Do you find that your workplace suffers from cabin fever during the winter months? Even the most dedicated snow bunnies can become restless and look forward to warmer weather and lighter clothes. Five percent of Americans develop a potentially serious mood disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when the days grow shorter and the sunlight is scarce. As an employer who cares, you’re serious about finding new ways to boost employee wellbeing and create a productive, cooperative workplace. During the winter months, this becomes more of a challenge. Don’t worry. We’re here to help you achieve the harmonious workplace of your dreams at any time of year!
The Advantages of Supporting Employee Wellbeing
The opposite of absenteeism is a condition called “presenteeism”. This is caused by spending time in an unhappy or dysfunctional work environment, and it presents a loss of productivity, lack of focus, higher rates of absenteeism, and high employee turnover. During the winter, many companies experience a work slowdown period. This can also lead to a lack of enthusiasm and boredom, compounding the problem and manifesting even in employees who aren’t necessarily dissatisfied with their jobs.
Of all of the causes of presenteeism, most are connected to wellbeing, either directly or indirectly. In order for employees to feel invested and engaged in their work and be highly productive, they have to feel that their work has meaning and that their company cares about them as human beings. Here are four ways that you can get your staff through the winter with a more positive mindset and avoid the common problems that beset almost every company at one time or another.
Create a Wellness Culture Within Your Company
Wellbeing may be a state of mind, but it also affects our physical health and diminishes our overall ability to function. One way that some companies are promoting employee wellbeing is through wellness programs and initiatives for their team members. Health insurance companies are also getting behind this–because healthier employees mean fewer insurance claims. Companies can get discounts on group insurance rates for instituting wellness programs at a company. Employee wellness programs are becoming big business, with lots of suggestions and activities available online.
If you want to go the DIY route, here are some suggestions that will add to your success:
- Get the whole team involved. This can become an official process by creating an on-site “wellness commission” among staff. You can also conduct employee surveys or ask for feedback.
- Start with the basics. Change is hard, especially when a whole company is involved. You can start small by keeping fresh fruit in a common area, starting an employee walking club, offering discounts for a gym membership, and any other simple change that focuses on health and wellness without becoming a hassle.
- Create initiatives for participation. Participation rates should be higher if you get the whole team involved in planning and implementation. However, incentives like discounts and recognition of achievement among staff will help promote the idea and keep everyone on board.
- Don’t limit wellness to winter months. Although the focus of this guide is on winter wellness, because winter is the season where our bodies face more challenges, remember that the most successful programs run all year round.
While you’re getting that organized or waiting for those financial benefits to kick in, here are some things you can do on your own to establish wellness as a priority at your company.
Bring Food Into The Office
How many times have you arrived at work grumpy and ready to go home, only to be cheered up because someone brought donuts or the boss ordered takeout for the team? Food is the center of the home and social interaction, and sharing it is one of the great joys of life. Great companies feed their people. In fact, studies show that bosses who provide healthy snacks and drinks also improve employee morale in the process. You can work food into your wellness plan by providing healthy snacks, introducing an assortment of herbal teas to the break room, or by arranging a weekly or monthly potluck or night out. During winter, the accent can be on warm, immune-boosting beverages (e.g. tea with orange slices and cloves) and food that reminds us of Christmas (e.g. gingerbread cookies, cinnamon rolls, toasted almonds).
Hygiene – It’s Not Just for Food Service Workers
Sometimes, we’re exposed to communicable diseases without even realizing it. One cough or sneeze followed by a handshake or using a door after someone with a cold exits, is all it takes to start an inter-office epidemic. Before you know it, half of the office is out with the flu. You can reduce the risk of spreading seasonal illness by stressing the importance of basic hygienic practices and enabling best practices.
Little things like keeping a box of disposable tissues and hand sanitizers at each workstation can go a long way toward promoting wellness and showing concern for your whole staff. You can also place signs reminding staff about the importance of handwashing. When prevention fails and someone becomes sick, giving staff members adequate sick days to fully recover will have a bigger ROI than bringing them back too early.
Create a Flexible Work Environment
Many times, employees will come into work when they are not fully recovered, but they feel better. Not only can this spread sickness around the office, but it will prolong their recovery and further diminish productivity. Those who have families are dealing with additional challenges when the kids are homesick or their daycare is closed due to an outbreak. They may not be sick themselves, but they still need to be at home. Luckily, today’s businesses can leverage remote work to handle these situations. If you can implement remote work in your company, you can have people working while being at home. When they work from home, they will not disrupt the work environment or affect everyone else’s productivity.
This serves two purposes:
- You avoid large-scale absenteeism
- Other workers don’t have to take up the slack when staff are missing
Thanks to the explosion of cloud-based work, you can continue doing business as usual regardless of the location of your employees. That contributes to your business bottom line and even reduces your carbon footprint. When employees have access to tools and data at home, they can avoid spreading illnesses and still get work done. If you shy away from remote work, keep in mind that remote workers are overall more productive. They don’t have to juggle issues like going into the office when they’re sick and making alternative arrangements for childcare during cold and flu season.
Help Your Staff Ward-Off the Winter
Even under the best of circumstances, people tend to go into semi-hibernation during winter months. We’re more sluggish, seasonal illness is all around us, and lack of sunshine affects us emotionally. Rather than doing team-building exercises only when it’s warm outside, find some activities that encourage group cohesion. This can range from organizing volunteer activities around the holidays to a weekend outing or participation in winter sporting activities, like ice skating or skiing, and indoor activities, like bowling, cooking
classes, or art.
There are several organizations that arrange such events. If an employee is out with a personal or family illness, check in on them. You could also have staff members sign a nice “Get Well” card or put together a care package consisting of items like soup, tea, cookies, cough drops, tissues, and puzzle books.
Happy employees are productive and loyal. Making the effort to support employee wellbeing at your company takes very little effort and brings a great ROI. We hope you’ll use our suggestions, either as a starting point or as they stand.