From retailers to beauticians, hospital workers and emergency service staff, Christmas is the busiest time of year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be lonely, says LONEALERT’s Sales & Marketing Manager, Mathew Colley.
For many, winter heralds a time for celebrations and get togethers with loved ones. But with ever-increasing seasonal pressures, extended opening hours and skeleton shift rotas - coupled with dark nights rolling in and plummeting temperatures - Christmas can be a lonely and exhausting time for workers from a full spectrum of industries.
Whether it be the hairdresser and beautician working late in the salon alone to cater for the extra clientele demanding to look their best for Christmas celebrations, the cleaner tasked with tidying up the office block after the festive party before the morning shift arrives, the factory worker keeping the business ticking over during shut down or the worker out in the field ensuring the crop of Christmas trees is looking its best, the festive period can be a tough one for many workers.
Take retail as a prime example.
During the daytime/early evening consumer peak, you’d probably struggle to find a place quite as busy and bustling with people as a High Street supermarket than at Christmas time.
But there is another reality to working in retail over Christmas.
In order to meet the huge customer demand over the festive period, opening hours are extended. For a worker, this doesn’t necessarily mean longer working hours, but instead a change in working patterns that can often mean working until after store closing at midnight.
Stores themselves can be a threatening place when the doors are open until late at night. They transform from being a hub of activity, bustling with busy shoppers, to huge empty spaces that can leave members of the skeleton staff crews feeling vulnerable for many reasons - whether that be from the threat of potentially abusive customers or the hazards involved with sorting stock in the warehouse with less colleagues.
On top of this, at some stores, it is agreed that the closest parking spaces are saved for shoppers meaning staff face a walk to their cars when the shutters come down at the end of the night.
In the summer, when the doors close at a reasonable hour and a full shift finishes at the same time, workers generally have company to walk back to the car and feel safe in daylight. But with staggered shifts over Christmas and it being pitch black when the doors close, that short walk to the car can be a daunting one. For a number of retail workers - whether they be on the shop floor, security, office or warehouse - Christmas time at work brings with it a feeling of vulnerability.
Then there’s health workers. For health workers in NHS departments already under huge pressure to treat patients in the face of tight budgets, winter can prove to be an incredibly stressful period of excessively long working hours and sometimes impossible demands.
Winter contingency plans are executed in hospitals to cope with the soaring numbers of patients, often leading to the opening up of extra beds to cope, whilst for community nurses visiting patients’ homes, winter heralds increasing working hours in bitterly cold temperatures on dark winter nights.
It is not just the increase in potentially life-threatening illnesses that put increasing pressure on health workers but also the surge in accidents, trips and falls associated with the cold weather, including icy roads and pavements, as well as alcohol consumption.
For paramedics and frontline health workers, this not only means an increase in workload - but it also can lead to a spike in attacks by intoxicated patients.
Latest figures reveal that violence against NHS staff has rocketed over the past five years - with almost 200 assaults on doctors, nurses and other NHS staff in England every day. In 2015-16, there were 70,555 assaults on NHS workers - up 4% on the previous year - which will be of no comfort to the medical staff approaching the winter period when attacks traditionally rise.
Then there’s the police officers dealing with the spike in crime rates associated with Christmas, ranging from burglaries and robberies to alcohol-fuelled assaults and attacks, or the firefighters dealing with increasing numbers of accidents and incidents that the season brings such as blazes caused by overheating sockets or the average 20% increase in road accidents during the winter months. Or the cleaner single-handedly taking on duties for an office block due to annual leave and rising absence rates. Or the nail technician tasked with closing the salon alone on a dark evening after the rest of the staff have left.
It’s ironic that the busiest time of year for many business can actually be the loneliest and most exhausting for the people working in them.