The unexpected longevity of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased feelings of isolation for many, particularly those living alone.
Christine Husbands, managing director, RedArc Nurses said that HR has a duty of care to ensure employees are addressing their mental wellbeing during the Christmas period.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “HR needs to be mindful that many employees are likely to be much more vulnerable over the Christmas period this year and make sure that all employees are aware of the support available to them and crucially how to access it.”
Loneliness is a growing problem and can be particularly acute among remote staff who are working from home.
If they have been living and working alone for a long period of time, those employees could be lacking human connection and feelings of loneliness can emerge.
More than nine million people in the UK (almost a fifth of the population) said they get lonely, according to the British Red Cross.
According to RedArc, for many employees this loneliness may be exasperated over the Christmas period and could escalate into symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.
Husbands said that the expectations surrounding Christmas can add to the stress employees are already feeling.
She added: “This year, there will be additional issues as a result of the pandemic and many employees will be entering the Christmas period having had no physical contact with their colleagues for many months.
“Some may already be feeling isolated, in a low mood or have diagnosed a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.”
The medical care provider is urging employees to lean on support for mental health conditions, be it within their employee benefits or outside their organisation.
It recommended that anyone who feels that their mental health is deteriorating over the festive period should investigate whether they can access professional support via a number of different routes.
Husbands said: “Mental health support is often included within health and wellbeing benefits, including group protection and healthcare.
“Although some insurers only allow a referral at the point of a claim, many now allow self-referral at any time. Other organisations such as the Samaritans can also be a potential first port of call and not just in times of crisis.”