Winter Wellbeing Tips for your Employees

winter is coming...

It's time to start preparing for the colder weather and the more challenging times. 

It's no secret that thanks to COVID-19, the traditional Christmas celebrations we're used to are hanging in the balance this year. Winter is already a challenging time for many as the days grow shorter, financial pressures mount up, and a general sense of burnout plagues much of the UK's workforce. 

Some of your employees will likely be processing grief, dealing with job losses in the family, home schooling, and shielding loved ones. All of these factors are calling employers to step up and offer the necessary support that staff need to get through the winter months. Showing empathy and creating a healthy workplace environment will make a huge difference to your employees' sense of wellbeing. 

Your initiatives don't have to be expensive or complicated; it's amazing how even the most basic improvements can boost your people's mental and physical health. Here's some great ideas to get you started:

encourage hydration

We'd love to suggest eggnog and mulled wine on tap, but it's good old fashioned water that can have a real positive impact on wellbeing. Even mild dehydration can have an adverse effect on mood. Since our brains can't tell the difference between hunger and thirst, we're often tempted to reach for the sugary snacks that send us crashing shortly after. Encouraging workers to top up on their H20 can reduce cravings for unhealthy treats, limit the risk of headaches and migraines, improve bowel movement, and boost energy levels. 

The NHS recommends that 6-8 cups of water should be consumed daily. Whether you gift your team with branded water bottles or send out a "Fun Facts" email to educate your team about the benefits of drinking more water, make the effort to encourage this healthy habit all-year round.

ensure 'five-a-day' is on the menu

While we wish the five-a-day rule also applied to mince pies, health experts recommend that fruit and veg (not the kind soaked in brandy) are what we need the most to support a healthy immune system.

Unfortunately, many of us lean on convenience meals, with only 54% of all British adults getting their "five a day". Poor nutrition is linked to diet-related illness – an issue recently reflected in the population's more severe response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when compared with other nations.

You can offer support in this area by creating an engaging activity to teach employees about the benefits of a well-rounded diet. To avoid coming across patronising, you can spin this initiative into a team building exercise by getting a nutritional coach to present an online course for your workers and set them tasks and challenges to improve their diets. 

For on-site workers, you can make healthy snack alternatives available in your canteen. Remote workers can be treated to vouchers or even care packages that help them stock up on nutritious foods.

support mental wellbeing

The truth is, many employers talk about mental wellbeing, but few have the knowledge or internal resources to define what good mental health looks like or to support it within the workplace.

By introducing an Employee Assistance Programme into your organisation, you can give your people access to professional support and advice on a range of topics that may be affecting them psychologically, financially, or legally. 

Another crucial step is to take is to create a safe and accepting environment that encourages workers to speak up when workloads or personal pressures are causing mental and emotional stress. Make awareness of mental health the norm by giving your employees the tools and appropriate pathways to follow when they need support - be that a personal or work-related problem.

Free downloadable resource: Employee Motivation Cheat Sheet  Are you struggling to keep your workforce motivated throughout the year?  Download our free Employee Motivation Cheat Sheetand see how you can reduce the  slump! 

encourage healthy activities

Winter can make us long for hibernation. Why go out in the blistering cold when you can stay snug and warm indoors hey?

The tea and biscuits are within reach, and for employees working from home, the incentive to part with loungewear in favour of heavy coats and hats quickly declines as the day wanes on. 

While the urge to stay in the warmth can be tempting, the physical and mental effects aren't so great. 

Combat seasonal mood disorder by encouraging workers to take breaks, go out for walks and top up on that much-needed vitamin D. Ensuring that everyone takes the necessary breaks to help them stretch, refresh, and refocus is vitally important.

create an inclusive environment

The weather may be cold, but our interactions with one another should stay warm and friendly. Folks have a lot to deal with this year; promoting friendship and support groups within the workplace can go a long way to creating a comfortable and welcoming environment.

If your team is working from home, the social distance and isolation may covertly be affecting the overall mood. Managers should regularly check in with employees to make sure they're coping with the remote working model. 

Let everyone know that it's okay to jump on calls with one another and have more casual conversations that aren't necessarily focussed around work. Supporting and encouraging human interaction can help everyone feel included and less alone as they plough on through the winter months.

spot presenteeism early!

Presenteeism happens when your people keep coming to work even though they're not necessarily in the best physical or mental shape to continue performing their tasks optimally.

In a 2019 survey, 13.4% of employees lost working hours due to this issue.

With the current global crisis at play, it's safe to assume that this figure is rising, and will continue to rise. The continuous barrage of horrifying news headlines about job losses and a looming recession may be forcing your employees to feel that they have to cling onto their positions instead of taking the necessary time to recover from illnesses or sort out the problems that may be compromising their productivity. 

With spikes in COVID-19 cases, presenteeism is not a risk that any business can afford this winter. Instead, take a more compassionate approach and let your people know that it's okay to take the necessary time off to recover and recuperate instead of 'soldiering on'. If the individual is asymptomatic and feels that they can continue working, make working from home an acceptable and encouraged alternative.

show your appreciation

When everyone is snowed under with work and stress levels are high, it's easy to forget the importance of gratitude. A small but significant gesture that lets your people know their efforts are noticed and appreciated can go a long way to boosting morale. 

It's also important to note that this has been no ordinary year, and if you're one of the lucky businesses that has managed to weather the storm, your employees deserve some big-time kudos for the work they've put in.

If you're wondering what your employees really want this Christmas, you may find that validation and recognition are high on their lists. You can spread a little cheer with personalised vouchers to boost your team's spending power over the festive season, or simply to say thanks for all their hard work.

Sodexo lets your people choose from a wide range of high street retailers, attractions and restaurants that they know and love. So the next time someone on your team does something fantastic, like smash a goal or go the extra mile for a customer, pop a little thank you in their inbox and deck it out with a special gift voucher.

New call-to-action


most importantly... be proactive!

One in four UK employees reports having a physical health condition, while one in eight reports a mental health problem.

When these challenges are combined, their ability to perform their work is strongly affected. While many external factors may be impacting your employees' wellbeing, there are measures you can put in place to support and encourage your people so that they can either recover or improve their personal and professional lives significantly. Making a commitment to employee wellbeing will help to build a healthy workplace culture that is powered by dedicated and motivated employees all year round. 

If you'd like to find out more about how you can support your employees' wellbeing this Christmas and beyond, speak to our experts today