Office morale ideas for fighting winter blues

Regardless of your company’s size or industry, it’s crucial to maintain office morale. During the coldest months of the year, it becomes more challenging in part because of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Cases of SAD usually show up in the fall and persist through the winter. This condition makes people feel less energetic, moody, and depressed. Though SAD may require clinical treatment, most people may just need a boost to help them feel more energized during cold weather. Take a look at some of the strategies for boosting office morale and fighting the winter blues.

From low-cost options to programs that require a more significant investment, you can pick morale boosters that fit within your budget. Morale boosters can be small gifts, breaks, or other pleasant surprises that show your employees that you appreciate them and want them to enjoy their time on the job. Here are some office morale boosters that can brighten the winter blues:

Distribute plants

Workplaces that incorporate plants provide a brightly and friendly workplace. For less than $4 per employee, you can provide a small pot with a sunflower seed. You can even set up a do-it-yourself potting area in the break room. Employees can take 10 minutes to pick a pot, put potting soil in it, and plant the seed. You can encourage your employees to take care of their plants by providing a place on the company’s intranet where they can share photos of their plants. With their green leaves and colorful blooms, plants are a positive and powerful counter-visual to the drab dreariness of winter days.

Ban internal email temporarily

When it comes to office morale boosters, it’s hard to beat a temporary no-email policy for internal communication. You can implement it for a few days or for a few hours each day. Instead, encourage employees to use internal instant messaging features, phone calls, or quick face-to-face conversations. According to a report in Inc. Magazine, 92 percent of workers had negative physiological reactions after reading email, including higher heart rates and blood pressure.

In getting rid of internal email, the goal is to increase the opportunities your employees have to engage with each other in meaningful ways. While emails are static and easy to ignore, phone calls, chats, and in-person visits require quick, meaningful responses. You can try the no-email policy as a way to boost morale and combat the winter blues. But you might find it’s so popular that you want to keep some version of it throughout the year.]

Offer warm drinks to combat the cold

One fun way to combat the winter blues is to offer your employees access to a warm-drink bar. You can hire a caterer to come in once a month to set up a specialty coffee and tea bar for your employees. Give each staff person one free drink ticket and then allow employees to purchase additional beverages. Not only will the hot drinks warm them up, but the gesture will boost their attitudes and bring a smile to their face. You could also consider giving each person a small baked good such as a mini scone, cupcake, or croissant.

Write thank-you notes

While hot drinks will warm your employees’ hands, a thank-you note will warm their hearts. During the winter, write personalized thank-you notes to your team. Cite specific projects, actions, and accomplishments where possible to increase the impact of the gesture.

Provide fitness opportunities

Once a week, provide an opportunity for your employees to engage in brief fitness activities during work hours. When the weather’s cold, it’s easy to skip the gym, so many of your employees will appreciate having a break from work that will help them get their blood pumping. You can hire a local fitness instructor to offer 15-minute stretching or cardio workout sessions in a conference room.

Another strategy is to do a company-wide fitness challenge. Throughout the winter, employees can set fitness goals and report their progress. As an incentive, you can hold a drawing for a nice prize for employees who reach their goals by the end of February.

Group activities to boost office morale

In addition to giving gifts, companies can use one-time events, incentive programs, lighthearted competitions, and social activities to boost their employees’ morale in the winter. Whether you do something in the office or off-site, you can provide opportunities for your employees to bond and appreciate one another.

Volunteer together

According to a report in the Harvard Health blog, volunteering improves social connection and mental health. Helping others through charitable work can help combat depression. To set up a volunteering experience for your workers, find a local nonprofit organization that has a mission that will resonate with your employees. Then ask what your employees can do to help the organization.

Your staff could paint the walls of a homeless shelter, organize and clean the shelves at a food pantry, or pick up trash from a park. A one-day volunteering experience is sure to bring smiles to the faces of your workers while also helping a deserving community group.

Take an improvisational acting class together

Improvisational acting classes are a great way to build office morale and improve the dynamics of your staff. Many improv theaters offer one-day and multiple-day workshops for businesses. The exercises will leverage humor, trust, creative thinking, and teamwork.

Hold a fun potluck

Banish the winter blues with a fun potluck lunch. You can embrace the cold weather by asking everyone to bring some kind of soup. YOu could also invoke the idea of warmer weather with a picnic-themed potluck featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and other delicious staples. Managers can pitch in to provide drinks or meats. Take the potluck to another level with festive decorations such as colorful balloons, tablecloths, and even centerpieces.

Hold a sweet competition

Create a contest in which employees make and bring to the office their best chocolate desserts. Because chocolate is a favorite comfort food for many people, a chocolate dessert competition is sure to raise office morale. As people sample each dish, let them vote with anonymous ballots for the dessert they like the best. You can also invite your company’s top managers to judge and award an overall prize.

For a fun twist, set out donation jars next to each dessert. Let employees vote for their favorite desserts by putting coins into the jars of their top picks. The employee whose dessert earns the most money gets all the cash from the competition to give to a charity of his or her choice. Not only is this a fun activity, it provides a sweet reward for a nonprofit agency.

Study what other companies do

When it comes to office morale ideas, why not learn from the best? Take a look at some of the companies that have a reputation for making work fun and enjoyable for their staff.

  • Google: At Google, the company’s culture prioritizes stress reduction and on-the-job fun. For example, the company offers video games, table games, and a gym that employees can use during their lunch time and breaks. Google also allows its team to spend up to 20 percent of their at-work time on personal projects. These are just some of the perks that help boost office morale at Google.
  • Nationwide Planning Associates: You may not have heard of Nationwide Planning Associates, but the New Jersey financial planning firm made national news when it converted a closet into a nap room for its small staff. Chief Compliance Officer James Colleary calls it a “rejuvenation center.” In an interview with NBC’s “Today Show,” Colleary said that since opening the nap room, employees have demonstrated higher productivity and more happiness with their work.
  • Yahoo: At Yahoo, managers of the tech company understand the value of freebies for its workers. On Glassdoor, an employer review website, reviews cite free food, worker parties, paid phone bills, and free laptops as some of their favorite office morale boosters.
  • Lendio: Lendio is a provider of small business loans in Utah. It’s won multiple awards for being a great place to work. The company uses some unusual strategies to boost office morale. For example, it provides unlimited paid time off. According to Lendio managers, workers are more productive because they can take all the time off they want as long as their work gets done.

Companies of any size can use office morale boosters to raise their employees’ spirits, even when the winter brings snow, sleet, and ice. With the right office morale ideas, you can create your own sunshine inside your workers’ office space.

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