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Don’t let SAD kill office productivity

There’s a name for how blegghh you feel during the winter months: seasonal affective disorder, unsurprisingly known as SAD. And sad is how a lot of people feel when SAD hits them like a hammer, leading to feelings of depression, lethargy, and hopelessness. At the office, this can mean grouchier employees and less engaged and productive teams.

This holiday season, take the bull by the horns and set up a system to proactively kick SAD to the curb. The following creative tips can help your employees thrive no matter the weather. You might even start the new year more motivated and productive!

Bonus tip: Check out our Complete Holiday Survival Guide for Managers & Employees and get through the winter season unscathed!

SAD is more than the winter blues

SAD is a common phenomenon that affects millions of people around the world every year. Most of the time, symptoms start in the fall and last throughout the winter. These symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Discontinuing regular activities
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent oversleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in weight or appetite

If your company is located in a place where sunlight is extremely lacking (we’re looking at you, Rjukan) or your employees already struggle to stay engaged at the office, SAD can seriously derail your team's productivity. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use these team-building strategies to turn SAD into HAPPY.

1. Snooze-friendly schedules

Getting out of bed just seems that much harder when it’s pitch black outside. Make it a little easier for your employees by offering flexible schedules. This could be as simple as pushing start times back if you notice them consistently rushing into the office late, or allowing team members to take a longer lunch to fit their nightly exercise routine earlier in the day.

Another option is to allow remote work so that team members can snuggle up in their pajamas while knocking to-do’s off the list. For more ideas, check out “The Ideal Work Schedule for You or Your Team, According to Science.”

2. Team kickoff breakfasts

Cut through the morning grogginess with a simple team kickoff breakfast a few times a week. Bagels, coffee, pastries, omelets, fruit—the spread could be whatever you prefer. You don’t even have to provide food (though we’ve never said no to a free donut); the most important aspect of these meetings is to show recognition for your team members, clarify the day’s or week’s priorities, and shake off the morning cobwebs.

Open and honest communication is the first steps toward creating a culture of employee retention… and one of the best ways to keep motivation up during the distracting holiday season.

3. Ice ice(breaker), baby

You may not want to hear the word “ice” in the middle of winter, but trust us, a little afternoon icebreaker (done in the middle of a heater-fueled office) can do your team some good. Team building activities like the ones below can keep employees engaged even when their motivation flags with the weather. If you can get people moving around while talking, even better—exercise releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins.

  • 2 Truths and a Lie
  • Beach Ball
  • Volunteering
  • Creating a Culture Book or Scrapbook

Learn how to do each of these fun team building activities in our blog article for HR managers.

4. Winter-specific activities

Research has shown that changing the way we think about the winter, such as rephrasing the thought “I hate winter” to “I prefer summer over winter,” can be just as effective as light therapy when combatting SAD. That’s why celebrating winter-specific activities may help your team start to think about the season in favorable terms.

Team Talmundo, for instance, went skiing last year to celebrate the winter. You could also consider:

  • Ice skating
  • Caroling
  • Sledding
  • Hiking
  • Snowshoeing
  • A seasonal theatre performance
  • Thermal baths
  • Visiting Christmas markets
  • A mountain cabin retreat

5. Hot chocolate breaks

Don’t forget the power of a personal connection with your employees, too. According to Gallup, the single biggest factor in employee engagement is—drum roll please!—the employee-manager relationship. When you have a few minutes here and then, grab a hot chocolate with each of your team members and get to know them on a more personal level. Use this question sheet to get the questions flowing!

New hires who start during the winter months may need extra attention to become, and stay, engaged at your company. Download our free onboarding research report to learn exactly what your new hires need during onboarding!

Topics: HR
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