When the days are short and the weather is cold, low energy and a melancholy mood can start to creep in. We may feel less productive at work and even a bit short-tempered with co-workers. Fortunately, focusing on our well-being can counteract some of the effects of the darker, colder months. Read on for some seasonal wellness tips employers can use to help employees this winter.
It’s common to feel down in the winter months.
The desire to sleep in or just curl up in a blanket all day is normal in winter. We may even feel a little sad or lonely. According to WebMD, less sunlight in the fall and winter months causes the brain to make less serotonin, a chemical that is linked to mood. This can result in feelings of depression, fatigue, and even weight gain.
For about 25 million Americans the symptoms are mild – the so-called “winter blues.” But for 11 million people, symptoms are severe enough that clinicians diagnose them with “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD.1 For these individuals, SAD can interfere with work or relationships and may need to be treated with medication and light therapy. SAD also tends to be more common in women than men. And, when you layer on the post-holiday doldrums, it’s easy to understand why some workers feel additional stress and sadness during this time.
14 tips for winter wellness in the workplace
If you have a workplace well-being program, you may already have access to a whole toolbox of solutions you can tap into to help employees cope in the winter months. It may just be a matter of repackaging them to put the focus on winter well-being. Here are some additional ideas…
- Get outside during the work day. Just 10 minutes of fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for our energy and mood. And, as the Norwegians say, there’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing! So urge people to don that coat, hat, and gloves and try to get outside daily.
- Move closer to the light. While not every employee can sit by a window, there are likely spaces in the office – like common areas – where employees could bring their laptop and work for a few hours to get more light exposure. If all else fails, invest in some light therapy boxes that mimic outdoor light.
- Lean into flexible hours. Many workplaces have become much more open to flexibility, so if starting later improves people’s moods, allow this during the winter months. A shortened or compressed workweek may also give employees the chance to get more outdoor recreation on their off days.
- Host a winter wellness challenge. Wellness challenges offer double the benefits: they get employees moving and boost social connections in the workplace. We’ve got some great workplace wellness challenge ideas that work in any weather.
- Plan seasonal workplace events. Organize some fun activities for the “winter doldrum” months of January and February. Think restorative yoga classes, healthy cooking demonstrations or contests, or awards for the best “hygge” workspace.2
- Focus on good sleep hygiene. Offer employees tips for a wind-down routine, optimal sleeping temperature, and when to nix the screens. Many well-being programs have a sleep program you can promote.
- Spotlight winter wellness in your corporate communications. Include content on how to thrive in winter in your newsletters and town halls. Give managers winter wellness tips they can include at the start of team meetings.
- Remind employees about the EAP’s services. Most EAPs offer a number of free counseling sessions that can help employees dealing with seasonal depression.
- Encourage exercise. When there’s less daylight employees may not be able to exercise before or after work, so let them know it’s OK to weave in exercise throughout the work day. Lunchtime workouts, walking meetings, and quick stretch or jumping jack breaks can boost energy.
- Promote mindfulness and meditation. Since we’re more internally focused, winter is a great time to start a mindfulness or meditation practice. Give employees access to apps or host a group mindfulness webinar or in-person event.
- Enlist the help of health coaches. If your well-being program includes access to health coaches, program coordinators or program managers, ask them to deliver a webinar or lunch-and-learn on seasonal wellness. This is also a good time to promote the 1:1 support health coaching provides.
- Foster social connections. Let winter be a time for intentional connection with coworkers via virtual watercooler chats, BINGO, or trivia games.
- Rethink the afternoon coffee break. While caffeine can help counteract the sleepiness we sometimes feel in winter, too much can disrupt sleep patterns. Make sure the break room offers herbal tea and energizing snacks to get past that mid-afternoon slump.
- Got extra budget? Embrace the season with creature comforts. Send employees a “welcome winter” kit with a special mug, tea, cozy throw, or woolly socks.
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Employees are still grappling with the effects of the pandemic on their mental health. Fortunately, many workplaces have become more open to talking about mental health concerns. So, as you seek to create a culture of well-being in your workplace, giving employees support for seasonal wellness is just one more way you can help. Visit our website or contact us at email@example.com to learn more.