8 ways to help employees beat the winter blues

After all the fun of December, January descends quickly into dreariness. It doesn’t even have the good taste to have only 28 days, like February. Here’s how to cope.

January can be a downer.

Employees are coming back from a festive holiday season having enjoyed decorations, parties, baked treats, and fun, and the winter blues can start to creep in. Here are some ways to re-engage employees and turn the blues into productive dos:

  • Remind employees why they like working for your company by making clear connections between an employee’s specific job and the company mission. Fewer than half (47 percent) of the least-engaged employees report managers connecting mission and values with their specific work (versus 88 percent of the most engaged) according to Brilliant Ink’s Employee Experience Survey.
  • Your employees may be making personal resolutions to start 2014; help them do the same for work resolutions and goal setting by showing them possible career paths. Seeing a career path and discussing it at each point in the employee lifecycle generate higher levels of employee engagement. You can also encourage employees to complete a strength finder’s exercise. Get them thinking about what they do well-and how they can develop their strengths this year.
  • Work with your team to kick-start a project that excites them and map out a strategy to make it happen. Consider something that they’ve wanted to tackle but haven’t had the time or focus. Employees won’t have time to think about the winter blues if they’re motivated by an exciting and engaging project.
  • Take time for team building. This could be as simple as gathering your team for a lunch or impromptu happy hour—or use the new year as an excuse to launch a team-building activity or program you can repeat throughout the year. Need a little inspiration? Check out our own team-building activity, the Gratitude Project, which we’ll be launching in the first quarter.
  • Encourage water cooler conversation. It can be tough to get back in the swing of things when the days are short and dark, and holiday fun is behind us. Don’t fight it—instead, look for opportunities to promote casual conversation among your team members. Fostering strong connections among your people will lead to better performance throughout the year.
  • If the streets outside aren’t covered with snow, bundle up and try a walking meeting. Exercise not only boosts our moods, it can also promote better thinking and creativity. Too frigid to venture outside? Try walking the halls of your office instead.
  • If you’re a leader wrestling with the winter blues, it’s OK to acknowledge this in front of your team. Your honesty and authenticity will help you and your team to relate more with each other, which will ultimately strengthen your working environment.
  • Ask your team to begin filling out a group vacation calendar for 2014. This serves two purposes: It not only helps you get a sense of your team’s time away from the office for the year; it also gets them thinking about their next vacation, which can boost everyone’s moods. Beyond that, time off has been proven to increase productivity and creative ideas.

Liz Kelly is the CEO and founder of Brilliant Ink, an award-winning employee engagement consultancy with offices in Oakland, Calif., and New York City. For 16 years, Liz has worked with dozens of Fortune 1,000 companies developing employee communications and engagement strategies tackling a variety of corporate challenges.

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