Winter time can be a challenging season for the office manager who has a vision to increase employee performance and overall productivity. Not only does winter seem to increase employee sick days through the colds, flu, and viruses which have perfected the cubicle hop, but winter’s coldness and decreased daylight result in an increase in employee depression and a decrease in staff morale.
How can an employer fight back against what we commonly refer to as the Winter Blues? How can an employee strive to maintain his or her productivity level and enthusiasm, even when the season seems to hold the rest of the office under a plague of depression?
I’d like to give a few tips, in no particular order of importance, for combating winter’s suffocating influence around the workplace. First, I’ll address fighting the Winter Blues from the manager’s perspective, and then I’ll give some tips directly to the employee.
From the manager’s point of view
Give employees an afternoon off every other week, and encourage them to get away someplace – to a restaurant, to go shopping, to spend time with family and friends. Provide fresh citrus fruit & juices as well as other nutrient rich foods in the snack area.
During day light hours, hold meetings in a room well lit with natural light, with plenty of windows and skylights. During the darker winter months, don’t hold meetings in rooms with many windows if it is dark or dim outside, unless the room is lit very well with full spectrum lighting.
Encourage groups of employees to go outside for walks during breaks; outside walks will help them get fresh air, sunlight, socialization and exercise.
Encourage abundant drinking of water and have water coolers (or water units that offer heated water) readily accessible by staff.
Ensure the office is well lit with full spectrum lighting. Use air filtration systems to ensure the air in the office is fresh and well oxygenated. Use mild scents to help stimulate.
Surprise employees with small gifts. Determine to creatively encourage each employee immediately under you in a small way each week; keep a journal of the different tactics you’ve tried and the results you’ve observed.
Introduce new stimulating projects to create fresh enthusiasm for work during the mentally challenging months of winter.
In conjunction with feedback from your employees, take on a local charity and develop ingenious ways to raise support for a particular project; divide the office into teams and run a contest to see which team can raise the most support before Spring arrives. Reward the winning team with a championship meal at a local restaurant.
From the employee’s point of view
An invigorating life outside the workplace will overflow into enthusiasm within the workplace. Stimulate your mind while away from work by starting a new book series, playing table games with family and friends, or beginning to watch an intriguing TV series. Embrace the colder season by taking part in winter activities including snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating and playing with your kids in the snow.
Develop incentives and rewards to motivate yourself to accomplish certain tasks throughout the winter months. Make goals at work and away from work and then take regular steps toward accomplishing them. Make resolutions for the New Year (even if you are late!) and act on them. The progress toward fulfillment will be invigorating.
Strive to meet someone new each week. Find someone you can help, perhaps an elderly person who is limited in what they can do and where they can go. Be a good Samaritan and go out of your way to help those whom you normally wouldn’t. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a city shelter. Creatively find ways to cheer specific individuals in your office. Be a secret Santa throughout the winter months and proactively play a major role in bringing good cheer into the workplace. You might just be the spark to break the doldrums and help others in the office regain their workplace smiles.
At work, clean and organize your desk and office area. Drink warm drinks throughout the day to stay warm and relaxed. Be sure to eat healthy snacks and a healthy lunch. The burger and fries or candy bar may seem overly appealing, but they won’t help fight the winter doldrums. Take daily multivitamins to help maintain the nutrients (particularly Vitamin D) which you may not be naturally getting during the winter months. Smartly utilize breaks at work to go outside and get fresh air. Get up from your desk and move around whenever possible to help keep your blood circulation optimal. If your workplace has an exercise room, take advantage of it for a quick way to restore your alertness. Take frequent breaks away from the computer screen for your eyes, working on non computer tasks to help your eyes stay fresh and responsive. If possible, listen to your favorite music while you are working.
At home, be sure to get adequate sleep; it will reward itself greatly at work the following day. If you find yourself struggling with winter depression, ask your doctor about beginning lightbox therapy. Take mental breaks and let your mind relax with yoga or other planned relaxation techniques. Get a weekly massage. Take breaks away from the hecticness of work and life. Go shopping and hang out with friends with no set agenda. Visit the quaint bakery or small coffee shop you’ve been wondering about. Start something new – perhaps a hobby or sport. Learn to play the musical instrument you’ve always longed to play since childhood. Experiment with baking or cooking. Be brave and laugh at failure. Be fearless. Keep life fresh.
Photo credits: Top © diego cervo / Fotolia. Second © Dean Mitchell / Fotolia. Bottom © Galina Barskaya / Fotolia.