Does your team seem to go into a collective dip in mid- to late January? If you’ve answered, “Yes!” then you’re definitely not alone. Many managers who live in a climate with cold winters notice a distinct drop in morale during the winter. The holidays are over; commutes are cold at best and dangerous at worst; lots of people are under the weather; and to top it all off, your office can be draughty, cold, and gloomy.
Yet while all of this is perfectly understandable, the truth is that you can’t afford to let it affect your team’s productivity—especially in the first months of the year. And while you can’t change the weather or traffic, there are a number of things you can do to keep productivity in and darkness out. The following tips will help you winterize your workplace:
1. Put health first. While a 100 percent attendance rate is definitely a good thing for employees to aspire to, the last thing you want is for employees who are sick with a cold, the flu, or some other ailment to come into the office. First of all, they need to rest and get healthy again. And second, colds and the flu are contagious, and you don’t want your other employees to get infected. So be sure to communicate to your team that if they’re sick, they should stay home, get medical attention if needed, and make sure they’re completely recovered before coming into work.
2. Be flexible. Bad weather can make commutes more dangerous and drawn-out than usual. In addition, employees might need to care for sick children or a sick parent. In situations like these, providing your team with the opportunity to work remotely can be a win-win solution for everyone involved.
3. Provide sufficient lighting. As Stanley C. Loewen points out in his HealthGuidance article “Effects of Weather on Human Emotions,” the lack of light we experience in the winter can have a negative impact on our mood and energy levels. While there are lamps that produce light that’s on the same spectrum as natural daylight to help boost your mood, outfitting your entire office with them is likely to be too costly. However, you can combat the lack of light to a certain extent by making sure there’s always sufficient lighting in the office. It’s best to err on the side of too much light than too little.
4. Encourage your employees to get active during their breaks. So long as it’s not dangerously cold out or blizzard-like conditions, taking a short, brisk walk outside can be energizing. Set a good example by bundling up and going for a short walk yourself on your lunch break.
5. Do daily hot-drink runs. If you don’t already do coffee or tea runs, then now’s the time to start. Every morning, ask one of your employees to take the team’s drink orders, and have him or her walk down to the local coffee shop. Doing this will give everyone something to look forward to; plus, hot beverages can help chase out the chills after a cold commute.
6. Organize some social activities. Winter can be a great time to get your team together in a social setting. Think of activities such as after-work karaoke, in- or outdoor sports days, and volunteering. Just be sure to make accommodations for any team members with special needs or health conditions.
7. Raise the stakes. Oftentimes, providing your team with a more challenging assignment can do wonders to improve energy levels and morale. So if you’ve already determined what your Q1 and Q2 objectives are, why not create a project plan that challenges each of your employees to grow and advance their skills?
Keep these seven tips in mind, and you’ll soon find it easier to keep your employees comfortable, upbeat, and productive—even on the coldest of days.
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