The beginning of 2018 has brought with it record cold and extreme snowfall in many parts of the country, making some workers feel like they’ve entered a new ice age. Despite workers having to deal with snow-caked sidewalks and frigid mornings, work must go on.
Outside the tangible obstacles of winter, an employee’s ability to cope with the “winter blues” is another issue. In fact, it was recently reported that 28 percent of British workers skip lunch during the winter to avoid the outdoors, despite most workers claiming that forgoing outdoor time negatively impacts not only their mood, but also their health. This practice can lead to decreased productivity, kicking off a vicious cycle of downtime and disengagement.
To help employees break the inactivity cycle of winter and overcome the winter blues, leaders need to think of ways to encourage movement in their people, transforming an icy situation into a bright and rich opportunity.
While leaders may not be able to maximize the benefits of cold-weather workouts for their employees (you certainly can’t force people to go for an outdoor jog), there are a few simple ways you can encourage movement and increase physical activity right in the office.
Set Up Centralized Trash Cans and Printing
Think twice about where you set up commonly used items like trash cans and printers. The decision could be an opportunity to get people moving. Think about it: You wouldn’t station a coffee pot at every worker’s desk, so why have 20 trash cans in 20 different places?
In addition to making people walk a little to throw things away, centralizing trash cans helps cut down on maintenance costs by not having to supply and empty numerous bins. Likewise, having a single printing center streamlines maintenance while encouraging movement and workplace interactions — a benefit to the body and the soul. As a bonus, these changes declutter the workspace and aren’t that difficult to implement.
Keep the Water Flowing
Water is, of course, integral to any fitness plan, and proper hydration is important for maintaining a positive mood and promoting higher energy levels. Water coolers, like trash cans and printers, should be placed in a common location. But beyond centralization, office water stations have an added benefit in terms of encouraging movement. Good hydration increases the cadence of restroom breaks, which gets people out of their chairs even more.
Use Walking Meetings
While the sedentary statue of Rodin’s “The Thinker” is an iconic figure, movement actually helps the brain work better than hours of sitting. Thus, curbing the dreaded rambling meeting (something about sinking into chairs seems to anchor people in that mode) should be a top priority. Stand-up meetings are a good step in the right direction, but taking it a step further — literally — means that you can cover the necessary ground while remaining succinct and precise.
Walking meetings, in which teams stroll around the office to discuss business, provide a major emotional boost and drive enlivened and creative thinking. Plus, these meetings can be done even during a blizzard, leaving workers feeling energized when they return to their workspaces to implement the ideas discussed.
Lead by Example
Employees look to leadership to set the mood and culture of the organization, and that’s just as true for the culture of physical activity at your workplace. Beyond the strategies mentioned above for promoting an active workspace, you can tailor the culture of your organization around activity.
Set up company walking clubs or stair clubs and be a proud member, take part in any health screenings or flu shots, make exercise convenient by allocating workout time throughout the day, or challenge your colleagues to report their personal bests for daily steps taken by using pedometers. These practices can all be undertaken in the spirit of camaraderie, and they’re a great way to not only encourage physical activity, but also to foster team dynamics.
Winter isn’t a time for business stagnation, so why should it be a time for employee stagnation? By centralizing essential items, promoting good hydration and physical engagement, and leading actively, you can cultivate an active workspace that staves off the cold weather slump while increasing productivity and morale. Winter can be an exciting start to the new year, so step up and get your people going.