Staying Engaged and Safe During the Holidays
By Julia Borges, Maggie Carey, and Madison Hanscom
‘Tis the season to stay engaged and safe in the workplace. In the midst of the bustle of the holidays, it’s easy for employees to get distracted, which can lead to unwanted incidents or fatalities during such a jubilant time of the year. Even though it might not happen to everyone, it is possible that some employees feel a sense of burnout or distraction around the end of the year. Heightened emotions and the overall chaotic environment of the holiday season also have the ability to exhaust employees both physically and mentally. When physical and mental resources are depleted, employees are more likely to make mistakes and injure themselves or others. Maintaining employee engagement throughout the holidays is key. However, for most companies it’s possible that employee engagement could dip right before the holidays.
Employee engagement is a work-related state of mind that allows individuals to feel energized, focused, and have pride in his or her work. It is beneficial to have engaged employees, especially during the holiday season. In fact, studies have shown that engaged workers produce better outcomes for the company, such as higher rates of productivity. Engagement is beneficial for individuals, too. When employees are engaged, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and have lower levels of psychological and physical health problems. The effects of engagement on safety are strong and positive. In fact, business units within the top quartile of engagement scores have 70% fewer safety incidents compared to bottom-quartile units (Gallup 2016). Engaged employees are more likely to follow safety expectations and procedures and are more likely to go above and beyond when it comes to working safely.
What might this mean for your company?
If employee engagement is on the lower end of your list of priorities, it might be necessary to understand what this means for your business if employees are not as engaged during the holidays. Most importantly, the number of incidents could likely increase. This could contribute to a variety of negative outcomes for both the individual involved in the incident and for the company at large; some of these consequences could involve an injury or death, possible law suits, workers comp/days lost, poor publicity, or financial burden. Lower levels of engagement could also contribute to lower productivity, which would stem from a disengaged and/or distracted workforce. Lastly, inability to address employee engagement could affect interpersonal dynamics in the work place. This could lead to conflict and challenges for leaders to properly manage employees. Rather than dealing with each of these issues reactively, an overall proactive approach to employee engagement could have the potential to benefit organizations before, during, and after the holiday season.
What can you do to keep employees engaged and safe?
Since the holiday season has the potential to contribute to elevated stress levels, distractions, and decreased employee engagement, organizations can combat these hazards to help keep their employees safe and engaged during the holidays. While there are various ways for companies to support their employees during this time, research shows that there are two effective ways of keeping employees safe and engaged: reducing demands and increasing resources. These concepts can be applied universally, but as every organization comes with its own unique set of goals, challenges, and type of work, these concepts can also be applied uniquely to each organization.
Reducing demands in the workplace
Demands outside of work associated with the holiday season such as financial pressures, family accommodation, and travel can contribute to stress associated with work during this time. When organizations are able to decrease employees' demands, this can effectively lower stress levels and increase engagement, which can increase safety in the work place during the holidays. Since each organization is unique, there are different ways that demands can be reduced. Giving employees more flexibility is one way to reduce demands; this could include allowing employees to work from home, come into the office later, or have a say in which projects they work on. This gives employees a sense of autonomy during the holidays which decreases overall stress. Another successful method to reduce demands is to allow employees more time to complete their tasks and extend their timelines. When employees feel less crunched for time and less pressured to meet fast-approaching deadlines, they are more likely to experience lower rates of stress and to be more engaged. In addition to work-related recommendations, there are also measures organizations can take to support their employees with weather management. This can include ensuring the parking lots are salted, encouraging comfortable clothing during work, and allowing more time to get to get to the office. While there are many proactive steps that can be taken to reduce demands, added flexibility, timeline extension, and weather management can greatly reduce organizational demands on employees to allow them to feel less stressed, more engaged, and to increase their safety during the holidays.
Increase resources to support your employees
In addition to reducing demands, organizations can also support their employees during the holiday by increasing resources. As organizations are vastly different, this strategy to increase resources can happen in many different ways. An example of this increase in resources could look like support from management and leaders. This can come in the form of increased leader engagement with employees, showing genuine concern and care for employees’ lives outside of work, more positive feedback, and increased communication. When employees feel supported by their leaders in times of high stress, this not only increases their rapport with their leaders, it also increases engagement and reduces stress levels. Another way to boost resources during times with challenging weather would be to offer some type of transportation service or initiative that gives employees the option of having alternative transportation options to get to and from work. This could be in the form of a carpool program or a shuttle bus. During intense weather conditions, these options will allow employees various options that can be both safer and less stressful. As there are many forms that additional resources can be offered, it is important that organizations invest in the support of their employees, especially times of high stress like during the holidays. This increases employee engagement and reduces stress, which can lead to a safer work environment.
With the holiday season in full effect, it can be easy for anyone to get distracted – from the frontline workers up to executive leadership. Setting aside that extra time to think about how your company can take proactive steps to combat the distractions of the holidays might make the difference between an injury-free year and not. By reducing demands and increasing resources, however big or small those changes might be, your organization will be committing to your employees’ levels of engagement and safety. What a wonderful gift to give! So, what will you do to keep your employees engaged and safe during the holidays?