February 6, 2017

Keeping Employees Motivated Through the Height of Winter

We’re now halfway through winter. And though spring is in less than 60 days away, the dreary weather of winter is just starting to hit its peak. For many people, snow storms, extreme cold, and other inclement weather conditions can be the source of a wide range of frustrating disruptions – from commuting delays to school cancellations. Add in a spike in workers getting sick and it’s easy to see why winter can often hamper the motivation of employees.

Even if you don’t live in a place subject to volatile weather patterns during this time of year, maintaining productivity can still be difficult. Each season comes with its own challenges – and winter is certainly no different. 

The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can help your workforce maintain high levels of engagement. So if you’re looking for ways to ensure productivity continues to increase, even as temperatures drops, consider some of the following tips:

Give them something to look forward to (or work toward)

One of the reasons winter can take a toll on performance is that, after the new year, there are few vacations and holidays employees have to look forward to. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t arrange events or activities that generate excitement among your people. Scheduling a weekly or monthly happy hour, for example, allows workers to change gears, encourages them to socialize outside the office and can be an effective way to not only boost engagement and productivity, but build camaraderie as well. Million-dollar idea: Host a “beach” theme party to give people a mental break from the winter!

Another idea worth considering is setting up events around the upcoming major sporting events, such as the Superbowl or March Madness. For the Superbowl, have a game day theme the Friday before. For March Madness, maybe a friendly office pool for the brackets. The Society for Human Resources Management conducted a survey that revealed the majority of HR leaders agree office pools positively influence team building and help boost employee engagement.

Keep the office clean and comfortable

Winter is a time when a lot of staff members get sick. Viruses spread like wildfire, and the coughs and sniffling heard around the office can be enough to want to send employees running for the hills (or at least distract them from their work). Making sure the office is kept as clean, organized, and cozy as possible can help alleviate the stress and annoyance presented by the messy, uncomfortable, and slushy environments outside. 

In fact, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that showed productivity can sometimes be at its highest during times of poor weather, since people aren’t as preoccupied thinking about things they could be spending their time doing – which can happen when it’s nice out. It’s important to keep in mind though that although dark, rainy, or snowy days can lead to employees spending more time at the office, this can quickly lead to burnout.

Mix this with flu season, and what should be a productive winter can quickly become one of absenteeism. Even if workers are willing to work longer hours, you should still encourage them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Offer flexible work arrangements

If traffic delays or poor weather are going to cause commute disruptions frustrations, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let your workers spend those days working from home. This prevents them from getting a late start, and can also help mitigate the agitated mindset they might incur from such inconveniences. Also, with more workers getting sick this season, letting those who are feeling under the weather work from home helps reduce the chances of them spreading their illness to other staff members. 

Facilitate ongoing conversations

The best way to maintain engagement and productivity, or at least understand the issues that may be plaguing your team this winter, is to communicate with them directly and often. Conducting one to one meetings as a check-in can help ensure no project falls too far off the timeline. Also, being the start of a new year, now is an ideal time to get workers excited about the year ahead.

The inconveniences and issues that often arise during the winter can be extremely frustrating. Rather than dismissing your workers’ concerns or irritations, let them know that you understand – and that you appreciate their commitment, perseverance, and hard work. Above all else, make sure you are giving them resources, tools, and guidance needed to excel in their roles and complete tasks with as much ease and peace of mind as possible.

Deb LaMere

Deb LaMere is the Vice President of Employee Experience at Ceridian. With 17 years’ experience in human resources, Deb is responsible for employee engagement, talent management and performance management for Ceridian.

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