motivated in their roles against an uncertain financial backdrop in several ways, including:
1. Lend a helping hand with Christmas planning
The enduring cost of living crisis has left many feeling the strain; at the same time, employees are already putting money aside for the next big holiday. For many, this is Christmas, and they’ll want to start saving for festive expenses. According to research from IGD, more than half (54%) of families with children aged between 0-4 have started planning ahead for Christmas 2022.
The right rewards and benefits can make a huge difference for staff looking to save. Through schemes such as employee cashback cards, or online cashback, employees can minimise their monthly outgoings, and start saving immediately. Employers can also consider commuter-related benefits that can help cut costs, from free staff parking to season ticket loans, which can help employees get to work while reducing travel expenses.
Nearer the run-up to Christmas, a reward can also take the form of a half-day off, or a Christmas shopping day that doesn’t come out of holiday allowances, to give employees greater flexibility and keep them motivated.
2. Prioritise employee wellbeing
Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity.
As a first step, employers should be providing their staff with access to the professional help they need, like a dedicated Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This is an employee benefit which lets workers confide in an impartial counsellor about issues affecting their mental health and performance. It can include face-to-face, telephone and online expert support on both personal and work-related issues.
Wider benefits, such as Cycle to Work schemes, can promote positive physical wellbeing. For individuals, this means a cheaper commute and improved health. For businesses, it means less absences and increased productivity.
3. Recognise employees
Incentives and rewards are a great way to avoid a decline in a workforce’s productivity and keep morale high. However, they should be offered in a carefully structured recognition programme, as opposed to a ‘quick fix’ to motivate employees. Creating systems and processes which can be used throughout the year will ensure employees feel valued, no matter the season.
Rewards should be provided to make staff feel valued for the work they do all year round, and to express gratitude for their hard work. eVouchers, gift cards and pre-paid debit cards can make an ideal gift for employees ahead of Christmas, providing staff something they can set aside.
Whether it’s supermarket discounts to help cover rising food costs or entertainment vouchers, these incentives will give your staff the opportunity to treat themselves to something they really want – and all without worrying about the impact on their finances. Businesses and employers have a duty of care to help their workforce over this festive period, so they can relax and refresh ahead of the new year.
Graham James, director at Sodexo Engage

Graham James

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