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4 Tips for Winter Workplace Safety and Sanity

If you’re like us, 2020 has been a blur. We traded in our work attire for sweatpants and gave up trying to remember what day it is. But we’re here to remind you that winter is, in fact, coming. While the idea of cold weather and shorter days may be as disappointing as the Game of Thrones finale for some, it also means a new season to reset and take a look at your routine.

Of course, the ongoing pandemic has affected the way we work as HR professionals and how we interact with each other. As we get ready for the winter ahead, we must prepare ourselves to continue practicing COVID-19 safety measures while also considering the challenges winter brings. 

Whether you’re back in the workplace or holding strong in your home office, we’ve got some ideas for protecting the safety and sanity of your team as we head into the coldest season of the year.

 

1. Continue to wash your hands and wear a mask.

This may seem like a given, but regularly washing your hands and properly wearing a face covering will have renewed importance this winter. Experts are concerned about the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the annual flu season, and the risks posed by widespread cases of both.

In order to protect your team’s health, it’s imperative to encourage all employees to wash hands frequently whether they’re in the office or at home, or use hand sanitizer if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water.

And, perhaps most importantly, wear a face covering when you are around others and can’t maintain at least six feet of distance. While a mask isn’t anyone’s favorite work accessory, encourage your team to use it as an opportunity to add a little personality to their work wardrobe with some fun mask options! You can even design custom branded masks for some company swag with safety in mind.

 

2. Make time to connect with others.

Winter time is filled with holidays and (usually) their subsequent gatherings — Thanksgiving dinner, holiday office parties and New Year’s celebrations just to name a few. These social events offer us a chance to interact and connect with family, friends and coworkers to break up the monotony of the winter.

This year, however, the holiday season is going to look a little different as COVID-19 forces us to avoid large gatherings and may prevent some from traveling to celebrate. As such, we must make a concerted effort to reach out to each other and continue to interact — even if it is virtual. Employee engagement from afar may pose new challenges, but it’s important to encourage communication and connection between employees as we enter a season where many may be struggling with the wintertime blues.

Doctors recommend taking time out of each day to call, text, or video chat with loved ones and friends to avoid wintertime isolation. At work, set aside a few minutes each day to catch up with employees and check in to see how everyone is doing. Even five minutes will go a long way in keeping your team going this winter.

 

3. Take a break and move your body.

We’ve all experienced the aches and pains that come from sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer for too long. When it’s sunny out, you can easily take a few minutes to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. But when the sky is grey and the temperature drops, it can be harder to make the effort to get out and move your body.

Despite the urge to hibernate indoors, the winter is one of the most important times to make sure you are staying active. Your activity can range from a short walk around the office building to a Youtube workout video in your living room, or something in between. You can even coordinate group activities or challenges to help everyone in your organization stay active. Whatever your preference, give yourself and your team the gift of movement a few minutes each day to brighten up the dreary winter days and keep your health in check.

 

4. Be kind to yourself.

You’ve probably heard the phrase a few times by now, but it’s worth repeating — there’s nothing normal about what’s going on in the world. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that even the best-laid plans can be unexpectedly upended. With that said, we know how hard it can be to keep employees feeling motivated and productive during these uncertain times. Add the hard-to-avoid solitude associated with wintertime to the mix, and your sanity can easily be on thin ice.

As we prepare to bundle up for the cold season, it’s crucial to remember the importance of taking time for yourself. Order the venti coffee, put your favorite songs on repeat, or take a 10 minute break from checking emails. Make sure employees know that their employer cares about their mental health and wellbeing. Let employees know that you’re there for them, and help give them what they need to take care of themselves — whether that’s a gift card for some coffee or free access to mental health resources.

At the end of the day, we can’t run on an empty tank, so do yourself and others the favor of taking time to breathe and recharge when you need it. 

These are only just a few of the things you can do to stay safe and sane this winter. If you want a few more ideas on how to keep your company running smoothly through the pandemic, check out SHRM’s COVID-19 resources, and take the steps to prepare yourself and your organization now to be successful during the next few months.