It's cold. It's dark.
And you really don't want to get out of bed.
Chances are your employees feel the exact same way. Unfortunately, the winter months often lead to lower morale and less workplace productivity.
Read on to learn how seasonal weather impacts your employees and how to keep your employees motivated during the dreariest time of year.
Why Does This Happen Every Winter?
When the outdoor landscape matches your mood, it can be hard to be motivated to get out the door and go on with life. After months of holiday parties and winter cheer, the slump that happens in late winter feels like one big crash.
For some people, this means dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that comes along during the wintertime.
SAD symptoms include:
- Sleeping too much
- Not taking initiative
- Craving sweet or starchy foods
- Energy loss
- Lack of interest in activities
What Causes SAD?
The lack of sunlight and winter’s shorter days messes with our internal body clock. Depending on a person's sensitivity, it can cause winter depression. Additionally, women are four times more likely to be impacted by SAD than males.
Other factors to blame for winter blues?
Genetics, your geography, and individual brain chemistry.
One study with over 700 participants showed that happiness certainly impacts employee productivity, making it an issue that employers can’t just sweep out of the office along with the tracked-in wet snow.
Ways to Keep Employees Motivated Through Winter
So, just how do you keep employees motivated? There are practical applications and ways to adjust the office environment to boost the mood. Here’s a few:
Lighten Things Up
You can literally lighten things up in your office. Light therapy boxes are known to be an effective treatment for SAD. Even if workers aren’t dealing with SAD, a light box can help employees wake up and feel more energized since the light emitted mimics outdoor light. Boxes can be purchased without prescriptions, and come in all shapes and sizes to fit atop desktops.
If purchasing light therapy boxes isn’t possible, consider moving impacted employees to an area with more natural outdoor light exposure.
Take a Walk Outside
Before or after lunch, take a group walk outdoors. The crisp, cool air and bright sunshine will energize your employees. Whether it’s a walk to a nearby park or a local coffeehouse, movement and sunlight exposure are helpful and healthy mood boosters.
Unable to get out due to nasty weather? Take a break for a team-building activity. Set up an impromptu challenge course inside the office to get blood flowing and belly-laughs going.
Emotionally Connect to Others
While it’s convenient, pinging or emailing colleagues isn’t exactly warm and friendly. Once a day, make a trip around your workplace to say hello to employees and ask how they’re doing. Even if it’s only a minute-long exchange, workers generally appreciate a face-to-face personal interaction that’s often missing in the workplace due to the convenience of technology.
Make your connections personal. Ask how people are really doing. It’ll open up natural conversations and may even offer insight that surprises you as a supervisor or manager.
Offer Mental Health Help and Resources
Come spring, most of your employees will have thawed out from winter’s deep freeze. They’ll likely have shaken the lethargy, too. But, if you notice an employee really struggling — coming in late to work often, poor work performance, etc. — you may need to intervene.
Offering mental health resources can be helpful. Here’s a sampling:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Mental Health America
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Don’t brush off complaints or concerns from employees who might need extra sunlight or accommodations for SAD or depression. You may be required to provide time off under the Family Medical Leave Act. Check with your company lawyer or the Department of Labor for specifics on the act.
How do you motivate your team in the winter months? We’d love to hear your ideas.