The long-awaited Christmas break is a period when many corporate organisations request employees to take leave. For some, it’s just a few days – for others, it can be as much as a couple of weeks. It’s not just about leaving loading and reducing the risk for organisations, but it’s a time for employees to relax and spend time with those they love, arriving back in the New Year re-energised and refreshed. The critical importance of HR professionals has been brought to the fore over the past 9 months, with rapid twists of uncertainty at every turn, HR teams have learnt a whole new way of being agile and responsive. The virus seems to evolve and linger, making decision making on even the most basic of HR provisions – employee leaves, extremely hard to plan for and communicate. The fact is that the ‘normal’ holiday pattern of leave, may not be the same this year. Nobody can really be sure what might happen in the coming few weeks before Christmas and uncertainty reign supreme. It’s been challenging asking employees to take leave to reduce their leave balances when many have been stuck in lockdown or isolation at home. HR teams across the country have been doing a stellar job of bringing a sense of calm to an unsettled workforce, whose very livelihoods rested on how organisations responded to the pandemic.
But now the dust is settling (for the moment) – how can HR teams continue to show employees they care as we rapidly approach Christmas? One thing is for sure that most employees are hanging out for a break over Christmas, whatever their beliefs or how they intend to relax. However, with international and some domestic travel restrictions still in place, if given a choice, many employees may not choose to take their usual length of holiday and wish to save some of their leave for when the world opens back up. Most organisations will usually mandate a form of shut down, bar skeletal staff who keep the wheels turning. A flexible HR policy on leave and the usual status quo, given the extenuating circumstances of 2020 may go a long way to providing additional goodwill and show that you care. Anxiety and stress levels have risen exponentially during the pandemic and with strong links to lower productivity, never before have organisations needed to support the employee wellbeing proposition so much. Promoting flexible leave and working policies in the run-up to Christmas is a robust way to support your organisation’s wellbeing agenda. Evidence points to employees being healthier, happier and more productive if offered a flexible schedule and a semblance of ‘control’ over their own benefits like annual leave.
There are of course many ways for an organisation to show they care for their teams, but central to everything is prioritising everyone’s wellbeing. Affording them to take the time they need to recharge and re-energise after a tumultuous year will be the best gift any organisation can offer this Christmas.