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Winter of discontent: 10 tips to help workers through bleak months

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Team Building

by Mary Pender Greene

There are two seasons almost everyone looks forward to: the winter holidays and summertime. The first now seems like a distant memory, and the other is still months away. That can make this time of year feel a little bleak, and it can make work productivity lag.

Advice: Recognize that employees might be feeling bad. They might be struggling to pay off holiday overspending—and to diet away the extra pounds they gained during winter festivities. Plus, most won’t be taking vacations anytime soon, and paid holidays off are scarce before Memorial Day.

It’s time to create some in-between-the-holidays fun and optimism at work. Think about simple activities that will help employees feel good and interact with each other on a friendly, personal level.

Show your employees that you understand the midwinter doldrums and you care enough about them to try to help them through it. Here are 10 ideas to try:

1. Create some simple diversions. Choose activities that employees can participate in without stealing too much time away from work. Example: Ask workers to bring in their baby pictures, post them on a bulletin board and have a guessing contest.

2. Help employees lose holiday weight and keep the perpetual New Year’s resolution to get in shape. Invite a yoga instructor to teach classes at your location two or three times a week. Partner with Weight Watchers to offer on-site meetings. Organize a “Biggest Loser” weight-loss contest among departments. Negotiate with a nearby gym for employee discounts.

3. Invite a financial planner to speak at a brown-bag lunch. Topics: How to pay off holiday credit card bills and how to prepare for upcoming income tax filing.

4. Play music in the office, as long as it won’t distract employees. And consider setting up a “quiet room” with a couple of comfy chairs but no computers or phones, where employees can rest and regroup during breaks.

5. Start flex time, so employees can start and end the workday at nontraditional times. Allow workers to arrange their hours so they can come in late on Monday and leave early on Friday.

6. Encourage employees to stay home when they’re sick. People come to work sick because managers send them the message that it’s a problem when they’re absent. Switch up that dynamic by encouraging managers themselves to stay home when they’re sick. In fact, send an all-staff e-mail saying it’s company policy. And allow employees to telework on days when they’re not quite well enough to show up for work but might be able to spend a productive half-day working from home.

7. Talk to employees about how the business is doing. A between-holidays, cold-weather slump is bad enough for them without having to worry about whether jobs are safe or the company is solvent. Explain the good and the bad. Keep everyone apprised of how the organization is coping and what they can expect.

8. Look forward. Invite employees to participate in personal goal-setting with a coach or their managers. Learn about their interests and consider arranging for them to work on projects for other departments.

9. Change the scenery. Hold team meetings at a restaurant every now and then instead of in the office. Institute a “dress-down Friday” policy or start “dress-up Monday” for a change of pace.

10. Lighten up. HR pros can set the pace for a happier workplace by livening up their memos, adding “brights” like jokes and cartoons to staff newsletters, inventing company-only “holidays” that come with staff potluck lunches, celebrating birthdays with cake and ice cream and other simple, unexpected treats.

The most important thing employees need to understand is that you understand them. Let them know you care about them as people—and train your organization’s managers to do the same.

They might not have an official holiday or summer vacation to look forward to just yet, but a few changes in the office might just help them look forward to coming to work every day.


Author: Mary Pender Greene is a New York City psychotherapist and career coach. Contact her at (718) 207-5455 or mpg@marypendergreene.com.

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