If your company is like most during this time of year, work efficiency isn’t at its peak. You may be noticing that employees are becoming a bit more distracted, slower to focus, and especially ready to end their workday. Absent workers and empty desks are probably becoming a common sight in the office.
The culprit is a “winter slump”: colds and flus, time off, travel plans, families being in town, and the general holiday atmosphere are all causes of it. Employees will begin dropping like flies and asking for sick days. Others will be longing to race home quickly from work, and get out of the cold. The rest may be lacking their usual sharpness and drive as various pressures of the season bombard their minds.
Let’s face it: winter tends to freeze motivation. But should your whole organization be put on pause just because of the time of year it happens to be? How do you keep your business efficient and your team headed in the right direction—without being a Scrooge?
The key is to be flexible, realistic, and understanding of your employees’ winter needs while still running your company productively. Here are a few ways to make this happen:
Decide and Discuss
Figure out which tasks are a priority for your company during the season. Keep in mind that work days are shorter, employees tend to have more time off, and sick days are used more frequently. Once everyone is in agreement on what needs to happen over the time period…
- Have daily meetings to keep everyone on track and ensure that the work is getting done. 99U has a unique explanation of the difference between importance and urgency and how to prioritize the two.
- Motivate employees through awareness. In a meeting setting, alerting workers that they’ll be checked on regularly is a big motivator for getting work done – well.
- Have employees write a list of their own personal work goals. Encourage them to keep these lists at their desks, within reach over the next few months.
Talk About It
Have a meeting with everyone in the office and make them aware of the effects of winter slump. Let them know that though it’s perfectly natural for businesses to break down a bit during this time of year—it doesn’t mean the work stops.
Gently inform them that, while you’re open to whatever holiday leniency they may need, they are still expected to do their job. Alerting employees about the slump will keep them on their toes. No one wants their boss to think they’re lacking motivation or drive in the workplace. Plus, talking about the situation is sure to improve the communication with your team. Not everyone is aware of their lackluster job performance or seasonal depression – putting it all out there will diminish that disconnect.
Encourage Outdoor Time
If you have an office with easy outside access, it’s a great idea to allow and even encourage workers to go out for small breaks during the day. Even if it’s freezing, leaving the desk for a bit and going outside will provide a jolt of energy and a much-needed change of scenery.
When you’re sitting in the same chair all day long, sharing the same circulated air, looking at the same screen, it gets to you. In stuffy situations like these, fresh air can do so much more for a person than a cup of stale coffee. Everyone’s brains will thank you for the reminder to escape and reset.
Keep Office Equipment Working & Up-to-Date
This may sound silly or small, but making sure that the printer has enough ink, the staplers are full, or even that there are plenty of pens can keep a worker from leaving the office early to “work from home” because they know they have those things at their house. It can also be frustrating to endure a long winter commute only to discover that part of your job is halted due to a broken printer or a work computer that keeps crashing.
Keep the Office at a Bright & Cheery Temperature
The office should be warm enough, but not sweltering. If it’s a regular sight to see your employees wearing coats at their desks, that’s a sign that it’s probably too cold inside. And who wants to go to work in a chilly environment?
Sure, many studies say that keeping a room slightly cool could increase work efficiency, focus and productivity, but those metrics should be geared towards home offices. When you have several to hundreds of people in your care during the day, you need to make sure they’re comfortable and happy. No one can be either of those things when they’re shivering at their desk.
Keep Tabs on Employees Working From Home
Don’t let it slide, and don’t be afraid to seem like a babysitter. If a worker is allowed to do their job from home here and there during the holiday season, giving them a quick call or email to check up won’t hurt; it will keep them on track. You are running a business and you pay these people. You shouldn’t be worried about offending someone just for checking in.
Triumph Over Sickness
Decrease the chances of spreading coughs and colds throughout the office this winter:
- Give everyone in the office their own hand sanitizer – recommend they carry it with them even!
- Leave boxes of tissues throughout the office and replace them when they’re running low.
- Put up signs reminding people to wash their hands and be careful during the “sneezy months”.
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room, oranges and apples are a staple in ours.
- Stock up on Vitamin C drops, cough drops, and any other quick remedies you can pass along to someone that obviously needs it.
Make the Employee Break Room a Thing to Behold
It’s the perfect time of year to super-charge the break room! Keeping yummy snacks and delicious hot drinks around will keep your workers’ drive around, too. Consider swapping out that standard Costco coffee for something festive or gourmet. If your break room is better stocked than your employees’ own kitchens, they may actually rather be at work than at home. Such a simple gesture as slipping some flavored creamers into the refrigerator could really improve your team’s morale.
Follow the Weather
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast. If the roads are going to be icy in the morning, or if a blizzard could potentially strand everyone at the office, take initiative and tell your employees to work from home. There’s no need to risk your employees’ lives by forcing them to tackle freezing rain just to come into the office for tasks they could accomplish at home.
Feel free to make it clear that their progress will be checked up on throughout the day. If you’re worried that your workers may not treat the day as a work day, consider having conference calls, Skype meetings, or GoTo meetings with them to ensure that every job gets done. Work efficiency will improve if everyone’s on the same page.
With Work Efficiency: Preparation is Everything
If you didn’t do it this year, remember next year to help employees plan ahead for the holiday months. If it’s something that their job allows, encourage them to “build up” and tackle more before this time of year so that the slump doesn’t make them get too far behind.
And as always, knowing your statistics with customers is crucial. Being completely aware of your numbers with social media, page views, purchase orders, invoices, and other data will keep you organized and help you realize your company’s full potential with your audience. It’s also super easy.
Most importantly, don’t forget to let yourself enjoy this very special time of year. No matter how bogged down things get at the office, always remember that you aren’t a machine – so take a breather every now and then. No one is going to judge you for it, we promise!
If your business is looking for ways to stay on top of their game during the winter, document management is a big step in a very productive direction. Why not take a tour of our software today to see what we can do for you?
Background header image by Dave Wild.