December 20, 2011

Management at the Solstice

The winter solstice is upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere. The earth is tilted on its axis, making the days shorter as the earth goes about it's elliptical orbit around the sun, reaching the shortest day on the winter solstice. This doesn't coincide with the dead of winter, however, because of seasonal lag caused by us having lots of water around, giving off stored heat. (A little something to look forward to -- three more months of cold weather.) Speaking of colds, our solstice does, however, occur right after the start of cold and flu season. Lower relative humidity indoors and us being indoors more makes us more susceptible to viruses. The shortening days and more time spent indoors gives us the winter blues. Depression, more prevalence of illness, compounded by the dreaded annual performance review and holiday stress makes a nasty combination. All of this ultimately leads to poor productivity and unhappy people.

So what? What's that to do with me?

The manager's job is to create an environment in which people can be productive, even healthy. Help your team attack the winter blues and defeat viruses. Help them find their happy hat.

But how?

You've got to come up with your own ideas for your own environment, but here are some examples.

Improve lighting for a better mood. We might be saving energy, but we're killing productivity with those glare and headache inducing, flickering fluorescent lights. Indirect non-fluorescent lamps are easier on the eyes. Or set up a light therapy room in some meeting room or office. Why not?

And sunlight is great. Open the blinds and schedule some outdoor activities, maybe a team lunch that you can walk to or at least drive to. In other words, get out of the building during the middle of the day.

Stock the break rooms with fresh fruit, nuts, and disinfectant wipes. Oranges are great to have around, being good for overall health. The smell of a fresh orange around the office makes people smile inside, doesn't it? Apples are easy to wash and eat and some say provide a pick-me-up as good as coffee. But please, get a good eating apple like a Pink Lady. Shoot, do something unique -- buy and peel a pomegranate for each person in your group. Most folks have probably never seen a pomegranate. You'll be expanding their horizons.

As for nuts, we grow tired of peanuts and who likes cashews anyway? Try pecans, the healthy nut with the highest amount of anti-oxidants. Almonds and walnuts work too.

While you are passing out the hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, encourage hand washing.

Do this and you'll create a happy, healthy work environment. Happy people are productive people. For more bright ideas, check out last December's post.

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