Taking Care of Your Team: How to Support Your Employees This Winter

After a stressful couple of years, many employees are struggling to keep their morale up. Sixty-seven percent of workers believe that the pandemic has worsened burnout, and 53 percent of virtual or work-from-home employees report working longer hours, according to a survey by Indeed

As an employer, your small acts of kindness and understanding have the potential to make a big difference in employees’ lives. Whether your office is resuming annual staff holiday parties or starting new end-of-year traditions, here are a few ways you can support your team through another pandemic winter.

Support Work-life Balance

In the Indeed survey, 36 percent of respondents said that a combination of flexibility, remote work, and more PTO could help to reduce burnout. Consider offering extra paid time off or personal days so that employees can catch up on rest and care for themselves. Having flexibility and work-life balance continues to mean a great deal to employees in a COVID-19 world.

The Indeed survey suggests collecting feedback from your employees about the benefits and perks you offer. Organizations are recognizing what a difference benefits can make for their workforce. Consider your team’s individual needs and offer them benefits and perks that encourage work-life balance. These perks might include a flexible schedule, childcare assistance, or virtual mental health support.

You can also set the tone for work-life balance for your team through empathy and role modeling. Take the time to check in with your employees individually and know how they’re doing. Encourage them not to work or respond to emails in the evenings, on the weekends, or during holidays. Then, demonstrate these boundaries yourself.

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Look Beyond the Box for Holiday Gifts

Many companies have traditionally given their teams branded swag or other company gifts. Instead of gifts this year, consider Visa gift cards for groceries, self-care, and other necessities. Your team has different needs and stresses. Having extra money on hand to use at their discretion means more than fancy gifts. 

If you’re not hosting a staff holiday party, explore re-allocating these funds to your team members as a bonus. You could also make charitable donations in honor of your team, to organizations selected by your employees.

Even if the budget isn’t available for cash gifts or extra benefits, there are plenty of creative, low-cost ways to recognize your team and boost their morale. Be gracious with your staff and let them know you’re ready to support them. 

Encourage Mindfulness and Self-Care

One meaningful way you can support your team is by sharing resources to help them through another COVID winter. Everything from national hotlines to meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace, and Shine to creative winter activities can help employees know you are there for them and want to support their well-being.

You can even start a Slack channel or a Google Doc where employees share resources and ideas they’ve found helpful. Informal threads such as “Mindfulness Monday,” where team members share words of wisdom, or “Furry Friend Friday” where team members share photos of their pets, can be a simple way to boost morale.

Encourage regular check-ins with managers where team members can openly share what they need to succeed in their roles. Role model setting professional boundaries so that your employees feel empowered to care for themselves and advocate for their needs.

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Don’t Lose Sight of Community Building

Consider bringing back an in-person party at an establishment that requires proof of vaccination or hosting a virtual holiday party focused on staff appreciation. By offering community-building opportunities throughout the winter, you’ll ensure your team has a strong professional support network to lean on. 

Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering,” offers helpful tips for how to reimagine virtual gatherings. “Connection doesn’t happen on its own,” Parker said in a conversation with Brené Brown on the “Unlocking Us” podcast. “You have to design your gatherings for the kinds of connections you want to create.” 

Keep online gatherings optional, short, and with a purpose. Maybe it’s a themed happy hour, a skill-building workshop, or a conversation about your favorite local organizations and what they do to better your community. 

Winter is a tough time of year to get through in the best of times – let alone during a pandemic. By fostering camaraderie and sharing resources, you can help your team weather the season together. Above all else, focus on leading with compassion and understanding.