It is officially the dead of winter. The days are short, the leaves are gone, and depending on where you live, coats, gloves, and hats may be staples of your lives. People always joke about hibernating during this time of year, and for many of us this happens. However, the truth is, withdrawing from the world can lead to depression and decreased productivity at work. To avoid the “winter blues” it’s important to take extra steps in your work life to remain happy, motivated and productive employees.
The Sun Still Shines
With the days so darn short, many of us find that it’s dark in the morning on the way to work and dark when we get home from work. No wonder this time of year is depressing for many! As it turns out, according to the Mayo Clinic, reduced sunlight can cause a drop in the amount of serotonin in your body which is a key component for making people feel happy, calm, focused and emotionally stable.
So find any excuse to get outside on the sunny days during winter. Stash a pair of sneakers under your desk and go on a walk on your lunch break. Conduct walking meetings outside with your colleague, the title is self-explanatory. While it may sound silly, Harvard Business Review feels that walking meetings lead to an increase in creative thinking, more honest exchanges with employees, and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings. If you have the flexibility, go to work earlier and end earlier while it’s still daylight. Whether you work at home or the office, figure out ways to increase sunlight or configure office space to maximize available sunlight for employees.
While regular exercise is good for your overall health, it can also be crucial in warding off seasonal depression. There are a plethora of studies from organizations like Livestrong.com that talk about physical activities and Harvard Medical School that focus on holistic approaches, all citing the effects of increased serotonin and endorphins as a result of exercise having a role in battling depression.
As an organization, are you in tune with this connection between exercise and productivity? If you don’t, consider offering discounts at local gyms, hire yoga instructors to come on-site to conduct classes, or find organized team sports for your employees to participate in. This is also a great time of the year to have on-site health fairs which include blood screenings, cholesterol testing, nutrition advice, exercise equipment demonstrations, and even physical therapy and massage. In tune employers know that healthy employees equate to reduced absences and employees that are more focused and energized to tackle the day.
I’m sure you’re won’t be surprised by what I’m about to say. In the summertime, it’s warm, we’re outside, we’re social. In the winter, it’s cold, we’re inside curled up on the couch, we’re anti-social. While it’s good to recharge, it’s important to keep your employees engaged with productive social interactions during the winter.
Use this time to offer both formal and informal engagement opportunities. Informal suggestions include “lunch and learn” training sessions, book clubs, or weekly TED talk watching sessions. More formal considerations include off-site brainstorm or strategy meetings, team building events or employee retreats. On a side-note, the winter is a great time to score fantastic rates on venue locations. Many of these things don’t require a big budget or simply reallocating budget typically used in the summer, but doing so can promote engagement, creativity, teamwork, and boost morale.
Stick to a Schedule
For many, with the winter come the inevitable swings in their schedules. Many have difficulty waking up on time in the morning when it’s dark, conversely, with the sun setting earlier, it’s easy to lose track of time and work later than usual. According to the Huffington Post, changes in the light/dark cycles that come with winter can make you feel tired earlier or later than usual which can really impact your mood and productivity. Keeping a strict adherence to both sleep and work schedules in the winter go a long way to combating the winter blues.
Waking up at the same time each day helps to set your internal clock to where it needs to be, not to mention eliminates the stress of running late and rushing around to get ready on time. On the flip side, going to bed around the same time each evening ensures you’re getting enough sleep, which in turn sets you up for a seamless wake up. Structuring your day at work is equally important, so stick to your routines, or create a routine. If you get to work early to settle in, don’t let the darkness let you oversleep. If you like to exercise at lunch, don’t let the cold stop you. Adhering to your schedule will stave off the “blahs” and keep your creative and positive juices flowing at work.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say that winter is their favorite season, but it doesn’t have to be such a downer! So consider the thoughts above, gaze at your tropical screensaver and crank up the heat, because the key to escaping the winter blues can be pretending that it’s not winter at all!