Beat the Winter Blues: Focusing on Employee Happiness During Winter

The winter blues can wreack havoc on the mental health of your employees. Employees drive to work in the dark, and by the time they leave the sun has already left the sky. The cold temps keep everyone indoors. The joy of the holidays are over and the promise of summer and vacations is months away. So what can employers do to help their employees beat the blues?

Employers don’t just have to sit back and wait for the winter to be over. Creating a workplace that focuses on their mental wellness can create a real difference in their day to day life and overall health.

1. Human connection. One of the most oppressive parts of winter can be the isolation from others. Even if you have an office bullpen with plenty of employees in close proximity, sometimes this isn’t enough. Its so easy for employees to get stuck in a rut of answering phones, responding to emails, punching in and punching out. So what can employers do to cultivate these human, in person connections? One idea is to plan an event in your office to get your employees away from their screens. Giving your employees two hours during one afternoon to drink some hot coco with each other and to chat about life outside work can be a huge morale booster. Allow the hourly employees to stay clocked in, this two hours of paid time is worth it for employee wellness in the long run.

2. Schedule some fun. Along the same vein, think of ways to bring fun into the workplace that can bring some more life to your employees beyond just an hour or two during the work day. Can you schedule an afternoon at a local sporting event? Or maybe an afternoon at a local volunteer opportunity your employees are passionate about? You could also throw an office party around an unconventional holiday, such as Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. Whatever fun you choose for your office, be sure to get your employees’ opinions to get the perfect fit.

3. Walk the Walk. As a manager you also have to be vigilant of your own feeligs during the winter months. Do you spend the winter going straight to your office, staying their for eight hours, and going straight to the parking lot? Do you start communicating to your employees mainly through email, instead of an in person conversation? While it can be tempting for you as the manager to go with the flow, be sure you are making a real effort to be the spark in your department. Take some time to take a hard look at how you check out during the winter months, and look for ways you can improve this area to become a better manager for your team.

4. Care for them as people, not productivity machines. A lot of times, when looking at ways to help employees through a down season, the business focuses heavily on how an employee is effecting productivity or money making of the company. Productivity and profitability is important, but take a moment to consider that these are people, not just productivity machines. Focusing solely on productive can create tunnel vision and implementation of policies that don’t actually improve employee productivity. Companies go from creating fun for their employees to boost their moral to creating policies to limit coworker conversations and keep them isolated at their desk, wanting them to grind through the work day. One hour of meaningful connection between employees can make a world of difference when they get back to work activities and those seven hours of work end up being more meaningful than eight hours of nonstop work.

5. Shake up the day to day schedule. If you have the ability to change up the hours for your employees, consider giving them more flexibility during the winter months to set their own schedule. While not all employers have this option, if you do it can make a huge impact in employees during this time. If you have an employee who would prefer to come in early in the winter so they can still have some sun when they leave the workplace, allow them that option. Also take a moment to think about your regularly scheduled meetings and think of potentially changing the meeting time. Sometimes a simple change in things that have become routine can be enough to bring some new energy. And maybe consider bringing some new and fun snacks to these meetings, as yummy snacks are always a hit!

6. Create a workspace build for good. When was the last time someone in the company took time to look at the space your employees work? Is the office space conducive to employee connection, or are the desks completely separated and far apart? Thre are many little changes that cna be made to an office space that can affect how employees feel during the day. Place your employees by windows to give them access to the sun while it is in the sky, offer to add plants to their space to brighten up and add some color, find lightbulbs that mimic sunlight, or brighten up the paint on the walls. These little changes can make all the difference in how employees feel when they step in the office.

7. Consider an EAP. Sometimes employees need an outside hand to get them out of the funk. While employers can’t directly give professional help, they can present their employees with a place they can go to seek this help. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a service employers pay for that give their employees access to free counseling sessions in a totally anonymous way. Your employees might not always take advantage of this benefit, but having it as an option for those who do need it can make all the difference to that employee.

In conclusion, the employer can do many things that can change the way their employees approach the winter months. While you can’t change the weather outside, you can have significant impact on the atmosphere within your company walls.

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