Out of all the seasons, winter feels like it lasts the longest. The holiday season seems to start earlier and earlier each year before giving way to the dark, cold days in January and February.
Most organizations know how difficult it is to maintain a motivated and productive workforce during this time of year. It seems like employees are always stressed, sleepy, sick, chilly – really anything but focused and ready to work.
You can’t let your staff take it easy for a quarter of the year. So what are the keys to keeping employees focused during the winter?
Be flexible during the holidays
The beginning of the winter is chock full of shopping, parties, travel, and family events. They say December is “the most wonderful time of the year” but it’s more obligations than relaxing by the fireplace for most people.
An American Psychological Association survey found that 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men experience increased stress during the holidays. While it usually stems from personal responsibilities, it certainly intensifies from additional pressure at work.
Business doesn’t stop in December and actually ramps up for a lot of organizations. But the reality is a large portion of your staff is going to take time off for the holidays. Do your best to be flexible so you don’t add to the stress employees already experience during this time of year.
Set a tone in the new year
If you allow employees to step away at the end of December, you’ll have a highly-motivated staff in early January. They will not only come back to work recharged, they’ll also embrace the clean slate New Years brings.
January is an excellent time for employees to set individual goals. Each team member should sit down with their manager and outline a series of milestones they hope to accomplish over the coming year. You’ll likely find many of your employees already thought about career goals as they set their personal New Year’s resolutions.
Be sure the goals that are set are realistic and measurable. That way employees will stick to their plans and managers will be able to evaluate the progress made throughout the year.
Promote health and wellness
All that said, the holidays make up only a portion of the winter season. The real challenge is keeping employees motivated during the bleak days in January and February.
We’ve all experienced the winter blues. The cold mornings when it’s a battle to get out of bed and go about our lives. Depression, sluggishness, and lack of concentration are symptoms of a real condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that impacts more than 3 million Americans every winter.
There’s no avoiding the drag the winter months bring but maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in minimizing the impact. There are numerous ways your organization can promote workplace wellness so employees are productive, in addition to being happy and healthy:
- Encourage employees to work up a sweat – Consider reimbursing employees for fitness-related purchases or host a workplace-wide fitness competition. Exercise is not only an effective way to combat SAD. Numerous studies show that it also leads to increased productivity.
- Don’t bring that cold to the office – It used to be that working when sick showed an employee’s commitment. But spreading a bug around the workplace can be crushing to the organization’s overall productivity so make sure ill employees stay home in bed.
- Be conscious of mental health conditions – People are talking about mental health more than ever and that’s a good thing. It’s a delicate topic for employers but always encourage an employee in need to speak with a professional.
- Break up the monotony – Winter days at work can be long and grueling. Add some fun office-wide activities from time-to-time to give everyone a break from the grind.
Health and wellness are always a must but carry extra importance during the winter.
Make the workplace comfortable
Productivity dips in the summer too, when employees would rather be outside in the sun. The nice thing about winter is there isn’t much to do so your staff might as well hunker down and get some work done.
Your employees will have an easier time focusing on the tasks at hand if the workplace is pleasant and comfortable. Here are a few ways to make your office a place people enjoy spending their days:
- Get the right lighting – Sunlight is ideal but it’s at a premium during the winter months. Fortunately, modern light bulbs mimic natural light and should be used instead of fluorescent lighting.
- Find the thermostat sweet spot – There will always be employees who want to crank the heat but high temperatures actually cause drowsiness and a lack of focus. Find the right balance so no one feels neither too hot nor too cold.
- Bring in some plants – Numerous studies show that indoor plants boost people’s productivity and overall mood. Science aside, it’s just nice to see some greenery in the middle of winter.
The workplace is your employees home away from home. Make it a place that feels like it.
Settle in for a long winter
There’s no avoiding the winter and everything it brings. Do what you can to help your employees stay motivated and productive during the long stretch of cold days.