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Leading a Team During the Winter Months

Effective leadership during the winter months is pivotal for maintaining the overall wellbeing of a team. In colder seasons, the challenges of managing mental and physical health become more pronounced. Leaders play a key role in fostering a supportive and understanding work environment that acknowledges the potential impact of the season on team members.


Proactive leadership involves recognising the diverse needs of individuals, understanding the potential challenges they may face during the winter, and implementing strategies to mitigate these challenges. Whether it is handling a flexible working request, dealing with individual employee concerns, or effecting financial changes, it is important to ensure actions are implemented properly and clearly.


How Does the Winter Affect Employees at Work?


Dark winter mornings might not only make it more difficult to get out of bed, but they can also affect your workplace productivity. According to research from project management software company Redbooth, winter is the least productive season for business. The company analysed their data over a four-year period and found that users completed 22.8% of their tasks in winter on average, compared to 27.3% in the autumn. Researchers have discovered that to feel 100 percent productive during the winter months, workers simply need to work six hours instead of eight.


Productivity may be affected due to external factors such as inclement weather and transportation disruptions. Commuting during the winter storms or dealing with icy conditions can lead to delays and increased stress, potentially causing employees to arrive at work later or feeling fatigued. More than two-thirds of workers believe they are less productive and have lower concentration levels during the winter season. Additionally, the decreased amount of natural light during the winter months can contribute to feelings of lethargy and impact concentration levels, potentially affecting overall work output.


Mental Health can be significantly influenced by the winter season. The lack of sunlight, particularly In regions with shorter daylight hours, may contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for some individuals. In a survey more than a third of respondents (35%) identified themselves as suffering or having suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This can result in symptoms such a slow energy, changes in sleep patterns, and feelings of sadness or hopelessness. The winter blues, coupled up with the holiday seasons stress, may lead to increased anxiety and reduced moral among employees.


The physical health of employees can also be impacted during winter. Cold temperatures and flu season increase the likelihood of illness, leading to higher rates of absenteeism. DfE data shows illness absences rose to 7.5 per cent in the week starting December 5th. The reduced inclination for outdoor activities and exercise due to colder weather can contribute to a more sedentary lifestyle, potentially affecting productivity and overall workplace wellbeing. Research shows people exercise for an average of eight minutes less during the cooler months. Implementing measures to address these challenges, such as flexible work arrangements and wellness programs, can help mitigate the impact of winter on employees’ productivity and health.


What Can Leaders Implement to Support Employees?


Leading a team during the winter months with decreased energy and productivity levels is bound to cause stress on yourself and the wider team. Not only is winter a stressful period in terms of workload and the weather, but it is also a stressful period financially for some of us as we approach Christmas time.


Consider Making Environmental Changes

Sometimes the workplace isn’t the most welcome environment. If the space isn’t quite homey or cosy, it might feel a little gloomy. This can also exacerbate Seasonal Affective Disorder because its greatly affected by one’s surroundings. One aspect you can take into consideration is the lighting. The National Alliance on Mental Health Illness said that bright, white, fluorescent lights have been shown to reverse the winter depressive symptoms of SAD.


Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements allow employees to work remotely, either on a temporary or scheduled basis. One study found that companies that offer flexible schedules and remote work options experience a 25% decrease in employee turnover. This can be particularly helpful during severe weather conditions when commuting may be hazardous and helps them accommodate winter-related challenges effectively.


Provide Winter Accommodations

To ensure the wellbeing and comfort of employees during the winter months, it is essential for leaders to provide winter accommodations. This may include establishing a comfortable and warm workspace by regulating indoor temperatures and ensuring that heating systems are efficient. Research shows a comfortable office temperature can increase productivity by 12%. Employers can also consider offering amenities such as cosy blankets, warm beverages, and adequate lighting to create a welcoming and comfortable environment.


Financial Wellness Workshops

Financial wellness workshops are valuable initiatives that leaders can implement to support employees in managing their finances effectively, particularly during the financially demanding periods like the holiday season. Research from the National Debt Line shows that 6% of UK adults (accounting for 3 million people) feel that financial pressures make Christmas less enjoyable. These workshops aim to provide practical guidance and resources for budgeting, saving, and making informed financial decisions.


Boosting Employee Spirits During the Winter Months


Leading a team during the winter months and boosting employee spirits is crucial for maintaining a positive and productive work environment. The colder season can often bring challenges such as decreased daylight, weather-related disruptions, and holiday stress, potentially impacting morale.


Organise Winter Activities In the Office

Inside the office, winter-themed events enhance team cohesion, encouraging creativity and collaboration. These activities create a sense of shared celebration and build a stronger sense of community among team members. Corporate team building statistics confirm that employee satisfaction increases up to 50% when surrounded by people with whom they are friendly. Research further suggests that positive communication within the workplace directly correlates with positive communication and socialising outside of work. This adds weight to the benefits of team building exercises and the tangible difference they make to morale.


Offer Words of Affirmation

Winter often brings unique challenges that can impact overall morale and motivation of a team. O.C. Tanner studied employee engagement and found 37% of those surveyed said that more appreciation would motivate them to produce better work more often. Offering words of affirmations serve as a reminder of individual contributions, fostering a sense of value and recognition among team members. During the winter months, when external factors might affect morale, words of affirmation become a powerful tool for boosting teams spirit, enhancing motivation, and maintaining a cohesive and motivated workforce.


Provide Food and Snacks

Food is one of those things that bring people together. Consider supplying a variety of snack-like food in the workplace for everyone to enjoy – It doesn’t have to be a meal to be appreciated. Having foods with high polyphenols can improve mood as well as when you eat dark chocolate. Some great winter snack foods are popcorn and raw nuts like almonds or walnuts – health muffins, protein bars, hot chocolate, coffee, healthy juices, or pretzels – something that chases away the blues.


Offer Extra Winter Benefits

The winter season can be the perfect time to share extra benefits that you provide to your employees. Research shows 72% of surveyed professionals say having more work benefits would increase their job satisfaction. Instead of dreading the long winter months, people will associate them with getting rewarded. Share bonuses, free gifts, discounts, or something valuable during this time. You’ll be adding to the spirit of gift giving and creating general cheer at your workplace.


How Can Wellity Support You?


Darker nights, rainy days and changing clocks can often make the changing seasons a tough time for our mental health. This year, such challenges have been amplified by financial anxiety, fatigue, and extensive change, leaving ,any people feeling more blue than usual about the coming winter months.


A Wellity session ‘Winter Is Coming’ will address the challenges faced and how to tackle feelings of low energy and mood.


Objectives:


  • Understand the psychological impact of the darker months.

  • Identify ways to recognise and tackle Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  • Establish important lifestyle changes to be made in the autumn/ winter months.

  • Learn ways to manage mood and motivation during the changing seasons.


For any information on this session, or others we offer in our Winter Wellness Programme, contact us at hello@wellityglobal.com.

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