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Let’s face it: during the winter months, everyone at work (including you!) would often prefer to be curled up in front of a warm fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa rather than trudging through the cold for another day at the office. The short, dark days of winter are tough on employee engagement and work productivity, and other factors such as bad weather and holidays can also prove challenging to workplace efficiency.

Resist the urge to hibernate for the winter and wake up when the weather warms up again in the spring — instead, learn how to improve employee engagement in your office with a little advance planning and creativity.

Beat the Office Winter Blues

1. Prepare for bad weather.

At its best, winter weather can be chilly and inconvenient; at its worst, it can become damaging and life-threatening. A US Bureau of Labor study examining data from 1977 to 2010 found that, on average, employees are most likely to be absent from work due to  weather during the winter months. The month of January has the highest absence rates, followed by February and December.

This winter, there may be occasions when icy roads, flooding and blizzards will prevent your employees from making it into the office. Do you have a plan that allows working from home during these circumstances? Explore options that would allow telecommuting, whether that is using Google docs to share information among colleagues or work with your IT provider to set up a secure remote server accessible outside the office.

2. Let there be light.

The dark, dreary winter weather can have negative effects on your mood, energy level and work productivity. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most common this time of year, when the lack of sunshine can cause sluggishness, lack of concentration, irritability and depression. If you notice a drop in employee engagement and productivity during the winter, you might want to consider brightening the office (literally). Full-spectrum light bulbs or desktop sun lamps that mimic sunlight can make a big difference on gloomy days.

3. Focus on professional development.

As this year wraps up and the next begins, use this time to check in with your employees on what direction they hope to go in with their training and development. Have them investigate different books, courses, tutorials, webinars or other resources that would be valuable to their professional development, and keep these options in mind for the budget in the new year.

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