Using Your Employee Benefits to Combat Winter Blues

Using Your Employee Benefits to Combat Winter Blues

February 03, 2022
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The drop in temperatures can also mean a worrisome drop in employee moods. In a survey by the workplace consultancy Peldon Rose, half of individuals said that winter has a negative impact on how they feel at work, and one-third said it decreases their productivity.

But your employee benefits and accompanying workplace initiatives can be a powerful source of help. Increasing awareness and usage of benefits in the following five areas can improve your employees’ well-being and sense of belonging during the darkest months:

  • Physical wellness
  • Mental health
  • Nutrition
  • Community
  • Professional development

Encourage physical activity

For many people, cold weather means staying inside and reducing their activity levels. But being active is a big factor in physical, mental and immune functioning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Encourage activity breaks. Send fun emails reminding employees to stretch, stand up, go for a walk or dance — anything to get moving.
  • Promote your resources. Make sure employees are aware of fitness offerings like on-site exercise equipment or classes, gym memberships and health coaching.
  • Hold wellness competitions. Tap into the competitive spirit with a monthly steps challenge, or ask for pictures of snow forts, sledding hills and other activities that get people out and about in the cold weather.

Pay attention to mental health

Mental challenges can take a toll that many employees may not even realize, especially when you layer seasonal depression on top of an ongoing global pandemic. Due to current stress levels, nearly one-third of adults struggle even to make small decisions like picking out clothes or deciding on meals, according to the American Psychological Association.

  • Send regular reminders. Communicate about your mental wellness benefits — like in-network psychologists and psychiatrists, stress management programs and employee assistance program counselors — early and often this winter. Regular communications can decrease the stigma around mental health and increase usage.
  • Savor small victories. When your teams finish a project, tell them to grab a coffee or take a victory lap around the office or home. Give each employee a gratitude journal and send entries thanking them for their efforts.
  • Be mindful. Consider targeted offerings like mediation apps, mindfulness training or breathing techniques that provide employees with tools to enhance their emotional well-being.

Encourage healthy eating

During the winter months, it’s all too easy to reach for comfort food — even easier when Halloween, Thanksgiving and the December holidays lend themselves to treats for months on end. Offering healthy substitutes can improve overall health this winter.

  • Send meal kits or healthy snacks. With the rise in remote work, more employers plan to offer meal deliveries and snacks as a new health benefit for 2022, according to Forbes. These options can save valuable time and encourage good eating habits.
  • Provide healthy snacks at work. Healthy options aren’t just for home. In the office, you can provide free or subsidized snack baskets and vending machines with options like granola bars, trail mix and oatmeal. At meetings, offer packaged fruits, nuts and vegetables instead of cookies or pastries.
  • Share recipes. Email a new healthy recipe every Friday. Or ask employees for their favorite recipes and put together an online cookbook. Incorporate a variety of foods for diverse tastes and culinary backgrounds.
  • Offer cooking classes. Host a virtual event or invite a chef to teach your employees the joy of cooking on site. If you have foodie employees, invite them to teach a class.

Create a sense of community

Whether your employees are back in the office, fully remote or somewhere in between, you’ll likely need to help them combat a growing sense of isolation. According to USA Today, 60% of people felt lonely even before the pandemic. And separate research cited by The Harvard Gazette suggests that serious cases of loneliness have increased 11% since the pandemic started.

  • Encourage group breaks. Coffee and lunch dates, water cooler visits or video chats can all spark collaboration and new ideas. It’s a great way to strengthen ties and bring new employees into the fold.
  • Create check-in partnerships. Form teams of two or three to regularly check in with each other, perhaps starting with once a week and then adapting to schedules and needs. These check-ins should be a time for encouragement to safeguard against disengagement.
  • Foster local connections. Get your employees involved in their communities through charity drives and matching contributions to local nonprofit organizations. Connect people to volunteer opportunities, blood drives and other initiatives that help them do good and meet others.

Set goals

If an employee is feeling stuck (in the snow or otherwise), setting short- and long-term goals can help them move forward.

  • Offer training. Employees and supervisors at all levels benefit from education, including tips for better communication, management, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Consider offering online and in-person options so people can fit learning into their schedules.
  • Create leadership opportunities. Workplace committees and councils provide opportunities for employees to be leaders and stretch their skill sets beyond their formal roles.
  • Make use of your education benefits. Encourage continuing education through tuition reimbursement, professional memberships, webcasts and online courses.

Helping employees through winter and beyond

Talk to your insurance broker or benefits adviser about these and other ideas to keep your employees thriving through the winter and all year long.