Our penultimate blog of 2011 highlighted how the stresses and strains of the festive season can affect people’s health (Risks to health during the festive season). Many people become stressed in the pre-Christmas period as they struggle to cope with gift-buying, financial pressures, managing workloads, etc. Those hoping for some kind of reprieve in January may be disappointed as January is considered by many to be the most stressful month of the year:
- The weather can be dismal and there are no major national holidays to look forward to until Easter (which seems a long way off at the beginning of the year).
- The world can seem a little bleak after the bustle and excitement of the Christmas period and many suffer from the post-holiday blues (or a ‘holiday hangover’) after all the excitement of the Christmas season. To make things worse, on the first working day of 2012, large parts of the UK were faced with heavy rain and gales causing localised flooding and treacherous driving conditions – not good for those who need to commute to work or who travel as part of their job.
- The pressure to keep to New Year’s resolutions can be an additional source of stress, particularly as these often concern emotive issues such as giving up smoking or losing weight.
- Many people start the year under the shadow of financial worries after the Christmas season.
- Many are worn out after two weeks of celebrations and begin the year with a weakened immune system and a higher susceptibility to colds and flu.
- The holiday season can put extra strain on family relationships, so some people may return to work feeling anxious about relationship issues.
Employers should try to be aware of the possibility increased stress levels at the beginning of the New Year and could support employees, perhaps by:
- helping them to prioritise work;
- maintaining an ‘open door’ policy so that employees feel they are able to discuss their issues with line managers/employers;
- looking out for signs of stress/low mood in employees and enquiring about their wellbeing (some people may not feel confident asking for help with work or personal circumstances but may accept help if it is offered);
- organising an event in January for staff to look forward to (perhaps a team social event (e.g. bowling) or a sporting charity fund-raising event to bring people together, keep them fit, and give them something to aim for).
For advice on how to support employees, call the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.