Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Supporting Mental Health in the Seasonal Workplace

Matt Moore

The doors are opening for a new summer, and seasonal operations across the country are welcoming their new staff, conducting all-day trainings and orientations, and getting to know their new crew for the season ahead. It’s one of the most magical times in realm of seasonal jobs!

If this isn’t your trip around the seasonal block, you’re familiar with the challenges that lie ahead. Some of your staff are going to shine from opening to close, bringing up the morale of everyone around them. Many are going to experience some ups and downs throughout but will stick it out til the end. Others will be departing well before their season end date – some of them without even letting anyone know. It’s this last group that gives recruiters and HR folks grey hairs and lost sleep.

However, it isn’t just that last group that will likely experience mental health challenges such as stress, burnout, and anxiety, which can lead to other challenges, like depression and loneliness. The 2021 Mental Health at Work Report from MindShare Partners found the following:

An overwhelming 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. The most common factors were:

• Emotionally draining work (stressful, overwhelming, boring, or monotonous)

• Work-life balance

• Poor communication practices

• Low sense of connection to or support from co-workers and managers

“It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work”, Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas, Harvard Business Review, October 4 2021,

Mental health at the workplace isn’t just a buzzy, short-term phenomenon. It’s an issue that effects nearly all organizations, and as your staff experience these issues, you are more likely to deal with low morale and high turnover in your organization.

Trying to address mental health issues can be very challenging in the fast-paced, high traffic environments that many seasonal employers experience. But there are ways to support your staff – and yourself – to create a more positive environment for your workplace. Let’s take a look at a few.

Encourage Work / Life Balance

In the midst of the Great Resignation, one of the top cited reasons that employees give for changing jobs is lack of work / life balance and flexibility in their current position. Long hours performing intense, fast-paced work with little opportunities for time-off is simply not sustainable and is a sure-fire road to burnout and turnover. One of the best ways that employers can attract and retain happy and productive employees is to ensure regular time off (2 consecutive days off every week), provide paid time off if possible, and create – or even require – regular opportunities for breaks during every shift.

Stress at work can lead to greater health issues, like sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. Provide opportunities for your employees to decompress, recharge, and maintain a healthy emotional relationship with their work. This may require operational adjustments such as revised business hours or limited offerings during certain days of the week, but if you’re unable to maintain staffing levels because of burnout and high turnover, you may encounter the more costly reality of not being able to provide consistent, quality experiences for your guests.

Create Connection Through Training, Social Events, and Mentorships

Building relationships and connections with coworkers and managers has the ability to positively impact an employee’s emotional relationship with their workplace. In a recently published study of workplace toxicity, Dr. Donald Sull and Charles Sull found that social events had an incredibly powerful effect on culture, morale, retention. Offering events and recreational activities outside of work gives your staff a chance to enjoy the experience of being at your great place and to connect with their coworkers on a more personal level. The same can be said of trainings and mentorships. Offering your employees the opportunity to grow in their careers and learn from experienced members of your management team can help them better feel engaged and satisfied with the work they’re performing for your organization.

Provide Resources for Private / Self-Directed Care

Beyond the steps you can take to help ease stress-inducing elements in the workplace, many employers are providing tools and assistance that allow employees to take further proactive steps towards improving their mental health. Many companies are offering reimbursements for periodic counseling sessions (if those resources are available in their nearby area). Other companies are providing access to (or reimbursements for) apps such BetterHelp, Calm, Ginger, or Headspace which provide their employees with personal tools to incorporate mental health practices into their private wellness routines. Offering such tools is an easy and affordable step to simply demonstrate to your employees that you’re invested in their well-being. And that alone goes a long way: in the 2021 Mental Health at Work Report, workers who felt supported with their mental health were 26% less likely to report experience mental health symptoms, had higher job satisfaction, and intended to stay with their current employer.

Mental health has always been an important component of overall employee satisfaction and well being, and employers are increasingly recognizing this by taking steps to support and empower their staff to talk about it and improve elements of their culture that might be harming the environment for their staff. And overall, these steps are proving to be worthwhile investments, reducing burnout, improving morale, and lowering attrition and turnover costs. Happy employees make life easier for employers and managers – it’s a win for everybody.