6 ways to help employees burdened by the blues

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Ever see that episode of Friends when someone eats Ross’ sandwich at work? He basically flips out.

In the winter months all of us in the office might have a similar reaction to Ross. Sometimes we’re all just 10 seconds away from losing it. Whether it’s the low temperatures, the snow, the lack of sunlight or mental health issues compounded by the bitter cold, making it through the day can be downright difficult.

For those of us living in more northern cities, the effects of the lack of sunlight can give us a serious case of winter blues and in some cases, those winter blues can turn into mild or more severe forms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

One of the biggest investments your business will make is in its people. Happy employees are productive employees. Here are some ways you can help boost your employees’ spirits, moods and energy levels during the slog of winter, and for that matter, the whole year long.

Yoga in the boardroom

There’s nothing new about yoga (it’s been around for 5,000+ years) but bringing a certified yoga instructor into the boardroom once a week might be refreshing for your office. In a review published by Frontiers in Psychiatry researchers from Duke University found that “there is emerging evidence…to support popular beliefs about yoga for depression, sleep disorders, and as an augmentation therapy.”

Lunchtime yoga is something employees at Vision Critical have been participating in ever since someone broached the subject with the company’s social committee. “The minute it goes out and people want to do it, we facilitate that and make it happen,” says Ashira Gobrin, Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations. “Our software is about collecting insight and understanding from our clients’ customers, listening to the people that mean something to them…and we have that same value, our own employees are important to us, people matter.”

Get social

Having a social committee that can organize events and outings is an effective way of helping engage employees and provides them with opportunities to get up from their desks and participate in something other than work. Whether it’s an organized walk at lunch to get some fresh air or the Friday afternoon Beer Cart that runs through the offices of Vison Critical, being able to unwind with your co-workers at the end of the day can make the dreariness of the winter seem more manageable.

Find the light

The lack of sunshine is one of the biggest contributors to SAD, so it’s time to shed light on the cubicles. One way is through light boxes. A light box mimics outdoor light and the recommended use is usually about 30 minutes per day. Consider investing in some light boxes for the office, perhaps in a small room employees can use to get a dose of throughout the workday. Here are some things to consider from the Mayo Clinic when you’re choosing a light box. For those with more severe cases of SAD, light therapy should be discussed with your doctor.

 

Using a lightbox -Via Sadbox.co.uk
Using a lightbox -Via Sadbox.co.uk

Bring in the coach

Hire a professional to come in to speak to employees about wellness, nutrition and exercise. Jill Hoffman is a board certified holistic health coach based in Brooklyn, New York, and she said businesses will often ask her to come in and offer guidance on how to manage the stresses of everyday life.

“We need to eat and live with the different cycles of nature. In the winter it’s our time to hibernate, naturally we want to slow down, we’re getting less light, so these are all cues that we need to internally slow down our system… this is our time to relax and recharge our bodies.”

Say Om…

As with yoga, the practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years. If space allows, consider creating a meditation room in the office. Having a dedicated room to allow employees to focus their energy, repeat their mantras and allow themselves some time to realign themselves can go a long way in their productivity and mindset. Hoffman suggests starting a short meditative practice every morning even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. “It helps you become more present, it helps you think clearer; you will be more focused and definitely more positive.”

Be kind

A little understanding and patience goes a long way in helping your employees make it through the tough winter months. Ensure that your team knows that they are supported and have resources available to them if they need extra help.

Main photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

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Kareen Madian

Kareen Madian

Kareen Madian started her business journalism career as an intern at CNBC. As the Web Editor for MoneySense.ca and Senior Web Editor for CanadianBusiness.com she created and produced content on all matters of business related news. Whether it be personal finance, daily market activity or interviews with some of Canada’s top CEOs, Kareen’s desire to make business news exciting and entertaining for her readers is always her top priority. Kareen is based in Toronto, and in her spare time she enjoys helping the Canadian economy by shopping for shoes. Find her on Twitter here