Beat the winter depression! HR tips to support your employees

Poor January evokes somewhat ambivalent feelings in people in general. On the one hand, it's a month of big new beginnings, plans, and resolutions, and then it doesn't take long before it all turns into a year-end slump. HR teams should focus a little more on employee well-being. Here are a few ways to help your employees get out of this early-year slump.

The end-of-year festive season differs from our usual rhythm in almost every aspect of work and personal life. However, after the Christmas preparations, time with family, lots of rest and relaxation, and New Year's Eve parties, the daily routine has to be resumed, and for many, this can be stressful.

The agonies of returning to work at the beginning of the year are similar to those after a summer holiday, but there is another complicating factor: the weather. In the winter months, the days are short anyway: many people start work in the dark and by the time they finish it is dark again. There are a lot of overcast, dark days (when it's "morning all day" and then it's evening), and sunshine is much less frequent, so it's no wonder it's a bit harder to stay energetic. Let's look at how we can keep workers well during this tired, unmotivated, gloomy period.

The communication base: how are your employees?

Mental health support starts with a thorough mapping exercise and open communication with employees about how they are doing, and what challenges they are facing at this time of year. This can be done through internal surveys and face-to-face meetings. The role of managers and their messages can be particularly important.

1on1 meetings are particularly useful to make time for because they also provide space for more direct, in-depth conversations. Of course, professional matters can also be discussed, but in the context of the beginning of the year lethargy, it is worth focusing on emotional and mental well-being.  You can download our 1on1 meeting e-book here, which contains easy-to-apply tips on how to prepare for such a meeting, and specific questions on different topics.

The joy of movement - especially in nature

The enthusiasm for the big New Year's resolutions generally dies down by the end of January. Habits return, and the weather works against motivation. Plans for sport and physical activity are even harder to implement, but if there's one thing that really helps you feel good at this time of year, it's exercise! A supportive environment can help a lot: initiate a joint sports challenge, organize excursions, a wellness week, or even indoor yoga or gymnastics. But on a rare sunny weekday, a 10-minute impromptu outdoor gym session, walk, or even jog is also a great treasure.

(At this time of year, it's a shame to miss the snowman-building competition. This can be a joint activity if you can manage it, but it's also great if you ask colleagues for photos and then vote for the funniest, prettiest, etc. snowman. This not only encourages outdoor activity but can also be a fun competition between colleagues.)

Interesting, useful content to maintain mental health

Employers can also contribute to the well-being and mental balance of employees by providing entertaining, interesting content and useful educational material. Topics such as stress management or meditation techniques are closely linked to mental health. These can be covered in short guides, information materials, videos, or even in meetings.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that content consumption habits have changed a lot in recent years. Maintaining attention and interest in a more constrained setting such as a corporate meeting is difficult. But corporate podcasts offer a solution to this problem. They can be shared in the office, or listened to alone on the tram while cooking, or exercising. And they're also a great way to get experts on mental health or to distract colleagues from a gloomy mood with entertaining broadcasts.

If you need some ideas on how to create a useful and entertaining podcast, be sure to listen to Connect Magazine's podcast, in which internal communications experts share tips and experiences on how to create a corporate podcast. (The podcast is only available in Hungarian.)

A pleasant working environment = better mood

In the gloomy January-February period, making your workplace a little more welcoming can make a big difference. Plants are definitely superstars in this respect. There really isn't a workplace that isn't made more pleasant by a few - or a lot! Of course, poor doomed office ferns and thirsty cacti are bound to spring to mind, but never give up. Taking care of plants and, for that matter, their care can be a really enjoyable, shared responsibility and pleasure. Especially in winter, when we hardly ever see anything green when walking down the street.

Because the days are so short, natural light is particularly scarce at this time of year, and this also affects our mood. As much as possible, it's worth making sure that as much natural light as possible gets into offices and workstations. Wherever possible, we can also use colorful pictures and motivational quotes to add a little something to the atmosphere.

Recognition - to brighten everyone's day

A sense of achievement, positive feedback, and recognition can catalyze good feelings and motivation in employees like nothing else in the world. They can be particularly valuable and reinvigorating in the more tired months of January and February after the festive season. An internal company campaign can encourage employees to express their appreciation to their colleagues on a variety of topics. This has a great impact on individual morale and the community as a whole.

The Blue Colibri App has a special feature for this: you can create your own digital appreciation cards and send them to colleagues with personal messages. The system also generates a ranking of who has received and sent the most recognition in the team. 

So, by being attentive, understanding, and doing different activities, you can do a lot to help your employees feel more motivated and in a better mood at the beginning of the year.