(Story by Henry Albrecht originally appeared in Business 2 Community)
Believe it or not, snow-pocalypse may not be over. And with the snow comes the winter blues, sapping motivation to stick to nutrition and exercise plans. Add on short, dark days, cold and flu season, and slippery sidewalks, and it’s clear why CareerBuilder reported that December, January and February were the most popular months for employees to call in sick last year.
To help employers prepare their workforce for the harsh winter months, my company, Limeade, created a Winter Engagement Guide. Here are a few strategies to support winter wellness in your office:
Educate employees about flu and sickness prevention
You might think preventing the flu and other illnesses is simple, but your employees don’t always put their knowledge into practice.
A Staples survey shows 43 percent of respondents know they’re contagious one day before flu symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after getting sick. But 55 percent of those who had the flu last year still went to work sick. What’s more, 59 percent know they should stay home, but just 43 percent actually do.
Your strategy: Using all your communications channels, remind employees about PTO and sick leave policies, and urge them to stay home when they’re sick. When they try to be heroic and work through it, encourage them to stay home for their co-workers. Serve healthy lunches alongside information on flu prevention and general winter wellness. Host a series on proper nutrition, exercise and other health tips to improve well-being and fight off sickness year-round.
Promote fresh eating
Your employees aren’t eating right, and it can take a toll on their well-being ─ especially in the winter. As it is, 91 percent of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables and 87 percent don’t eat enough fruit, according to the latest numbers from the CDC. In the winter, when fresh produce is harder to come by ─ and more expensive ─ employees may eat even fewer fruits and veggies.
Your strategy: Show employees healthy eating is still possible during the harsh winter months with cooking classes or recipe challenges. Invite pros from local restaurants or cooking schools to teach your team how to make healthy dishes with this season’s abundance of root vegetables. Challenge employees to bring their favorite healthy recipes and swap them with coworkers online. Make it competitive and offer prizes to those with the best recipes.
Change up the routine
When the weather’s warm, employees can choose from a wide variety of fitness activities, making it easy to stay active. But achieving winter wellness is more challenging when the snowdrifts take over. They need options beyond freezing outside or following the same workout DVD every day.
Your strategy: Keep your team interested and active by offering different indoor classes like Zumba, yoga, Pilates or cycling. Walking desks are well worth it, too. Alternatively, you could bring in a personal trainer to help set fitness goals and develop customized routines.
Don’t limit yourself to indoor exercise: Ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing are all great ways to get employees moving outside while bringing the team closer together.
Remind employees about winter wellness
Your employees are often so focused on their work, they forget to take care of themselves. Their own well-being becomes the last thing on their priority list. They risk wearing themselves down with poor lifestyle habits.
Your strategy: Remind employees about the importance of their well-being and how they can take better care of themselves. Communicate regularly to keep health events, activities and tips at the front of their minds. Identify the best channels to reach employees. Social wellness programs, newsletters or posters around the office all work fine ─ but manager and peer-driven events work the best.
During these dark days of winter, help your business by helping employees stay on top of their health. These simple tips can lead to wellness all year long.