For a lot of us, the holiday season means a well-earned rest, a long overdue catch up with friends and family, and well, a general period of festivities. But before you post your jolly socials, send out the Merry Christmas comms, and switch on the OOOs. It’s important to consider that firstly, not all students celebrate at this time of year, and secondly, they don’t all see this as a time of celebration.
It’s not all about Christmas
This may seem like a given, since we’re all aware of the multicultural world we now live in. But designating social posts and communications for the non-Christmas celebrators can go a long way. One student from our panel mentioned that their university offered the option to ‘unsubscribe’ from Christmas-based comms (which we’ve also seen gift and flower companies do for the likes of Mother’s Day for example), and it really meant something. Your institution is home to so many different individuals, so acknowledging that this month means something different to everyone can make the world of difference.
Not everyone goes home (or can go home this year)
In the same way blanket Merry Crimbo comms may come across as pretty tone-deaf, so can the ‘enjoy your time at home’ messaging. While, for many students, heading back to their hometowns to reconnect with family and friends seems like a no brainer, some students don’t want to, aren’t comfortable to, or simply can’t. International students make up a huge portion of your institution, and the pandemic has made travel that much harder. Be aware and sympathetic to the fact that many students won’t be able to get home this season, which can make for a very challenging time indeed.
Can you (or your student union) work together with your students to connect those in similar situations and locations? Could you help advertise festive meet-ups and communal dinners for those who may be lonely at this time of year?
Many still face mental health struggles
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, just because Christmas is generally a joyous time, does not mean that the mental health struggles that students face simply go away. The time over the holidays can often be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming period, what with January exams looming, UCAS deadlines fast approaching and the pressures of family gatherings.
Make sure that your communications are tuned into what your most vulnerable students need right now, and the general sentiment of your students, offering appropriate comms and helpful and practical advice. What’s more, before you sign off for the break, ensure your support services are signposted so that no student feels alone during the festive period.
These are just three things that you can do before you switch off this year to make all your students feel seen and supported. And before we forget, make sure you look after yourselves too, after this challenging year. Our friends at Akero have put together a helpful guide on how the platform’s features can help you switch off, letting Akero do the heavy lifting for you over the holidays. Combine the three tips above with clever automation, and you’ll truly be able to take that well-deserved break without the OOO worries.