We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
Let’s be honest, the holidays are different this year. Our routines and traditions have been upended. We are unable to gather with friends, family, and co-workers like we normally would. This has been a year riddled with trying to balance competing priorities between our work, family, safety and health. During the holiday season, the balancing act can present specific stressors to your organization and your employees.
Employers have an important role to play in helping their team members identify and manage end-of-year stress. You have worked hard all year to be a compassionate organization. Your team members are doing their best to juggle the demands of work and caregiving. And even though traditional routines such as holiday parties, gift exchanges, and company bonuses may not be possible this year, there are several things you can do to continue to put your people first.
Here are a few suggestions to help ensure your compassion extends through the holiday season:
While we may not be traveling anywhere for the holidays this year, your team members still appreciate PTO. Show your generosity by providing an extra eight hours of PTO for employees to use as administrative leave during the holiday season. The real challenge here is encouraging people to actually take the PTO and unplug. We may all want to bank our PTO for that big trip we are planning once it is safe to travel, but 2020 is really the year to take time to reflect and decompress. Giving your team members a few extra hours of PTO to recharge demonstrates that you care and does not cost your organization much.
Realistically, there will be team members who continue to plow through work, emails, and deadlines during the holiday season. Demonstrate compassion by setting realistic expectations for how and when your people will send and respond to emails for the next few weeks. If you need to send work-related emails over the holiday season, do so with care. Consider the recipient of your message first, and getting the task off your to-do list second. For those of us working during the holidays, can we commit to drafting and saving emails to send during the first two weeks of January? This type of consideration goes a long way to helping your team manage expectations and stress.
Promote gratitude by making (or matching) charitable contributions or offering paid volunteer time for employees to give back in a meaningful way. Encourage employees to contact a local charity of their choice and find out how they can help this season. Our communities have been devastated in 2020. What can your organization and team members do to make the world a better place for someone in need? Ask your employees how they plan to give back this year and consider making a financial contribution on their behalf. This type of compassion goes a long way to building team morale and goodwill for your organization.
It’s time to reimagine the annual holiday party. Consider hosting a virtual comedian or magician to provide entertainment for your team. Ask individuals to add their favorite holiday recipe to an organization-wide cookbook. Host a virtual holiday craft party and send your team members supplies in advance. Add games and contests to your team check-ins and meetings over the next few weeks to raffle prizes and recognize your peers for their remarkable contributions.
Do not forget the importance of physically mailing a handwritten note or card to thank the people you work with and celebrate their achievements.
As we head into the busiest part of the holiday season and stress levels increase at work and at home, remember that people are your greatest asset, and everyone is feeling added pressure this year. The tips above may make things more manageable. Bringing awareness can go a long way toward helping keep spirits up at your organization when our routines and traditions have been thrown aside. How can you support the health and safety of your team by giving the gift of compassion this year?
Written by David Shapiro, program manager and lead advisor of Health Links™. In this role, David oversees day-to-day operations of the program and advises organizations in the Healthy Workplace™ network, sharing resources and recommendations to support workplace health and safety. During the holiday season, David enjoys celebrating interfaith services and spending quality time with his family.