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Back to reality: why monitoring mental health in the workplace is even more important as the holiday season ends

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The end is nigh! No, not the end of the world but rather the end of summer.  Nights are drawing in, ‘Strictly’ contestants are being announced and Selfridges has already opened its Christmas shop. As employees return from their holidays – how can you ensure that they are ready for the back to work transition?

Having a well-earned rest undoubtedly has its benefits for employees and their physical and mental health but the return to work, particularly in the autumn as we face the end of summer and an inbox full to bursting can cause significant levels of stress.

A 2016 report from the Institute of Leadership and Management found that 61% of people felt they needed to work on holiday,  with 64% reading work emails, whilst 18% of people reported feeling more stressed upon returning from a holiday than before they left. In the modern and ever more connected world, it could be argued that making sure employees take a proper break is the first step in making sure their return is a successful one.

Mental Health issues are the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace and with stress accounting for 70 million sick days; it’s easy to see how this can be damaging not only for the individuals, but also for business. Employers, and particularly senior leaders, have a key role to play in this – leading from the front and being open about their own mental health experiences and their responses to stress.  This can be particularly true following return to work after holidays, when the mere acknowledgment that actually you’re not ‘firing on all cylinders’ either, could make all the difference. Encouraging this kind of openness and honesty will go a long way in contributing to the culture of an organisation, where it is acceptable to talk honestly about health and well-being and how this might be being negatively affected.

Understanding the anxiety and the stressors around returning to work after a holiday is also a valuable undertaking for senior leaders.  Whilst most would like to believe that every employee loves their job, it should be recognised that the extra stress that comes with returning to the usual routine, can be hard on emotional and physical well-being for some. All too often, some employers flippantly dismiss this type of behaviour as ‘holiday blues’, without considering that there may be underlying issues at play that need to be tackled.  This could be an employee who is finding it difficult to cope in a new role or team, or who is facing unexpected difficulties in their personal life.

Paying particular attention to employees during this time period and offering practical support around the root causes of the stress is critical.  This is also an opportune time to review your well-being and mental health policies, as a business looking at effective communication and training on the issues and working to remove the stigma around mental health.

If your business needs assistance on creating or implementing policies surrounding the issues mentioned in this article, then speak to berg’s expert employment team on 0161 833 9211 or help@berg.co.uk


About the author

Alison Loveday is Chief Executive of nationally recognised law firm berg which is merging with Kennedys on 1st September 2017. A leading expert in financial disputes and all aspects of employment law, Alison specialises in tackling complex ‘people issues’ – involving the competing concerns of shareholders, directors, investors and employees.

August 24th, 2017

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