The winter months can be challenging for employee mental health and wellbeing. With the holidays over and cold weather lingering, people often experience low motivation, fatigue, and even seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These “winter blues” can negatively impact work performance if not addressed proactively.

First a note: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

Most people end up feeling a bit lethargic or unmotivated during the winter. When it gets severe, it can become what is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a mood disorder that causes depression in people at roughly the same time each year, most often in the winter. For some it can be a serious issue. The information below is not meant to be medical advice. We’re just hoping to provide some food for thought to help you put employee mental health first this winter.

Actively Promote a healthy work/life balance

There are several ways managers can support employees this season. Promoting work-life balance is key, as people have fewer vacations and activities during winter. Consider offering mental health days, flexible scheduling, and remote work options to help employees recharge. Building an empathetic and understanding culture also enables people to balance personal and professional demands.

Offer Employee Assistance

Providing mental health resources demonstrates care for the whole employee. Host talks on topics like mindfulness, burnout, resilience, anxiety, and depression. Share information on your employee assistance program (EAP) and other wellness benefits. Training managers to recognize signs of struggle and appropriately refer employees to help is crucial. Self-care should be encouraged at all levels, including for leaders managing teams.

Encouraging Outdoor Activities/Getting Some Sun

Getting outdoors for natural light and exercise combats vitamin D deficiency and helps stimulate endorphins that improve our mood. Make an effort to avoid scheduling meetings in the middle of the day. Adopt a policy of only having 45-minute meetings, and leaving 15 minutes for people to take a short walk around the block. Provide full spectrum lightbulbs, light therapy lamps, and other tools to compensate for lack of sunlight.

Engaging in Employee Team Building Games and Activities

These activities definitely aren’t just for the holidays! Team engagement in the workplace is an essential part of boosting an employee’s mood while working. Too often these activities get treated as employee appreciation instead of part of team-building and employee well being. After all, an office lunch room where employees could socialize and relax wasn’t a special treat, was it?  Making fun, engaging activities a regular part of your weekly schedule gives your employees a chance to unwind and feel less siloed. We would humbly suggest a weekly trivia event, but there are plenty of other options.

Use Incentives Wisely

Stick to incentives that truly reward results and show your appreciation as a way to increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Things like an extra day off or allowing them to log off early for a day when exceeding expectations is a great way to reward employees for their hard work. Who doesn’t want extra free time or a bonus added to a check for exceeding company expectations? Food is also a great option, whether it’s a food delivery gift card or sending employees healthy, resolution-friendly snacks. 

Prioritizing comprehensive employee wellbeing and mental health support this winter pays dividends in higher productivity, retention, and workplace culture. A little extra consideration goes a long way when the weather outside is frightful.