Ensuring employees feel supported over the summer holidays

As the summer season picks up, and schools across the UK break up for the holidays, it’s important to be aware of the impact this can have in the workplace. For some, work diaries can begin to look lighter, yet for others they soon fill up as they cover colleagues on annual leave and manage the challenges of childcare and hybrid working through the summer holidays. Whilst greater communication, flexibility and encouraging good boundaries to protect personal wellbeing are essential to maintain staff wellbeing, productivity and avoid burnout, there are some considerations needed.

For those covering understaffed teams, it’s important additional support is provided as the influx of holidays (even if just for the summer period), can leave some employees feeling more stressed and facing increasingly higher workloads. Employers can implement a range of initiatives to support their overall physical and mental wellbeing.

Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK shares his three top tips for supporting all employees this summer:

1. Be vigilant and listen

By implementing regular check ins, both in-person and virtually, employers can be sure they are listening to the challenges of their teams more closely and can help to nip potential issues in the bud sooner. Dialling up 2-way communication is key in busy periods. It’s win-win as teams feel supported and for managers, it’s a good way to watch for signs that may indicate an employee is struggling emotionally or displaying early warning signs of burnout so they can step in.  

Conscientious staff can take work devices with them on holiday and managers should look out for these behaviours and reinforce the importance of switching off fully. Then, upon their return, it is equally as important here to make sure those employers arriving back from holiday are also not overwhelmed by the work they are coming back to. Setting up a structure whereby a colleague is designated the task of emailing any updates to the employee the day before they return to work can alleviate the overwhelming feeling many of us get whilst scrolling through hundreds of unread emails. It may also lessen the likeliness of feeling stressed immediately after returning. Allowing greater flexibility on their first day back to catch up with progress and emails can mentally be very important.

2. Stepping outside of your office

Employers must make sure employees are able to get outside each day. Intervals of breaks throughout the day should be recommended by employers, whether working remotely or in the office, as it can make a huge impact on an employee’s wellbeing and productivity.

Where appropriate, remote working employees should be encouraged to sit outside to enjoy their lunch, workout in the garden or exercise outside when they would usually do their commute to work to create a healthy work life balance. For those working in the office, walking can be a great way to alleviate stress and improve physical symptoms including neck, back and shoulder aches. Encouraging more walking meetings and time away from screens can also build increased engagement whilst also benefitting their health.

3. Employee benefit packages are key

Signposting your employee assistance programme (EAP) is imperative all year-round, however during the summer months this can be a great time to remind team members of key resources that are available and how to access them, depending on their personal needs. These can range from counselling to financial wellbeing support.

It’s important for employers to highlight that these services aren’t just there for when things go wrong, but to proactively support with guidance and help with the day to day to prevent them becoming bigger worries and challenges.