Whether or not seasonal affective disorder actually exists, many of us do notice that our moods change a bit when it starts getting as dark as early as it does during the winter. These “winter blues” can exhibit themselves in many ways—and a number of these symptoms can be remedied, even if only temporarily. As a manager, there are ways for you to help your employees get through the gloomy period.
Carve out some time for fun.
I’m not saying you should take the entire company on vacation (unless you’re having a really good year!), but there are many ways to toss some pleasant surprises into your company’s daily routine. Host a karaoke or movie night out, on the company’s dime. Spend an hour one afternoon playing a department-wide game of Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. Appropriately for the holiday season, host a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange (with a maximum spend of $10 or $20 so that everyone can participate). Perhaps once every couple of weeks, you allow the employees to leave the office by 3PM (if the work permits) so that they can get home before the sun sets. The opportunities really are endless and most of them are very affordable.
Encourage healthy activities.
It’s very easy for a company to stock its kitchen with bags of chips and sodas. But studies have shown that eating junk food when one is already in a bad mood can in fact make that bad mood worse. Subscribing the office to a healthy snack delivery program can save you the trouble of stocking snacks yourself and guarantees a varied selection of healthy but tasty vittles.
Meanwhile, exercise can boost levels of dopamine, which are, effectively, nature’s “mood boosters.” In fact, a lot of companies have started offering exercise classes at the workplace both to boost the energy levels and moods of their employees. Something as formal as an exercise class isn’t necessary either (especially when your office may not have the space for such an activity); a number of companies are also known for their walking or running clubs at lunchtime or before work, or encouraging physical activity with friendly competitions (like a fitness tracker steps challenge between departments, for example).
Give your employees a pat on the back.
I’m not implying that you have to literally pat your employees on the back (unless that’s how you like to say “thank you”), but ’tis the season for goodwill and good tidings and, for some employees who may be feeling off during the winter months, sometimes all they need is a gesture of appreciation for what they do for the business. An employee recognition system can work wonders when it comes to boosting employees’ morale by giving managers and employees across your organization to give shout-outs to each other for great work, or even to nominate co-workers for special rewards.
Let there be light!
A cloudy day can make even the happiest employee feel a little tired, and it’s worse for those who aren’t 100% on their game. Encourage your employees to take a walk outside during their lunch breaks; even if it’s cloudy, they’re still getting more natural light than they ever will if they stay indoors during work hours. If you’re so inclined, you can even buy light boxes for peoples’ desks at the office. Simulating the sun, these can be instrumental in giving your employees the vitamin D they so crave when it’s dark and cold outside. They aren’t prohibitively expensive either; in fact, some of them start as low as $40.
You and your employees may feel a bit of the winter blues during this dark and gray season, but it doesn’t always take much to bring a bit of brightness to the workday. What do you do at your company to beat the blues? Let us know on Twitter.